When my cousin Sophie was about six, she would fly into a rage if someone dared to call her "baby". I discovered this when Sophie and I were watching her brother Benoit (aged 10 at the time) play hockey. One of the parents on the sidelines knew he could get a reaction out of Sophie by calling her "Sophie baby". It was a term of endearment in English. Not in French. Her exact words of defence were "Je ne suis pas un bébé" (meaning, "I am not a baby"). Absent-mindedly, when my interest was back on my cousin's game, I yelled out "Go, Benny baby!" This drew immediate and severe admonishment from Benoit's parents (my aunt and uncle) who didn't want their son to be teased for being called "baby".
If you have a child about that age, see how they react if you call them "baby" or "my little kitten" or something equally sickening. I'm guessing they wouldn't like it. My two little guys, however, have absolutely no qualms.
One of the advantages of having kids who can't talk is that they don't object to cutesy-poo nicknames. So far, Anne and I have gotten away with
- petit poussin (which means "little chick")
- monsieur minou ("mister kitty cat")
- pépère ("grandpa")
- Farty Smurf
and countless other things that would never be tolerated by any five to seven year old with a proper grasp of either the English or French languages.
I think the fun is about to run out, though. Last week, when I was leaving for work, I tried to get the usual "Bye papa" out of Rémi. He gave me a "Bye baby".