Friday, July 07, 2006
I'm fatigued as every mom at this stage, but also pleasantly surprised by the ease of this second birth...have been itching to post in the last week but, as you can imagine, times are a little hectic! Luckily a hord of grand parents and siblings invaded Paris, bringing not only their love but also some serious support: a heartful thanks to my sister for jumping on the first plane and dedicating some quality time to Milo and sneaking the most decadent chocolate cakes into my room, and to my parents for taking such good care of us this week! The Belgianite and I are proud and melting with joy!
Monday, June 26, 2006
I can’t make my mind up: am I being too selfish? The main reason to add my last name is to give my children the option to pass it on the day they will have children, especially if they will choose to live in Italy. It is not about a narcissistic need to see my last name associated to their names daily: I’d be happy with them using the father’s last name in everyday life, however, a city hall officer confirmed that they will have to use both last names in every official documentation (from school registration to the bank, and so on).
The Belgianite flashed me a credit card, a social security card, a passport and said: “Look! There isn’t even enough space for our two last names!” (which, together, account for 20 letters). I suspect that his cold and rational approach do hid an emotional reason, somewhere in his unconscious…
Objectively, I think we are not going to be the only ones in this situation and the administrations will have to adapt their forms accordingly, if they haven’t already; also, as previously noted, in France the double last name is a custom already present among the old aristocracy, so we are certainly not the first ones with long and complex names; finally, technology is constantly evolving, by the time my boys will be 18 they won’t probably circulate with passports and ID cards anymore but all our data will be retrieved by the iris of our eye or a chip in-planted in our index, or via fingerprints.
The only painful view from the future that such a decision brings me is when I imagine the kids in elementary school, learning how to write their names and spending hours to spell out their full last names…
So, I ask my readers to manifest themselves with their opinion, especially the ones who have a long last name, those to happen to have a double one or know someone who do, and let me know if it has been really an handicap for them or not and to what extent it has been a pain in the neck (if anything) in their lives! Help me make the right choice!!!
Saturday, June 24, 2006
One of his character traits that is becoming pretty evident is his persistency: once he has something in mind, he does not let go (see the Mujita entry). This morning at the park he was running on the grass while I was sitting on a bench nearby. He lost one of his sandals, and he immediately called for me from across the field:
I look at him and cannot see anything wrong, am not alarmed, I decide to wait for him to come to me. He stands still and screams louder:
"Mammaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Mammaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Guarda!!!!"
I can't think what could be wrong, as I am not the most agile of mums these days with my ready to explode belly, I keep on my bench and reply:
"What is it, my love? What happened?"
"Aletti! Mammaaaaa! Aletti!" (Aletti=sandaletti, that is little sandals)
I still don't feel too motivated to run over and hope he will simply come to me with his lost sandal...he looks at me as if I did not understand and so he screams:
"Scarpine!!! Mamma, scarpine cadute!!!!" (the shoes fell off)
He made it pretty damn clear for me! How could I not get it now!! We ended up meeting midway...
Friday, June 23, 2006
These numbers are also beginning to take a substantial shape in his imagination: one night we were chatting in the living room and he was playing with them by himself, when we noticed he had piled them up in a toy boat and was taking them for a ride…he called our attention to the fact that the numbers were leaving("Mamma, Papa: numi partiti!" that is, the numbers have left), so we waved good-bye and he also waved back on their behalf! Later on he asked us to be quiet because number 2 was going to sleep (“Shhhh! Due dodo!”)
Yesterday we were drawing together, me with the red marker and him with his inseparable light blue. I started jotting numbers here and there and he would paint them in blue, saying that they were taking a shower (“Mamma, numi doccia”).
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Last night it was the Fete de la Musique: like every year on June 21, France celebrates the summer solstice allowing musicians to perform in the streets of all its towns! The performances in Paris range from pop concerts with over 25 artists at La Defense to a little band performing at the brasserie around the corner. The athmosphere is just irresistible! We took a small tour around the neighborhood (can't walk much these days, unfortunately! We are at - 20 days to the due date and although I haven't gained much, a mere 10 kg, I have a limited distance range!) and enjoyed the small band at the brasserie...Milo was enthusiastic, and, for one night, like him several other toddlers were out and about with their parents...the city was envelopped in a sort of village-festival type of aura! On days like this, we love Paris!
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
The notion of customer care in France is a pure euphemism; coming from the US of A, where for the mere fact that you might spend you’re greeted with red carpets, it is quite a shock for any foreigner to set foot in any French bank and daring to ask information about opening an account with them! The impression you have, is that THEY are the client, and YOU have to win them over. This attitude ranges from a mere gestual, body language level to some pretty absurd verbal exchanges which often degenerate in altercations. I have had my share, and it is in France that I learnt the art of screaming in public, something I would have never imagined I was even capable of.
Some silly episodes follow to illustrate my point:
- I enter a travel agency and, after waiting duly for my turn, I ask the agent some information about a trip they advertise in their window; I ask the availability within a month time frame. Reaction: the lady rolls the eyes, begins emitting one of those typical French puffs, and without saying a word, she types nervously on the computer. She suddenly turns around, looks at me straight in the eyes and blunts: “No, it’s not available.” Period. I wait a few seconds, expecting her to probe and find another date or proposing another solution, but nothing, she just stares at me, with an obviously unfriendly attitude…I ask the questions myself, then. She looks at me definitely bothered by my presence, she looks at her watch and then she vomits me the following sentence with the same lucidity of an assassin: “Look, lady, in 10 minutes it’s my lunch break and I have no intention of missing it.” She just failed to add Get Lost!
- Rude waiters are legendary in Paris, from slamming the food on the table to ignoring patrons etc. The best I had was late on a summer night, out in the center, in a chic but deserted terrace of a trendy cafe; my beau and I sat next to one another. The waiter came as fast as an hawk, not to take our order but to harass us to seat in front of one another, because we were occupying too much space!!! So we left.
- My favorite moment of negative karma is the weekly cold treatment I get from the cleaners where I drop off my boyfriend’s shirts. They have a subscription system where you can get a discount if you buy a certain number of slots of services. The thing is, they give you these paying vouchers which group the shirts by two. As a result, you should drop off and pick up shirts always in an even number, if not their system collapses and the cleaners’ people go nuts. Needless to say that there are 5 working days in a week…So the first time I went to pick up the 5 shirts I had dropped off, the lady literally screamed at me that it was nonsense and that I should have known better. I tried to argue and find an easy solution, she just kept getting angrier and angrier at me. I was in disbelief, I looked for sympathy in the eyes of other patrons present at the scene, and everyone looked away! Ever since, despite my efforts to keep the drop-off items in even numbers and be as polite as I can force myself to be when I enter the shop, that lady barely says hi or thank you, just handles the transaction as fast as she can without making eye contact. I sent my beau once and apparently she was very nice to him! I know what you wonder, why don’t I simply change venue. Price and location are still two good reasons to suck it up and take their rudeness.
- Some musea in Paris are very child friendly and even organize children happening and art intro activities (Georges Pompidou, Gare D’Orsay, Palais de Tokyo to name a few), but some others are simply a kid-busting party-pooper venue (and I will mention them: Jacquemart André on top of the list, followed only by the Museum of Modern Art and the Grand Palais). Although these institutions do not mention anywhere in their website or publicity literature that small children are not accepted (it would be too easy), they make children and parents visits a hellish souvenir. The strollers are not allowed in, so you have to check them in and carry your 15-20 kilos of joy all the way. Guards in every room are ready to scold the kids before they even think of approaching the fire extinguisher (currently Milo’s passion) or if they dare climbing on the seats/couches with their shoes on. If kids dare expressing their appreciation of the art verbally (Milo is not shy about screaming “Ooooh, wow !” in front of bright colored canvases), it’s the parents that get dirty and insisting looks, together with a nasty ”Shhhhh!”…and if you think of keeping your toddler calmer by supplying him with a snack or fruit while visiting the galleries, forget about it: "No, No, No!" screams the guard, running toward you alarmed as if you just leaned against a Modigliani!
