Is that what I sound like?


When I was 15, my drama teacher told us all to do an impression of someone else in the class so everyone could guess who it was. I know. What was she thinking? Anyway, I laughed along at the impersonations of some of the less cool and more ripe-for-the-ridiculing members of the group and then my friend Phil did this rubbish one where he crossed and recrossed his legs in a self-important manner, flicked his hair back nonchalantly and went, ‘Actually……actually……..actually!’ I was just opening my mouth to tell him what a lame impression it was when pretty much the whole class burst out laughing. Turns out he was doing me. ME? ME me? I struggle to recognise it even now.

Anyway, Maya’s nearly three these days and she picks a different buzzword or phrase to overuse each week. Some favourites to date are:

  • So! said decisively before everything, in a lets-get-down-to-business style
  • just a little bit, as in: ‘Can we buy an ice cream?’ ‘No.’ ‘Can we buy an ice cream just a little bit?’
  • I’m afraid, as in: ‘Nope, I can’t give you the superglue back, I’m afraid?’ with a cheery little upwards inflection at the end

Whadda ya know, though? Her favourite word this week is actually. I don’t know where she got it (hmm…maybe I do) but she is dropping it left-right-and-centre right now. ‘You’re not actually allowed in my den, actually. It’s ballerinas only.’ ‘Please PLEASE can I have some Guinness, Daddy. I actually do like it. ‘ ‘No, don’t take the bag of lentils away! I actually want them in bed with me. But they’re actually not lentils. They’re my baby rabbits.’ Ignoring for a moment the context of her actuallies, it feels a lot like she’s exposed one of my many irritating habits and is standing next to it with a massive red cardboard arrow, pointing.

For the last fortnight, she’s also been whining loads, saying things like ‘No, geddoff me. Leave me alone,’ with a distinctly teenage delivery. I wouldn’t mind if I was tickling her while she was trying to redesign her Lego paddock or repeatedly pulling her hood down in the rain. But she does it when I’m pushing her chair in as requested or chopping up her sausage because she’s told me it’s too big. On Sunday, she whined, ‘No, Mummy! That’s not how I want it!’ when I handed her bag to her at the wrong angle or something equally inconsiderate. So I said, ‘Maya, that whiney way of talking is really horrible. You sound like a spoilt teenager. Where have you heard children talking like that?’ Without a second’s hesitation, she replied, ‘I learnt it from you.’

Oh God. I DID whine as a child. I remember being told to stop. I don’t remember stopping. I know I can go humourless when I’m knackered. But do I whine? Am I still at it now?

Everyone I’ve told about Maya’s comment has laughed because they think she’s learning to be cheeky. She’s definitely got cheeky locked down, but that’s not what this was about. She was being honest. I’m sure of it.


It’s time to give up actually and whining. It’s gonna be a tough one.

Actually, no. It’ll be fine. I can do it on my own, actually, thank you. Just leave me alone….

I’m guessing I’m not the only one cringing with recognition when my daughter speaks. Do your kids parrot your verbal shortcomings straight back at you? What do they say?

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