Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Seeing through their eyes

Ever since Milo has entered our lives, I have been confronted with the inevitable fact that adulthood is intrinsically deprived, layer by layer, of the touching spontaneity and free imagination which inhabits childhood and makes life so beautiful.

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.

The writing on the wall: a parental dilemma

This week I have felt really bad about living in a rental apartment vs. in our own place; it all comes down to the walls.

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

Not all French boys are naughty!

Overheard at the Tuleries gardens, on a sunny and spring-air-filled Easter Monday afternoon stroll. Two French boys aged somewhere between 7 and 10 climb the above portrayed statue entitled "Jeune fille allongée" by Aristide Maillol (1861-1944).

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

Milo comes to grasp bebé is for real: a pregnancy update

I’m 6 months into the pregnancy, the belly is round, plump and unmistakable by now. Even Milo has no doubt: he taps gently on it at any given chance. If he’s in a good mood, he greets it: “Ciao Bebé!” and blows kisses to his little brother-in-the-making. Most often he pokes it randomly and trys to ride it.

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

That’s AmoNe!

This weekend Milo’s dad and I celebrated our 6th anniversary*! When we started dating, I remember talking about how I felt allergic to loving pet names couples tend to give each other, like the honey, sweety, baby that are so popular among Americans. The French are somewhat poetic and figurative (cherie or darling, ma biche which means my hind, etc). Italians tend to be more on the creative side, I do know people who call each other publicly pulcione /pulciona (literally “my big flea” ?!?!). The most common would simply be amore.

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!