Some of these interactions are plain surreal; the best one occurred this week at the park: I was sitting on a bench with another mum and we were chatting away as out two sons were playing with a truck and a shovel not too far from us. The sand box was about 100 mts away from where we were sitting. A park guard came by and uttered: “Sorry Ladies, but the kids are not allowed to play with the dirt here.” We looked at him puzzled, not understanding what he meant…since when it’s forbidden to play with dirt in parks ? Also, the park was filled with kids everywhere… “They should play in the sand box, because we just re-landscape the park and they risk ruining it.” explained the park guard. We barely contained our laughter…I did not even bother arguing, such nonsense it was…but upon leaving we did ask the kids to put the grass back straight on the lawn and to pick up the leafs that had fallen from the tree and try to put them back on the branches!
This one won the gold medal for the Parisian Negative Karma Aggressive Public Behavior, which I hold responsible for the generalized Parisian gloomy atmosphere and for the fact that Parisians are stereotyped as snoddy, rude and not much fun. As a foreigner it is hard to come to terms with that: either you succumb and start acting the same way, replying aggressively and living every single day some sort of confrontation, and entering this karma circle where you receive the negativity and you put it back into the environment; or you build an emotional iron curtain to protect yourself and decide to just laugh about it, which after a while it’s simply very hard and eventually the snoddyness simply gets to you and you find yourself rumbling and nagging most of the day ; either way, it wears you out after a while…unless you resort to irony:
Same park, two days later; an old lady joins me on the bench, with her book. She delves into it and reads. Milo and his friends are running back and forth from the bench to the slide, screaming and making a lot of noise, as the other 500 kids in the park at that hour. The lady turns around and snaps:
"Can you please make your kid to saty silent?"
"Why would I do that?! We take him to the park so he can play!" I reply, calmly.
"I come to the park to relax and read and it is very very hard!" snaps back the French lady, obiously oblivous of the surrounding!
"Well, in that case I advise you the library, it's a much better place!" I said smiling back.
I didn't even have to get mad!
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
As it often happens, the Belgianite and I were clueless as to what he meant, and in which language he was speaking, but we tried our best to understand:
“What? What is mujita?”
An impatient Milo insisted: “Mujitaaaa, mujita, mujita, mamma!”, looking at me as if it was pretty obvious.
“…mu…jita? I don’t understand, Milo, what is it, show me.”
An increasingly frustrated Milo raised his voice, like adults do when speaking with foreigners, as if they were deaf!
“Mu-ji-ta!! Mujita!! Mujita, mujita, mujita, papá… (at least you should know this!)”
We were lost…we squeezed our brains, we tried our best, we looked around us, what in heaven was this kid asking for…he did not give up:
“Mujita, mujita, mujitaaaa…”
“Milo beetje moe?” asked the Belginite, concentrating on the sound (moe = ‘tired’ in Dutch)
“Ne, mujita mujita, mujita…” replied Milo, the expression on his face now clearly signifying 'these guys are useless'!
Somehow we both agreed that he must be using an Italian word, but I could not detect it, so the Belginite tried again:
“How does papa call that?”
“.. !?...and the nanny? How does she call it?”
“Mujita... (What do you think?!)”
By now Milo really thinks we are a pair of brain-dead morons…how can we not possibly get it?
Finally a neuron sparked in my heat and pregnancy deflated head:
“Siiiiiiiiiii!!! Mujita!!! mujita!!!”
Hope was restored in what was beginnign to be an unjust world!
He wanted his papa to play the piano and put on some music, the party boy!
And when he finally did, he looked at me joyfully a couple of times stressing:
“Mujita, mamma, mujita!”
Like saying “Isn’t this great?! Do you get it now?”
Monday, June 12, 2006
Milo feels the commotion that it's about to come...I keep telling him that one of these days his little brother will come home to live with us. He listens very carefully. The only item he retains is the gift that this brother is suppoed to bring him! He definitely got that!
This week English has taken a more active role in his linguistic development, to our amazement. We never address him directly in English, but he hears us all the time speaking it among one another. This weekend he wanted to hurry his dad to take him to the park and he yelled:
"Tome on, papa, tome on!" (for come on).
He also heard me replying "I don't know" to one question and he has replied so on a cuple of occasions, randomly.
At this time we don't hang out with any English speaking friends, and it's a shame because it could be a viable way to slowly build some bases for him...but then again I don't want to force too much on him, he has already his share with French, Italian and Dutch.
I also noticed that he is very talkative and chatty at home and among familiar people, while when we go to the park he turns a little shy. He is very tall for his age, although he's only two he's the size of a three year old, and kids are somehow puzzled by his lack of immediate verbal response. I caught several times older girls asking him impatiently is the toys he was playing with were his, and being frustrated at his lack of reply. I try to monitor him as much as possible and intervene if necessary, but he also needs to learn the playground rules...
On the other hand, now that he can communicate more, his carachter is softening- it's clear that he enjoys talking and expressing himself. And we don't miss his screaming! He's incredibly aware of words triple identity: without being asked, he often offers the three versions (IT, FR, DT) of any given item at hand!
It's gonna be a very quiet birthday, a little dinner tonight in a nearby restaurant, nothing wild...but with the best of presents on its way, what do you expect?!
Sunday, June 04, 2006
We spent a great time together! She helped me with a bunch of homey tasks such as getting the wardrobe ready for the baby, dishing out Milo's old outfits and picking the ones that can be reused, preparing the luggage for the clinic etc. (Digression: last time I was going crazy looking for nightgowns that would be opened in the front, hence comfortable for breast feeding: all models available were suited for some old ladies in retiring homes... this time, as I will give birth in July and I hope it will be warm, I shopped some fantastic pajamas with sleeveless tops! It's all about experience!).
She cooked for us every day some succulent dinners and the mere scent of her cooking transported me back at home and made me feel happy!
Milo adored having his Nonna around, who played a lot with him, read him stories, taught him some more vocabulay in Italian, and made him laugh! Quite a change from a disciplinary nanny and a mum who has often been jumpy and tense these past months...
We also took off just the two of us a few times, sightseeing around Paris (something I have the feeling I will not get to do for a while!). We took the batobus and cruised along the Seine one day. We saw some great exhibits at the Grand Palais ('Italia Nova' , a panoramic review of paintings in Italy between 1900 and 1950 and one on contemporary French art, very very forward!). We had great lunches at lebanese and other ethnic restaurants, sharing some great talks. I am always amazed at her positivity and capability to take life with serenity...while I seem to worry a lot more.
She also baby-sat for us two nights, on one evening we had the neighbour's party and on another the Belgianite and I enjoyed a real date, dressing up and going for a Japanese dinner and a great movie (Volver by Almodovar, fresh from the Cannes festival). We hadn's gone out just the two of us in at least 6 months! It felt like a major event!
She left and I really miss her already; I wonder if with my two boys it will be the same when they will be grown, if I'll be up to the task and capable to give so much...and since the kitchen is certainly not my reign, I wonder if my boys will experience the same sensorial and memory bliss I did while my mum cooked...! I guess I have still some time to learn how to cook at least one good dish!
