Monday, July 09, 2007

I saw this in several publications, articles and blog entries regarding multilingualism, and it helps 'mapping out' our situation from time to time. I think I'll review it yearly to see if new arrows and/or new colors enter the diagram.

Milo teaches Italian to his Dad

[This is a year-old entry from when Zeno was born, which I never got to publish...but it has become part of the family lexicon, so here it is!]

During my 'leave of absence' at the clinic following Zeno's birth, Milo and his dad got to spend a lot of time together. A heat wave stroke in those days and the Belgianite was preoccupied with the liquid intake of his son, proposing him all sorts of drinks regularly. One of the house summer favourite is mint syrup dissolved in water, a classic from my childhood. We call it simply 'acqua e menta.'

The Belgianite kept on proposing to Milo:
"Wilt u acqua e mente?" (which, from the original do you want water and mint, suddenly becomes water and mind or water and (he) lies !)
Milo said a few times: "Ja, papa, acqua e menta."
"Did you like your acqua e mente?" replied once again the Belgianite.
Milo looked at him seriously and stressed: "Papa: acqua e men...TA!"

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Creativity...within the lines...(or why Jackson Pollock could have never been French)

This weekend I had my periodical clash with the Parisian (and I choose voluntarily to avoid a generalization to the French) mentality. We took the kids to a lovely parc where each summer they hold a fun Summer Festival, geared toward young families: contemporary art installations are displayed throughout the park, a DJ provides ambience through the day, fresh fruits are distributed for free, and a series of activities engage parents and children in what it is supposed to be an initiation to art and creativity, one of these being a huge pre-print wall paper, which kids and parents are invited to color.

Milo and Zeno simply love to draw and ran toward the FlyingColorWall, as it is called. A few minutes later Milo comes back visibly upset, crying with huge tears, claiming a guy scolded him. As I did not witnessed the scene, I imagined perhaps some older kids just pushed him away, so I minimized the affair and invited him to join me again to the wall. He was scared to go back! So I took my time and eventually convinced him that there was no reason to be scared, and we both joined the wall again. Few seconds later a young man from the staff dealing with the festival organization, came up to me and told me that he had tried to explain to Milo that he was not supposed to draw wherever he wanted, but he had to color the existing drawings. I took a deep breath, and calmly addressed the young man:

" I understand this is a coloriage, but my son is only 3 and he was just drawing a little airplane in a corner there, don't you think you are exaggerating?"

" But drawing is not the objective here!" replies snobbily the young man.
"And making children cry is?" I defy him.
"But if everyone begins coloring all over the place..."
"..then you should not allow children to color this wall, I thought this was to initiate kids to color and art and expressing themself, not some sort of boot camp!"

The conversation continued purposelessly until I had to mention that I work for one of the main sponsors of the festival, and I did not find his attitude very constructive. He suddenly disappeared.

Perhaps we just stumbled across the wrong guy. Perhaps I keep being too pre-conceived about things here. Or perhaps I am simply an over-protecting Italian mum! But I found the episode alarming, filled with a conceptual contradiction which I will never get used to. I eventually explained Milo that we were supposed to color inside the drawing, which he eventually did. But I also made a point to tell him that his drawings were really lovely and I found them more interesting than the pre-print ones. And that we are not at all always obliged to color (especially to color!) within pre-set lines...

Multilingual Living Summer issue is available!

Don't forget to take with you your summer issue of Multilingual Living for a pleasant and educational reading during your holidays! Sign up at the Bilingual Bicultural Family Network for your yearly subscription.

...and what about Mr. Zeno?

I have barely written about my MTK #2, Mr. Zeno, but his arrival and presence has enriched our lives so much! Zeno started out as a quiet baby, he never cried, he slept a lot, he was ever smiling ans rather silent...until around the age of 6-7 months, when his real persona came out all of a sudden!
'Patented rascal' is the nickname he's earned so far! Zeno is slightly more precocious than his older brother Milo, he sat earleir, he stood up earlier, he walked earlier...and he is uttering his first (multilingual?!) words a little earlier too. All this probably mostly thanks to the extra stimulation he's receiving by Milo. He's also much more 'active' compared to Milo at the same age: ever since he's learnt how to walk, he's been unstoppable: there is no corner of the apartment he hasn't searched, examined and thoroughly manipulated yet! All this translates in endless trails of clothes, books, toys, and various objects I keep finding in any given room at any given moment!!! He's got a very developed sense of laughter and humor too, and he's definitely a greagarious type: he loves beeing with Milo or other kids at the park. His daily playing companion is a lovely girl his age named Louise, and I'm glad he's having this early exposure to a feminine world! Milo and Zeno get along great, Milo has naturally had some impulses of jealousy at one point, but I'd say his sense of protection and attachment to his little brother prevails! But it is actually Zeno who drags Milo into crazy adventures, often implying hiding in weird spots or making some creative mess... Zeno seems also to be gifted with the same unextinguishable endurance and when it comes to bed time, we now have two mongrowl to neutralize: they never fall asleep before 10:30, despite all of our efforts and strategies to keep them calm and quiet, reading happy stories, playing soft music, etc.
Zeno turned one last week, it seems hardly yesterday we came home with him...his vocabulary so far consists of Mamma, Papa, Dada (how he calls the nanny), Computer, and a few other syllables. He can't say 'no' yet, but he shakes vigorously and unmistakenly his head when he does not agree with something!
Milo talks to him primarily in Italian so far, although he sometimes uses Dutch if they are playing with the Belgianite.