Another week and another challenge in the lives of our fictional bilingual, pregnant mother, her hubby, 6-year-old son S and 3-year-old daughter D.
Finally we have summer and we can spend more time outside! S is off school and D is now home with me full time. Today we went to the playground in the nearby park where S started playing with some other boys (I did not know them). All of sudden he came running to me and said that he wanted to go back home – D did not want go, she had not finished her sandcastle yet! S insisted that we leave and I noticed that he had tears in his eyes. I could however not get out of him what the reason for the sudden change of heart was.
S still did not opened up about what happened in the playground. He was unusually quiet and playing on his own all day. As usual, hubby put both S and D to bed and read the bedtime stories. (I am so happy to have this hour of peace and quiet at the end of the day, only two more months to go before our baby arrives!) Hubby had also noticed that S was not his usual happy little boy, so once D had fallen asleep he had a chat with S who after a while started crying and opened up before he fell asleep. Turns out the other boys in the playground had made fun of my language when they heard me speak with D. They had asked if I can’t speak their language and said that they wouldn’t like to have a mum that speaks so strangely. My sweet little boy had not wanted to say anything to me as he didn’t want to upset me. At this point I was in tears as well and honestly, I was at loss. Should I avoid speaking our language in public? I did not want to make life difficult for my son.
I hardly slept last night. The baby was kicking – probably because it could sense me being sad and worried, and I could not stop thinking about what happened in the park. S came running to me as soon as he woke up, hugged me and said that he was sorry. I held him tight in my arms and said that there is nothing he needs to say sorry about and that he can always tell me everything and should not worry about upsetting me. “Why did the boys say that?” he asked. I had to be honest and say that I did not know, and then I explained that he is lucky to be in a family where we have many languages and that he can speak to so many different people. The other boys have probably never experienced this and that is why they do not understand it. “Mum, I think your language is beautiful, and it is my language, too!” S answered and that just made my heart feel so warm, and, you guessed it, tears started rolling for me. “They are happy tears, my darling!” I hastened to add, and asked whether S wanted me not to speak my language with him when we were out an about. “But that would just feel wrong” he said “and we need to make sure the baby learns the language, too!” Proud mummy moment.
I have been thinking a lot about what happened this week and realised that I and hubby need to talk more to S and D about how other people may react, so it does not come as a shock to them if they experience it. We will certainly not shy away from speaking our languages in public, we need to show our kids that it is fine to speak differently and that their language skills will be an enormous asset to them. They are still young, but we want them to feel confident with who they are, where they come from and what languages they speak.
Want to know what happened to the family before? You can read previous entries via these links:
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12 Part 13 Part 14 Part 15 Part 16 Part 17
Never miss a post! Sign up to the Multilingual Parenting newsletter and I will send you a recap of the week’s posts every Sunday. Every second week you will receive a more extensive issue with links to research articles and interesting posts from other writers, as well as handy tips and ideas! Want to read more like this? My book Bringing up a Bilingual Child is available on Amazon and in well-stocked bookshops. Do you have a specific question? You can send it to our team of Family Language Coaches and we will reply in a Q&A (questions are answered in order of arrival). If you are interested in tailor-made family language coaching, please, contact me and I will send you a proposal.