The greatest news is that I am finally on maternity leave! And it feels great! I am rather active and I like my professional life, but the stress was really getting to me, expressing itself with insomnia and palpitations, which have miraculously disappeared ever since I have been at home…
We have been busy trying to fix the apartment around, especially Milo’s room which had to be reorganized. I read on a French parenting magazine that 70% of parents wait until the last trimester of pregnancy to do this and purchase the necessary furniture and stuff; apparently it is recognized as the nest building syndrome! We meant getting a new bed for Milo this winter already, but we only got to it 2 weeks ago…the initial transition has been seamless, Milo felt rewarded to leave the ‘cage’, that is the bed with bars, and finally sleep in a normal bed. But it lasted too little. The problem now is simply convincing him to stay in it at sleeping time…it takes a loooooooong time to put him to sleep. He has never been a sleepy baby, but now that he can actually run away from the bed, evenings are rough.We try to stick to the ritual: bath, dinner, book reading, lullaby, lights off…but as soon as we’re gone he tiptoes to the living room a hundred times, and there is no argument, voice raising, scolding, sweet talking that works…He finally collapses around 11 pm, and so do we, after having spent the last two hours taking turns in chasing the rascal! In any case, at least he does sleep through the night, looking at the bright side! In a few weeks we will put his old bed back in his room, camouflaged with different draperies, ready for his little brother.
In the same week he also got his first haircut at the hairdresser! Up until now he got his hair cut only two or three times by his father; in fact, Milo’s hair was as long as that of a girl, which despite making him look very trendy and fashionable (AND a girl indeed), it was a pain the neck to wash and brush: it would tangle in rasta locks in his back and he’d refuse to have it combed. Every morning I had the impression to wake up a child version of Rod Stewart! So, after another first attempt by his father which resulted in the worse massacrating chop-work I have ever seen, the nanny and I took him on a rainy Monday morning to a tour of the neighborhood’s hairdressers, looking for the courageous one who would not be impressed with Milo’s screaming and fidgeting techniques and would go for the task. We found it shortly, and the experience was certainly not a gay one…no blood was shed, mission was accomplished but a lot of the other salon’s clients were troubled by his pulmonary capabilities (as in he screamed for dear life). The haircut completely changed his look and I still have a hard time recognizing him at the park…but bath time is much more fun now!
While at the hairdresser I was served my first “why does he not speak?” pep talk by an older French lady who was having her hair washed, and to whom Milo was explaining in Italian that the water was cold…she could not understand him and it frustrated her. When he finally uttered a comprehensible “pas chaud” to her, she looked at me and exclaimed “See! You can speak if you make an effort!” to which I could not resist replying:”Oh, but he does speak: in Italian, Dutch AND French!” The lady was simply amazed. (Alice docet!)
Last but not least I finally took Milo for a long due visit to yet another pediatrician, for a vaccination recall. In the last two years, I have consulted almost all of those in our neighborhood and I am coming to the conclusion that I am setting my expectations just too high each time. Every visit is simply diappointing. They always, inevitably prescribe heavy medications (antibiotics are as common as bread in France), they hardly explain what is wrong, and I simply cannot stand their lack of psychology and their indifference to Milo’s fear of them. This time I called the lady in advance to let her know about his sensitivity and asked her to be extra nice to him: she greeted him screaming to his face that no matter what, she would have visited him, that he could decide to cry, kick, whatever, it was not her problem: she WOULD have visited him, no matter what. Thanks a lot, bitch!!! If I hadn’t called in advance, would she have smacked us straight on the head?!As usual Milo cried during the visit and at the mere sight of the stetoscope, and really panicked when the shot was done; once it was all over he seemed ok. So I am back to the list of pediatricians…
Finally, we have had some doubts about the nanny. Milo and Antoine are now 2 and 2 and ½, an age which is certainly very peculiar, ‘the first adolescence’ as good old Fitzhugh Dodson defined it, and it seems she has reached her level of competences and has a very hard time handling them. She has been great as long as they have been babies, but boys are another affair: they need to be managed, anticipated, to be fed information, games, things to learn constantly, and she’s rather passively just making sure they don’t destroy the house too much and they don’t kill themselves. Milo has also started to express a certain independence, while Antoine starts being more and more physical and controlling. I have been thinking to sign up Milo in a local halte garderie (a part time day care) for a few mornings a week, as a start, to let him meet other kids and socialize and expand a little his social network. This garde partagé will end by December the latest anyway, and as we don’t have any family close by, I cannot imagine being home alone with a newborn and Milo at the same time, this summer. What depresses me is that I tried talking to the nanny about it, and while she recognizes herself that she’s a little lost with their capricious behaviour most of the time, she is not at all receptive to the numerous articles, books, activities I have presented her with and suggested. I am no expert, by no means, and I do understand her frustration, but I thought we could try to find, together, a strategy to get through this phase more harmoniously and for her it could have been a significant professional learning experience too. I am seriously considering getting a new one for the new baby, when the time will come.
Friday, June 02, 2006
Milo has been talking up a storm, growing each day more and more into his own little amazing person! It's such a pleasure to witness his bloom daily, now that I am not working...here's a quick anectode for you from this week, during the visit of my mum, whom he calls 'Nonna' (grandma in Italian):
Coming back from the park with his Nonna, Milo craves for a milk bottle. As soon as they enter the apartment, he takes her by the hand and brings her to the kitchen:
"Vieni, Nonna, vieni..." (Come with me)
Once in the kitchen he declares his plan:
"Nonna, bibe, bibe latte!" (milk bottle)
As it is short before dinner time, she tries to discourage him by saying that she does not know how ta make a bibe...
Milo opens the fridge and pulls out his milk, gives it to his grandma with a very persuasive look and states:
"Latte, nonna!" (milk)
Nothing easier than making a milk bottle, isn't there?!?!?!
Have a lovely weekend!
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Monday, May 15, 2006
Like 99% of Italians of my generation, I was raised Catholic, received all the due sacraments, went regularly to catechism class and mass until adolescence hit me and started having my own doubts about a lot of issues. This is not a post about religion, so I won’t go further with my own experience with that. But when our son Milo was born, his dad and I had this discussion about how were we going to handle his spiritual education. He had also been raised Catholic and at one point decided to dissociate completely from the church and has ever since been a professed atheist. On top of it, we are not married, so a baptism in church was not in our plans, as it would have felt extremely hypocritical.
Milo’s birth and first few months were very intense and required all of our energies, so to the insistent demand of my side of the family (“Are you going to baptize him?”) we finally replied a simple “no, ” to the dismay of some older uncle and aunt! However, as his first anniversary approached I felt the need to have some sort of special celebration, to properly welcome him in our life, to formally introduce him to our dear ones, to mark the time. I stumbled across an article which talked about the decline of the Republican Baptism in France. A little research revealed that since 1794 this ceremony had been available to the lay French citizen who wanted another option to the Catholic ceremony.
In Paris one need only to contact its own district city hall and inquiry if the local mayor is available to celebrate the ceremony. Not all the 20 city halls of Paris administer it! Those whose political orientation is more traditional will tell you that the demand is so overwhelming that they have ceased administering it! However, we found 5 mairies who were available on the chosen date.
The ceremony is brief and entails a speech given by the mayor. The parents can nominate a godfather and a godmother, whose engagement is only moral and has no legal value should the kid remain orphan. A certificate is then issued to the parents and the godparents.We celebrated it on Milo’s first birthday, with both immediate families coming over from Belgium and Italy, and a few of the closest friends in Paris. It was indeed very moving: the mayor integrated in his speech the information I had forwarded on our specific situation and talked about a new generation of truly European kids, raised in a pluricultural setting; the godmother made also a very tear-provoking speech. Later we treated everyone to oysters and champagne in a nearby brasserie, and that same evening we hosted a full party at our place! We felt happy with the lovely souvenir we created for Milo and our loved ones, and look forward to repeat the experience with our second son.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
While visiting at my parents’ in Italy last weekend, Milo gave us a bright example of code switching, that is the ability that multilinguals have to switch from one language to another appropriately, according to the interlocutor.
