‘Don’t like Citroen!’
‘You don’t like Citroens? Why’s that?’
‘Citroen run me down.’
The grandfather’s chuckle as he replied led me to believe that Citroens have not shown an evil disposition to attack his grandson. Indeed, it seemed unlikely from his amusement that even one such accident had occurred.
He might have pointed out that all cars could act so malevolently but he just passed on to another subject. He chatted for the entire bus journey with the little boy. Listening to them, I thought the child must be at least 4 but, when I turned to see him, he looked barely 2 years old. There was no baby talk. The grandfather suggested things to look for, labelled things that could be seen, and replied to and encouraged every one of the child’s remarks that could be meaningfully extended.
‘Why bus bumpy?’
‘It’s a bumpy road. It makes the bus bumpy.’
‘Yes. Bumpy – and squeaky.’
‘You’re right – it is bumpy and squeaky.’
Whenever the grandfather was being humorous he included a chuckle: ‘Yes – Nana’s on the bus. We mustn’t leave Nana behind. [Laugh.] We wouldn’t get no dinner!’
Whenever things might be worrying for the little boy, he was reassuring. ‘That noise is just the branches on the roof. They’re too low. Nothing to worry about.’
How different from a mother and son I overheard on another day. She was keen to inform him that now term had started it would be necessary to leave out the holiday junk food and eat good food. This included a total run-down on the disasters included in his ‘breakfast’: a tuna mayonnaise and sweet corn sandwich with a very large bag of crisps. Minute detail about the safe daily allowance of salt, the unhealthiness of most crisps, the evils of flavourings, how many of the child’s acquaintances had heart problems – and so on. Finally the child asked if children could get heart attacks and learnt they could.
I reflected that neither child would be likely to have a poor vocabulary – a frequent finding when assessing young children presenting with poor speech and language. But I anticipate the first could well be better adjusted, more likely to expect things to be okay and more willing to offer his own observations about things around him. Keep it up, granddad – you’re doing a great job!