Monday, December 19, 2005

Christmas 1980


This entry has nothing to do with multilingualism, but it represents one of my fondest memories of childhood. I'd like to dedicate it to my brother and sister, my partners in crime during many wonderful years.

When I was about 10 years old, my younger brother was 6 and our little sister was 3. A few weeks before Christmas, one day she came home from kindergarten heartbroken by some horrible rumors: apparently Babbo Natale (the Italian Santa Klaus) did not exist! She was appalled! And so were we, that some cruel kids could poison the best of all dreams and illusions.

My bro and I were determined to protect her from such disillusionment and we proceeded to reassure her with tons of arguments...but the damage had been done, the doubt had been instilled in her head.

The next day she found a letter addressed to her, hanging on the Christmas tree: the hand made stamp was from the North Pole. It was a letter from Babbo Natale! We read it aloud for her:

"Dear Silvia,
I have heard that someone told you that I do not exist. To prove you that its not true, I invite you this Saturday to a sleigh ride with me! Much Love,

Babbo Natale"

She was ecstatic! Her eyes were sparkling, she was happy again! And so were we, proud of our little bravade. Only to find ourselves shortly later banging the head against the wall, trying to figure out how to have Babbo Natale take Silvia for a sleight ride! For starter, it had not snown yet, and the weather forecast was not foreseeing a single flake of snow in weeks! We had no clue about how get a hold of a sleight, let alone a couple of reindeers, and a Babbo Natale impersonator! We were stuck in the hole we had dug ourselves...

We decided then to divert our strategy and focus on the essential: Babbo Natale. And we thought that a picture of Babbo Natale would convince her that he really existed! The only way to take such a picture was that one of us would dress up as Babbo Natale. So, here is one of my greatest memories of childhood: dressing up my 6 years old brother as Babbo Natale, using what we had in the house: my red cape and his red hood, lots of cotton around the mouth and on top of the hood, and my swimming bag as a substitute for the toys sack.

The result was probably on of the oddest portrait that my brother ever had (I wish I could post it), of an obvious six years-old camouflaged in red and white!

...but it did the affair: on the day of the scheduled date, Silvia was super excited. She found instead another letter from Babbo Natale hanging on the tree. At first, disappointment: but upon opening it she saw the picture, while we read the note:

"Dear Silvia,

I am very sorry to cancel our sleight ride, but one of the reindeers is very sick and I need to take care of her. I send you an authentic picture of me, so you can see that I exist! Be very good and I'll bring you many toys at Christmas! Love,
Babbo Natale"

That was enough for her: she was convinced! And so we saved another Christmas of unspoiled magic...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Milus Oedipus Rex

I don't know exactly when and how, but we suddenly got there: the oedipian phase! It started with a tooth ache a few weeks ago, and Milo being particularly grumpy and needy, grognon as they say in French. There weren't enough cuddles to soothe him, and sleeping time kept moving later and later in the evening...He woke up a few times in the middle of the night in panic (surely a nightmare, we thought naively), and there he is now regularly coming in our bed at the oddest hours! And we lay there, sleepless and cornered on the hedges of the bed for the rest of the night...

This week I was determined to correct this nasty little habit and set the rules straight again: by 9 pm Mr. Milo must be in his sweet little bed. Well, on night 1, the little mister tricked me into staying by his side until 10:30! Exhausted, famished and puzzled, I had nevertheless developed enough motivation to play harsh mama the following night. So, after a good half hour of cuddles, book reading and singing, by 9:30 I tell him sweetly but firmly that he is a big boy now, and he can fall asleep alone. I leave the room while he performs some of the most impressive ear piercing screams of his entire life (the neighbors must think we torture him) and I barely managed to reach the kitchen when I heard his little steps frantically following me: there he stood , sobbing in tears, calling me with heart broken voice: "Mamma, mamma!" and hugging my legs for dear life. The little critter had managed to jump off his crib!!! I was in shock, it was as if I saw a ghost...How did he get out of the bed? He could have fallen on his head...And once again, by the time I calmed him down and cuddled him to sleep, it was 11 pm. And by 5 am he was again between us...

Last night I threw the towel and confided the task to Milo's dad, who seems to have a better success rate: by 10:15 the rascal was down! A slight improvement, I must admit! And when he called in the middle of the night, I went to check on him, but put him back down in his own bed. He did not protest.

I am worried, though:
1. He is not getting enough sleep...He has never been a big sleeper, but this way he gets a maximum of 9 hours of sleep per night (+ 2 in the afternoon nap). Shouldn't he sleep longer, at 19 months?
2. His bed jumping stunt frightened me. What if he keeps on trying it? If we take the bars down now, we condemn ourselves to entire nights spent chasing him around the house! For now I surrounded his bed with pillows, just in case...

...and I also started looking at king size beds!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Dutch vs. Italian: 1-1

I read in an article that when a baby reaches the age of 10 months, it's good to start naming objects in front of him, to help him build up is vocabulary. At the time, I shared the bit with Milo's dad, who enthusiastically welcomed the suggestion, and begun immediately naming in Dutch everything at hand.

Recently this habit has gotten a little out of hand. What happens is that we find ourselves wanting to provide Milo with the two versions (Italian and Dutch) of any given item almost simultaneously. Sometimes the exchanges are almost comical:

MUM: Milo, adesso mangiamo una bella mela...MELA! Prova a dire MELA...
Milo is about to open his mouth when..
DAD: APPEL...dat is en APPEL en neederlande..APPEL
Milo is about to open his lips to say A...
MUM: MELA! La mamma la chiama MELA!
Milo looks at us as you would look at a dog with two heads, he frowns and looses completely interest in the topic.

So we decided to refrain ourselves from these silly competitions and avoid providing him with the same name in the two languages at the same time, he's too young. What we try to do, is to come back on the topic a little later and always provide the framework:

MILO: Appel! Appel!
MUM: Si, papá la chiama APPEL, ma la mamma dice MELA.

What's interesting is that for certain items he retains the Dutch and for others the Italian, although he understands both perfectly.

An appel is an apple, after all!