His dad was showing off his dog educating skills with my parents’ dog Lillo, which is a nutcase cross between a Dalmatian and a Boxer, full of life and energy and impossible to get a hold of. The beast scares the life out of everyone and only my might 6'2" brother can possibly take him for a walk, not without coming back with some disclocated articulation.
Well, the Belgianite (a.k.a Milo’s dad) has this thing with animals, and while giving his commands in Dutch, he managed to have the dog seated and even laying down for about half an hour, gaining even more esteem and admiration from his in-laws, who did not fail to capture the miracle on camera!
Milo followed attentively the entire manouver and he fearlessly approached the dog at one point, looked at him straight in the eyes, lifted his little index finger and intimidated him with an undiscussable: "Seduto!" (that is be seated...in Italian)!
Because Lillo understands Dutch, surprisingly, but remains an Italian dog!
Friday, May 05, 2006
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Thursday, May 04, 2006
“Elle est ou la balle? Ah, elle est lá!” (Where’s the ball? Ah, it’s there!)
“Au revoir voiture…Au revoir pompiers…”(Goodbye car…good bye firemen)
In Italian he progresses steadily , especially when on the phone with the grand parents:
“Ciao Nonno! Tai?”( trying to say ‘Come stai?’, that is how are you).
“Papa bibi, papa dodo” (my dad is sick, he’s sleeping)
“Mamma uvette! Uvette! Pepapóve!” (Mummy (I want some ) raisins! Please!)
In Dutch he also has developed his vocabulary mainly around playing activities:
tekenings vliegtuig (to draw airplanes)
Auto maken (to build a car)
Genoeg, genoeg (enough!)
When I teach him new words, if he knows them in French already he makes sure to stress that the nanny calls them differently:
"Mamma Lumaca, Attatá escargot" (mum (says) snail (in Italian), Attattá (says) snail (in French)
We have also noticed that he’s imitating more and more the nanny, in her speech modulation, tone, inflection. We don’t always understand exactly what he’s saying, but it’s clear that he’s talking like she does with him (especially at the dinner table). Can’t wait to get the content too, it will be the best reality show-candid camera ever!
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
I keep being astonished by things Milo notices in his surroundings which I have not even bothered registering. We were strolling on a shopping street the other day and I stopped to look at a shoe-shop window. He immediately lounged to the men's shoes section and was intensely looking at mens' soes for a good couple of minutes. When I finally started taking notice and finding a little odd that a two year-old could be entertained for so long by men's shoes, I finally realized that the whole window was decorated by antique car models, displayed among the shoes, as well as posterts etc. I had not even seen them at first, mingled with the shoes.
Yesterday we were coming home from another stroll and while his dad and I were chatting, he was looking up from his stroller into the sky and kept on pointing to an imaginary rocket:
"Razzo...mamma, razzo....razzo!" he kept on warning us.
When we finally bothered looking up ourselves, we realized that he was looking at this church's belltower, whose shape in effect resembles remarkably that of a rocket.
His sense of imagination and observation is so precious...I hope we'll be capable of preserving it and nurture it along the way. Apparently, this same characteristic is also typical of multilingual kids from early on. A paper by Jean Marc Dewaele on "Trilingual first language acquisition" (2000, La Chouette, 31, 77-86), claims that multilingual kids develop a sustained attention for content rather than form, and they are better aware of the arbitrary nature of language.
Hopefully, his multilingualism will also preserve some of this wonderful outlook on life and the ability of seeing beyond the obvious or expected.
Let me explain: Milo has been into drawing; he uses mainly fruit-scented water markers which he adores (although, curiously, he exclusively draws with the light blue, and gives us the others).
As the apartment walls are all white, the inevitable happened this week: on a rare moment in which he was left alone, he left his drawing table and went exploring bigger and greater surfaces! When I got back into the room and saw him so self absorbed in his wall decoration, I had this strong double-reaction: I instinctly gasped, but then again I was so moved by his artistic inspiration!
I needed to teach him not to do it anymore, which required some form of prohibition, hence scolding, and at the same time inside of me I felt there was nothing really wrong, and I wanted him to be able to express himself freely. I grew up drawing on the walls, my parents let me decorate my room however I wished and I am convinced this early freedom of expression was a precious grain for my creativity development.
But what am I to do? Even if the markers are water based, I can't spend evenings washing the walls...It's the first time I scolded my son without really meaning it.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Boy 1: "Have you seen her breasts?!" asks, while grabbing them at the same time.
Boy 2: "Yeah, they are huge!!"
Boy 1: "She must be a mum..."
...and off they go.
Meanwhile, Milo could only reach the bronze toes of the statue and was trying stubbornly to bite them off.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
The other day his nanny tickled him on the belly while she was changing his diaper, and he responded severely:
“No! No! Bebé!” , pointing to his tummy!
We laughed with it on the moment, but later I found myself a little disturbed by the misunderstanding he has experienced. Is he really convinced that he has a baby in his belly as well?
We are trying to prepare him gradually: I tell him daily about his little brother in my belly and relay imaginary messages from him about the future games they’ll play together; we have a Barbapapa book which illustrates the arrival of a newborn and all the related paraphernalia (cradles, milk bottles etc.); I look at books about pregnancy and maternity together with him, he loves the pictures of new borns; I also draw a lot with him and have been drawing Milo holding hands with a newborn. He looks at it rather skeptically and the only comments he has been making so far are on the baby’s diaper, asking whether it’s full of pupu!
Next will come the room rearrangement: we need to get Milo a big bed and remove the bed with bars he’s currently sleeping in, to give him the time to adjust to his new status of “big boy” and forget about the cradle, before we start using it for the little brother.
I alternate states of euphoria, as the due date approaches, to pure panic and apprehension on how are we going to handle the day-to-day. I suppose it’s normal and I can blame most of the stress on the hormons. Also, I am now entering that phase when you simply cannot be as active as you were before: grocery shopping is super fatiguing, walking everywhere takes much longer, I can’t lift Milo all the time and bending over is also not an option…in all this, bebé moves and flips over all the time, he feels really tight in there: sometimes I have the feeling he is turning over seeking a more comfortable position, and I can see the silhouette of his cranium or elbow moving across my belly!
I recall when my baby brother was born: I was 4, older than Milo is today, and I took his arrival as my birthday present! At the time sonograms were not mainstream so we did not know the gender of my sibling. Thoughout the pregnancy we had nicknamed it Pippo (which is the Italian version of Disney’s Goofy) and toward the end I would make imaginary phone calls to Pippo in the belly, asking him how was life in there and if he was not tired to be stuck inside!
When I was pregnanat with Milo I reiterated the tradition and called him Pippo until the end. His little brother will remain the “bebé” for three more months!
Monday, April 10, 2006
So we began indeed calling each other ‘amore’, which was originally meant with a clear aura of irony. The days, months, years passed and it became exactly what I was afraid of, an affectionate alternative to the first name, which was loosing its meaning by the minute due to the excessive usage, just like a fabric loosing color after having been washed too many times.
But a funky turn to the issue has brought our attention to it, lately: our son Milo has noticed it, and has started to use it as well as a substitute for calling out Mamma or Papa! As he cannot roll the 'r' yet, he says “amone.”
And so, we were cracking up the other day when we entered the apartment coming back from running errands and he called out: "Amooooone!", as his dad does when he comes home!
I honestly felt relieved: at least all irony has not been lost!
* If you are curious to know how an Italian chick ended up in Paris with a Belgianite, check out the story “Love-struck at the technical desk: the sparkle of a euro-romance” I wrote for the BBFN section entitled “How Me Met” last month!
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Milo has been sick almost all last week, which made his verbal communications regressing a little and restrincting to tantrums, screaming and antichrist imitations at random hours of the day or of the night...but this week he´s much better, luckily, and catching up and recuperating fast. He´s finally making little sentences:
"Auto papa" (are we taking papa´s car?)
"Bimbo parti?" (is the kid gone?)
"Caduto per terra" (it fell on the floor)
" Via tutti!" (all gone, when throwing pebbles in the ocean)
Amazingly, he has been asking daily about his parisian friends: his nanny, his friend Antoine and other little friends he sees regularly. As if he wants to be reassured he wil see them again.
The multiple linguistic identity of words is becoming more clear and fluid by the day: we keep naming objects and things and we ask him: How does papa call that? How does mama say? And he replies correctly with the Italian , Dutch or French version of items.
And on a final note, English, which until now has been totally passive for him, starts creeping up!
He imitates us having arguments and he distinctly ends the phrases by saying" OK? OK?" (he actually pronounces it ooh-thei!), and last night when daddy asked him if he was ready to go to bed, he replied: " Yes!"
That´s all for now, gotta scoot to the pool and store some sunshine in my bones before we head back in tumultuous Paris...adios!
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Founded and heralded in Seattle by a very inspired woman named Corey Heller, the site is developing fast and includes contributors from several parts of the world.
The first piece concernes 8 useful tips while choosing the name for your future multilingual child!
Other clever columns include Multicultural Melange by Alice , on raising her children trilingually, as well as One Family, One Language by Lilian.
Make sure you sign up for the monthly newsletter, so you can be regularly multiculturally informed!
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
"Il pleut!" (It's raining) says Milo every morning, even though in the last few days the sunshine has finally conceded itself, after an eternity of cloudy and grey skies. It is still freezing cold, I guess that's what Milo means. We are all bummed and smitten by this everlasting winter. Running noses, frozen thoughts, contracted muscles...
Today I was determined to shake the winter off! When I used to live in Rome, there were many spots I loved to climb to from which one could enjoy a mesmerizing view of the Eternal city. Paris is quite flat and, apart from the Eiffel Tower, the Tour de Montparnasse and Montmartre, there aren't many places offering a view. I found a special one right by my office: at lunch time I went on a balloon trip, raising at 150 mt high (the Eiffel tower is 324 mt or 1058 ft tall). I enjoyed a breathtaking 360° aerial view of Paris from the south west. The air was still uncozily cold, but the view gave it all another dimension. Seeing the earth from up above should be mandatory for everyone, at least once in a lifetime. It is such a humbling and inebriating experience. We are concretely reminded of how infinitesimally small we are, and in a place like this, that we are surrounded by so much life and diversity.
I spotted a typically French protest in front of the France Television headquarters, the national broadcaster; I admired the green muddy Seine waters, lulling a few commercial boats used to transport building material along the quais; the cupola of Les Invalides (Napoleon's burying site) was shining at a distance; La Defense, the modern high-rises financial district, emerged behind the Bois de Boulogne, amistd a hazinesss probably due to the pollution. I felt like being back in Paris again, even though I've been here for the last few months non-stop (...stranded in the office or at the apartment).
The balloon ride was short and smooth; the ascension proceeds at 1 meter per second and it feels in reality much slower, as the panorama unveils beneath our eyes.
I asked the "pilot" if there was a minimal age for kids, and there isn't. He said that often the small ones are disappointed because the balloon ascends and descends vertically and does not move around enough! I will have to take Milo on a warmer and sunny day later this spring, and see if it is true...
Thursday, March 09, 2006
"Il est parti Papá?" (Did Daddy leave?) asked me (in French) Milo yesterday morning upon waking up, and noticing his Dad was not around.
"Yes, sweetie, Dad left really early...he took the airplane to go in another city, for work" I replied (in Italian).
"Partito" (gone) he repeated (in Italian). And then added: "Papá aereo" (Dad airplane).
So we sat at his little blue table and I drew an airplane for him, which he colored enthusiastycally; I drew a smily face in one of the windows, and told him that there was his dad.
Shortly later, when the nanny arrived, he took her by the hand and brought her over to the drawing, pointing with his little finger at it:"
"Papá avion! papá avion"he told her (in French).
Last night at sleeping time he wanted to bring the drawing to bed with him. Before turning off the light he looked at the airplane one more time and he screamed, waving his hand:
"Ciao, ciao Papá!!".
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Did you know that "the first IWD was held on 19 March 1911 in Germany, Austria, Denmark and further European countries; German women selected this date because in 1848 the Prussian king had promised the vote for women"?
I didn't, until I bumped into the IWD home site. Today is not just an excuse to get flowers and gifts; today is a day we should take the time to ponder how far women have made it thanks to the determination and the will of some great women in the past, and how much there is still to be done to reach a true equality in society.
So this post is dedicated to all the phenomenal women I know and have crossed my life, those who have inspired me in history, and those who I have been fortunate to meet through this blog!
To Ajenji, Agnes, Alessandra, Alice, Amy, Ana, Andrea, Anna, Anna Marie, Corey, Biba, Dalian, Deirdre, Ellen, Francesca, Giulia, Grandma, Hanne, Janet, Jenny, Laura, Lilian, Lisa, Luisella, Mai, Marianne, Maurizia, Monica, Mum, Nancy, Petra, Pat, Piera, Ruth, Sandrine, Saskia, Sebla, Sevgi, Silvia, Susanne, Tamou, Tori, Virna.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
This beats the already forward Spanish system, where everyone carries both last names, but it is the father’s last name that’s transmitted to the descendants.
Only in case of disagreement between the parents, the father’s name will prevail. And, whatever has been chosen for the first child, will apply to all the other siblings.
As a mum, I find this change very gratifying. As an Italian mum, I find it even more democratic and equalizing (in my home country the patriarchal leverage still reigns). So it is not just up to my brother to ensure that the family name will continue existing, I can have that perpetrating role too, for at least the space of one generation. It’s amazing how strongly we are conditioned otherwise, in this sense: I was explaining this to my mum and was telling her that I was considering adding my last name to my son. And I said “It makes even more sense, since I’ll have two boys!” And suddenly realized that it would have made exactly the same sense if I had girls! Shame on me…
This new exciting measure comes with a quite whimsical aftermath, check this out:
When choosing the double names option, the last names will be separated by a double dash (--), to avoid confusion with double last names pre-existing the law (which are still quite frequent in France).
So, in concrete terms, for the first generation there are 4 simple options:
Mr. Martin and Madame Dupont have a child, Pascal. They have the four following options:
- Pascal Martin
- Pascal Dupont
- Pascal Martin -- Dupont
- Pascal Dupont -- Martin
But what will happen when the second generation will procreate?
If Pascal Dupont--Martin meets Mademoiselle Sylvie DUCHAMPS -- DUBOIS de LACIME, their child will have no less than 14 probabilities:
- DUBOIS DE LACIME
- DUPONT -- MARTIN
- DUCHAMPS -- DUBOIS DE LACIME
- DUPONT -- DUBOIS DE LACIME
- DUBOIS DE LACIME -- DUPONT
- MARTIN -- DUBOIS DE LACIME
- DUBOIS DE LACIME -- MARTIN
- DUPONT -- DUCHAMPS
- DUCHAMPS -- DUPONT
- MARTIN -- DUCHAMPS
- DUCHAMPS --MARTIN
Certainly, carrying out genealogic researches in a few centuries will be no fun, however by then mega databases will be available and search engines as we know them will be a vague souvenir.
This feels like real progress to me! For once, let me proclaim "Vive la France!"
The Olympic flame estinguished on Sunday night after two exctiting weeks, but the competitive spirit remains alive! In all honesty, we did not achieve ALL the goals we had set for ourselves, but the most important thing is that Milo's lingusitic development has literally exploded, and he has learnt an impressive amount of vocabulary in the past two weeks!
New words in Italian: libro (book), cucchiaio (spoon), pepipio (for pper favore, please), cacincia (for calzina, little sock), pacincia (for patatina, chip), blu, osso (for rosso, red) giao (for giallo, yellow), tappo (hood), amone (for amore, love), attento (be careful), letto (bed), iso (for riso, rice), etc.
Dutch: dicht (closed) , tekenen (to draw), ja (yes), ne (no), cadeautje (little present), etc.
French: bateaux (boat), train, pompier (fire man), parti (gone), pantalon (trousers), poussette (stroller), main (hand), pied (foot), tete (head) and more.
This morning while we were all getting ready he uttered his first mixed phrase , in Italian and Dutch: "Acqua piú...deur dicht!" (=no more water..the door is closed).
This medal is for you, Milo!
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Milo’s dad and I had this discussion the other night: I was explaining him how Italians feel particularly patriotic during major international sport events, how I never really learnt the Italian national anthem until a few years ago, however if a Soccer World Cup or an Olympic game was up, I have always warm-heartedly cheered for my country (like every night in the last ten days).
Milo’s dad said he never really felt particularly patriotic (although he’s nicknamed ‘The Ambassador (of Belgium),’ since he’s one of the proudest Belgians I have ever met!). Belgium being a country dealing with an uneasy tension between the Walloon and the Flemish communities, and also having a tri-parliamentary structure (a significant Germano-phone community is represented as well), clearly has little room for patriotism. He also explained how showing off Flemish pride, by waving flags and shouting hymns, has been considered a behavior typical of the (extreme) right wing. So, no flag, no hymn for him growing up.
I remember starting wondering about patriotism when I first landed the US at age 19: I was amazed at the omnipresence of the American flag in front of public buildings (such as the post office, the mall, etc.). The national anthem would be played before every game at intercollegiate sports. My volleyball team was not exempt, and I always felt a little awkward about it. I was the only one in the roster without her hand on her heart. It’s easy to understand that North America has played well the patriotism factor to provide a common denominator to all the diverse cultures present on its sole. And still, there is something nice about the anthem and about feeling very much part of one nation.
I attended Seton Hall University, in NJ and was on the volleyball team. At the time, another fellow Italian, Marco Lokar, was on the (more media visible) basketball team. Something occurred to him in those years which took my definition of patriotism to another level. When the first war in Iraq broke, you might remember, Americans massively supported operation Desert Storm by displaying and wearing a yellow ribbon. Within the sports arena, athletes at all levels begun wearing an American flag stitched to their uniform. Marco refused to, on the ground that he was a pacifist, that he was not supporting the war and was not supporting just the American troops but his heart was behind all soldiers involved in the conflict, on both sides. On February 2, 1991, Seton Hall played St John’s University at Madison Square Garden in NY City and the public and the media picked on his “lack of solidarity”. This caused a nation wide debate and created a huge upheaval, which resulted with him leaving the country a few weeks later, after having received several threatening phone calls and serious menaces (see this article on Sports Illustrated for the full story and a very moving profile of Marco Lokar, who happens to be also a true multicultural man with Slovenian and Italian roots).
Shortly after this incident all the sports teams were summoned by the athletic department director who wished no more negative media attention stirring (there were quite some foreign athletes, in my team I was along with an Argentinian and a Puerto Rican). He asked us to think it over and to decide as a team whether we would want to wear the flag or not. I was less idealistic than Marco, although I knew him and respected him. We have had several conversations on the topic. Italy was also engaged with troops in the Gulf. The volleyball team played the following games displaying the American flag on the uniform. This episode has more to do with moral values than with patriotism, however it was the first time I clearly felt “I am not from here” and realized the power of such notions even in a country like the United States, where individual freedoms (such as free thinking!) are at the base of its democracy.
But besides identifying with a flag and a song, what does it mean to feel patriotic today and is patriotism a value that will make sense for our multicultural children? Wikipedia says: “The word patriotism is used to describe emotions and attitudes, political views, symbolism, and specific acts, with respect to a political community - its territory, history, culture, values, and symbol.”
Milo’s dad asked me if I really felt Italian and why. I did not think much about it and words poured out of my mouth. I do feel Italian, even though at this point I lived half of my life abroad and have embraced many American values, like working ethics and style, or a certain positive openness. But I feel very much attached to the cultural heritage of my country. When I’m at the opera and I listen to a performance in Italian, it’s sheer pleasure; something tickles in my genes. The same for certain literature pieces, or for aesthetics, design, for certain foods, certain landscapes. It’s what I hope to convey to Milo from my side: a precise sense of belonging, a certain sensitivity, which extends to nurturing friendship and relationship with others; the importance of the family nucleus, of celebrations; the sacred sense of hospitality. Perhaps I am mixing too many things at once. I don’t know if that means being patriotic.
Would I die for my country? I honestly think that today nobody should die, for any country. And I have not been a good citizen, as I have barely voted ever since I have been of age. Does that make me less patriotic? Does it make my pride for the Italian men’s Cross-Country Skiing gold medal and my sadness for the ice dancing Italian couple placed 6th less valuable? Am I less patriotic because, finally, I decide to pursue a career abroad, and don’t plan on living in Italy any longer? Or because I am not a soccer fan and never spent a Sunday of my life glued to the TV screen following the ligue games?
I can’t help wondering what Milo’s feelings will be. If we end up settling in France, will he inevitably feel French, even if he will be regularly staying in Italy and Belgium and other places? If he will have any sport ambition, will it matter to him which national team he will integrate? Will he feel a chill when he will listen to Charles Aznavour the way I sigh when I listen to Eugenio Finardi or Lucio Battisti? Where will he feel comfortable, where will he belong? I have already explored the theme of Third Culture Kids in another post, which relates to these issues as well. I struggle trying to imagine his feelings, how his identity will be permeated by the exposure to three cultures. There is something reassuring in knowing you come from one place, with deep and specific roots. He will be certainly enriched by the fact that his roots are spread around, but will this mean that patriotism will mean next to nothing to him?
Will there ever be a strong feeling of European-wide patriotism? At present times, it seems, Euro skepticism is more voiced. I felt “European” for the first time in graduate school, in California. The university had a high incidence of foreign students, equally spread among Europeans and Asians. Although I remember it as the most fulfilling and enriching multicultural experience in my life, I also remember very strongly that the Europeans immediately clung together and so did the Asians. We recognized in each other a certain common sensitivity for things, we had the same reactions. My friend Holger from those years recently emailed me his dismay for the current world events, and mentioned nostalgically how back then “people from all over would get along so well with each other.” (I also think it had to do with socio-economics, we were all coming from similar middle class miens and this made it certainly easy to interact. I don’t mean to make a classist remark here, but it is a considerable fact).
In conclusion, this will be one fascinating learning experience in watching Milo grow into an independent man. I cannot but wish that patriotism for him will have only positive connotations of olympic breath.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
- Among new words learn from Milo there are snow, please, friend, all with its Italian, French and Dutch counterpart. He’s actually sponging up vocabulary every day, he tunes in at whatever is being said and repeats virtually everything, which I believe it’s quite normal at 21 months. He does not repeat much of the English conversation he catches between myself and Milo’s dad, however his pronounciation in Italian is starting to have a distinct Anglophone accent.
He has a harder time repeating certain sounds, so he make s up his own interpretation. A few example:
-His name, Milo: he has been calling himself ‘Memo’, and lately that has shifted to ‘Mímio’ (we found it adorable and already elected it as his nickname, being Milo already so short!).
-Amico (friend): he gets the meaning of the word, but says ‘pepípio’. He gets the right number of sillables and the musicality of the word, but he substitutes certain sounds with labial sounds.
-Biro (pen) and other words with the “r”: he can’t roll the r, so he stretches the preceding vowel (biiiio)
-Luce (light) is uu-chi
- On a good note, he’s more and more aware of the different identities that the same object has in our household. He proudly recites main, manina and handje (hand respectively FR, IT and D), or avion, aereo, vliegtuig (airplane).
- My Dutch efforts have stalled a little and I need to brush up; here are my next phrases for the week:
Heel leuk u te ontmoeten (I'm very glad to meet you)
Ik versta het niet (I don't understand)
Ik begrijp het heel goed (I understand perfectly)
- The Italian conversations are also slagging behind, somehow it does not come natural. I guess we just have to go to Italy more often, then!
While we were watching the opening ceremony held in Torino on Friday, as the athletes were parading we cheered enthusiastically for all of them (I always get tear-eyed on these occasions!); however, when Italy paraded at last, I could not resist a spur of nationalistic pride and I involved Milo in a typical supporting cheer:
"I-TA-LIA! I-TA-LIA!" we screamed rhythmically, clapping our hands and stumping our feet.
Apparently, he enjoyed it: ever since, from time to time he shouts out “I-TA-LIA”! He even taught it to Antoine this morning (I hope his parents won’t think we’re brain washing their kid!).
The Belgian delegation paraded with a mere 8 athletes; if Milo will be any good in sports, then perhaps we will see him competing with the Belgian flag in 2022?!
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
He must have had his share with the nanny this week, because as soon as he does one, he labels it himself immediately: “Betich!” he says seriously, as he’s throwing his apple on the floor during lunch.
“Betich!” he declares while he spills his water on the sofa.
“Betiiiiich” he stresses while he takes is crayon and attempts decorating the white walls, after I told him not to for the 100th time.
The translation in English would be ‘silly thing.’ In Italian we don’t have a specific word, we’d say ‘stupidaggine’ (silly thing) or ‘marachella’ (naughtly thing).
I asked Milo’s dad how would he say that in Dutch. He claims they don’t have that particular word because Flemish kids simply don’t do betise!
Monday, February 13, 2006
Excerpts from MULTI TONGUE KIDS' entries will be shared regularly, linking back to the home site ('The Garde Partagée' entry has already been posted on Feb. 10, re-titled Two-Timing Nanny, complete with a lovely picture!).
Friday, February 10, 2006
The Opening Ceremony will be held tonight at the dinner table!
Some crepes flambées au Grand Marnier will symbolize the arrival of the Olympic Torch!
Napkins displaying the flags of our countries (Italy, Belgium, France and an honorary USA one as well) will remind us of our multicultural richness!
We will all swear to competing honestly and at the best of our possibilities, on De Cubertain’s credo that the important is to participate!
We’ll parade in the living room with our flags!
We’ll greet the imaginary spectators and feel moved to be there!
As for the challenges:
-My Dutch greeting of the day is: Ik spreek maar een klein beetje Nederlands (I only speak a little Dutch).
-Milo’s word will be: snow (neve (IT), nege (FR) and I have to check in Dutch)
-As far as the conversation in Italian, I hope to have something fun to report on next week!
Altius, Citius, Fortius!
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
- We will teach Milo 1 new word a day in Dutch, Italian and French.
- I will learn basic Dutch greetings and small talks phrases.
- Milo’s Dad will carry one conversation a day in Italian with me.
Stay tuned for a gold medal performance!
Feel free to sign up for the challenge by visiting the Multilingual Children’s Association website. (Hosted in California, it has been founded by a Swedish woman who’s raising her daughters bilingual. This site fills a great gap in terms of information, resources and centralized forums among multilingual parents).
Friday, February 03, 2006
In fact, our nanny is originally from Morocco, and if we didn’t already have all these languages to deal with, I would have been keen on her speaking Arabic to Milo. But we commonly decided that she sticks to French, so during the day Milo is in a 100% francophone environment.
This has been proving very fruitful: this week Milo pronounced his first full sentence in French:
“Elle est partie ma maman ?" (Has my mum left?)
It was originally “Elle est partie ta maman” (Has YOUR mum left), since it was Antoine who posed the question and Milo kept on repeating it. The nanny eventually corrected him and personalized it!
At night the nanny keeps me up to date on new words learnt and topic addressed, so that we can provide the Italian and Dutch counterpart, and viceversa on Monday mornings. So far we feel he has progressed rather homogeneously in all three languages.
Sometimes I wonder, had I been a stay at home mummy, the advantages would have been others, of course, but how would we have handled the French language acquisition?
This is the issue that a couple of friends are currently facing, and they decided to sacrifice their own languages, unfortunately. Here’s the case study:
The Mum is Egyptian and speaks Arabic, Italian and French fluently. The father is Anglo-Italian and has been raised in both English and Italian. Their 20 month old Gabriel is looked after at home by his mum (together with his 3 months old sister) and is being raised in French primarily. The parents switch easily between Italian and French among one another. They fear that if he does not hear French enough he’ll have a hard time once he’ll enter school. Hopefully he’ll pick up all of the other languages later on.
We started when Milo was 8 months, and we found rather easily a family already equipped with a super nanny (there’s an abundant numbers of websites where parents can investigate the issue and touch base with other parents).
It has been exactly one year now, and we are totally satisfied about this experience, especially because we have been lucky to find a star of a nanny. Milo has been looked after together with Antoine, a French boy six months his senior.
Milo and Antoine have become like little brothers, they share their days, toys and escapades to the park, socializing among one another.The financial weight is important, although the French government allows for a substantial tax write off for hiring home personnel. The advantages are numerous: Milo did not have to adapt to a totally new environment (in our case the arrangement is that the kids are always at out place), they get individualized care and attention, they are not constantly exposed to the millions of bacteria and microbes that circulate in daycare, if they fall sick the nanny comes anyway and I am not obliged to stay at home, etc.
Antoine’s 6 months leverage has been an accelerating factor in Milo’s physical development, while now it's a great one for his verbal development in French. It's fun to hear the two exchanging full sentences, often about nonsense...They look after each other, they learn how to share and to do things together, they fight, they cuddle, just like two siblings!
When I come home at night, competition peaks for attention! Antoine has become part of the family and I naturally greet him as such, but Milo is VERY possessive of his mummy, and has made clear numerous times that he has got attention priority!
The cultural exchange is even: I have been singing to them little Italian rhyming songs, and Antoine is also now capable of singing them in flawless Italian!
The harmony between the two is guaranteed by the nanny, who happens to have a very charming and solar personality, and from day one has interacted with them a lot, playing and truly teaching them not only words and games, but also manners.During the weekend we are always impressed to see how Milo asks about his little friend and the vice-Mum, they have become very much part of his life, and when we go on trips, finding them back is a source of joy for him! This arrangement has made my going back to work much easier, although the first months I was naturally very apprehensive. It is a great human experience.
Next September Antoine will start kindergaden but only in the mornings (and on Wednesdays schools are shut in France!), so we will continue the adventure until at least December. After that I hope some school will accept Milo, even if he will not be three yet; I am already investigating the matte, a year in advance: life in a metropolis gives the expression “planning ahead” another meaning!
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
“Mamma…bibi, bibi...” he moaned several times, while rubbing his belly.
Another step forward toward efficient communication!
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Paris, Orly Airport: on a cold January morning, we de-boarded the flight from Turin and we proceed to the baggage claim via an endless daedalus of corridors and moving walkways. I usually travel without the stroller, and carry my 15 kilos bundle of joy all the way until I can find a cart on which to seat him. This time, I enjoyed his independence spur and let him trot alongside me with pleasure. Upon approaching the first walkway, his eyes widened with interest and curiosity. Once boarded, he kept looking back and forth, as if he was trying to gauge the speed of travel! Descending went flawlessly, I was starting to think: "This is almost fun..," when I see Milo sprinting to the next walkway, dashing to the floor to press, under the rubber hand rail, a seemingly harmless red little button: it immediately stopped the moving walkway ahead of us, a 200 mt. stretch filled with passengers, who, tilted forward by inertia, cursed each in its own language and wondered what the heck was wrong with these Parisian airports! I threw my bag, ran to the button and pushed it feverishly several times hoping to reactivate the walkway, but of course this was only the stopping button! No airport security or officials were on sight: I grabbed my son, who looked very impressed and proud, and kept walking really fast to the baggage claim…
Two days later, on a still icy cold Sunday morning, Milo and I met two mums-girlfriends at a non-disclosed Parisian museum, for what was supposed to be a morning of culture and entertainment. They also brought along their 9 months and 4 months babies, so we are all equipped with bulgy strollers and the typical paraphernalia that mums travel with these days, not to mention coats, scarves and the whole fit. The museum in question is a small little renaissance jewel, and despite their lack of equipment to welcome handicapped visitors or mums with strollers, the staff was very keen on helping us enter the premises and overcome a series of staircases and passages. Milo was particularly excited by the venue and the presence of the two babies, and was giving the best of himself: he sang, he run around exploring every little alley or secret door, he wanted to climb every staircase in sight, he kept me busy the whole time; the other mums were also taking turns with breastfeeding stops, diaper changing sessions, stroller parking or rescuing, etc. It was everything but a relaxing visit and we hardly managed to pay attention to the paintings of the neo realist we had mainly gone there for…at one point we found a quiet room where there was only a large ancient tapestry hanging on one wall and a padded bench in the middle of the room. We gained the bench to rest a little and we could hardly start the conversation again, when we suddenly heard a mechanical noise and we noticed that the museum curtains were all suddenly lifting: the two guards of the room exchanged a slightly interrogative look and then turned toward a corner of the room, where, sure enough, little Milo had found the switch (behind a table and the above mentioned curtain) which controlled the curtains of the entire floor! Luckily the guards were more amused than bothered by Milo’s bravado, and we left soon after for a danger-free walk in the nearby park!
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
"Milo, tell the grandparents what's in here!"I asked, tapping on my belly.
"Bebéeeeeeeee!" screamed enthusiastically our little wonder.
And so the adventure continues: Milo is getting a little sibling this summer! We are again excited and scared, joyful and terrorized , all at once, just like for the first time. Milo has been informed from the very beginning; he knows and understand what a bebé is. He probably does not get the full picture yet, but he has been incredibly attentive and tender, kissing my belly and saying "CIAO, CIAO!" to this bebé!
At the same time, seeing how he can be jealous if I pay attention to his friend Antoine, I am preparing myself for a big jealousy crisis!
In terms of the pregnanacy, so far so good, the first trimester is over, I survived nausea and blues (which I didn't have for Milo) and I feel back in my shoes.
Looking forward to another Multi Tongue Kid!
Monday, January 09, 2006
So, needles to say, here I am hunting for the next pediatrician.
I have lived myself with a phobia for everything that concerns the medical world all my life. I could not even have my tension taken without fainting or literally feeling I was going to die. Endless conversations with my parents on the subject never revealed any specific traumatizing episode in my childhood which might have cased this phobia. It's only during the pregnancy that I found the motivation to dig into it and grab the bull by the horn, facing my Achille's heel. A nurse trained in psychology helped me finding not necessarily the causes, but a way to overcome this fear. And ever since Milo's birth, the phobia has dissolved: miracles of motherhood!
Because of this, I have been very attentive to the way Milo lives these experiences, and it really breaks my heart to see him terrorized each time we need to go to the doctor. I have been thinking as a starter to buy a stethoscope and start leaving it around the house, so Milo might familiarize himself with the object, make it eventually a toy. But I also need an understanding counterpart, and I am surprised at how difficult it is to find a pediatrician who's at once gentle and competent.
Friday, January 06, 2006
January 6 in Italy is known as the day of La Befana, an old witch flying on its broom, coming to every house during the night, and leaving a sock full of sweets to the good kids, and a sock full of charcoal for the bad kids. I still remember one year receiving stockings (!) filled with nougat, chocolates and tangerines!
There's also an old ryhme which all Italian kids learn for the occasion:
La Befana vien di notte
con le scarpe tutte rotte!
Viva, viva la Befana
che le feste porta via!
Befana comes at night
with her broken shoes
cheers for the Befana
who sweeps away all the festivities!
HAPPY BEFANA, everyone!
Thursday, January 05, 2006
I'm less left brain and have not any particularly emphasis on numbers in Italian, but at bath time, I always say: "Uno, due, tre..." and then I lift Milo and put him in the tub. In Italian, it's 2 (due) which stuck to him. So if I show him any finger combination, it's always :"due!"
He's also starting to associate numbers with the written symbols, especially in the morning when he's waiting for his milk bottle to warm up in the microwave and he sees the clock displaying the decreasing seconds: it's either "due, due, due, due due!" or "vijf ,vijf ,vijf!" depending upon who is with him!
...This time the score is: Dutch vs Italian 5-2!
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
- Why is it that certain accents are pleasant to the ear and others are not?
- Why is it that the French love the British accent (meaning, a British person speaking French with a British accent) while they detest the German one?
- And why is it so ear-acking for the rest of the international community hearing a French speaking English or an American speaking French?
- Why is it considered funny that Japanese can hardly pronounce the “r”?
Certain idiosyncrasis also applies at a more micro level, within languages…
- When I moved to California, after 4 years on the East Coast, I suddenly realized that people back East had an accent (I finally got all those NY “coffee” jockes).
- I have been in France for four years and I am finally recognizing the southern French or the Canadian accent from the Parisian: defintely not the same cup of tea.
Almost every single foreigner I got to meet in my life has told me: “I love the way Italian sound! It’s so musical!” But do they realize that there are dramatically different ways of speaking Italian? Italy is subdivided into 20 regions that little more than 2 centuries ago where single states. Therefore the accents in each reagion are significantly different. It’s really a matter of intonation, you can be saying the same phrase, but singing a completely different song. For political correctness reasons I'll abstain to say which ones I like and which ones I don't, but here are some descriptions:
- I’m from the North West region of Piemonte, and already at the same latitude, the way people from Milano and the Venice region speak catches my ears. We are talking about 2 hours away!
- In Toscana people speak with a distinctive accent, hardly pronoucing their Cs (they aspire them into Hs): Coca Cola in Firenze becomes “hoha hola”!
- The Romans have this curious habit of chopping words and putting the accent on the second to the last vowel. Mangiare becomes 'magná,' dormire becomes 'dormí,' etc. It is very charismatic and it has an intrinsic humorous and contagious value (when you are in Rome after a while you cannot help yourself from doing the same, while the Romans cannot stand a non-Roman talking like them, it really disgusts them!)
- From Rome onwards, the differences are even stronger. It’s not just a matter of accent anymore, often in the southern regions the dialect takes over the Italian language, and these dialects are languages in its own.
My Flemish beau has become astonishling fluent in Italian in the last few years, yet he does not feel like speaking in Italian with me because...he does not recognize me when I speak Italian! It sounds horrible, but I understand him: I am not particularly fond of his Dutch tonalities either! I guess our English softens the respective extreme nuances of our native languages. We spoke English to each other when we met and fell in love, so to hear one another speak another language is like discovering a new person.
Milo is starting to have a somewhat anglophone accent when pronouncing French words with an “r” and some Italian words. A few weeks ago he learnt how to say “mum left” in French (Maman est parti) and he pronounces parti like a British would do! I suspect what I hear as an anglophone accent it's actually the Dutch influence.
Why does this happens and what determines one language vs another to have a stronger influence on a multilingual kid?
The mistery continues…