This happens to every parent. You wanted to breastfeed only to find that your milk didn’t come in. You wanted to co-sleep only to find that your child hates it. Or you hate it. You wanted to only give your child organic home-made food only to find that your child actually eats sweets. And so the list goes. It is just so normal and very human.
Here is part two of Olga’s confession. She didn’t achieve everything that she had planned before having children as far as their multilingualism was concerned. What has fallen by the wayside for you as a parent (multilingual or otherwise)?
Having everybody on board
I hoped that if I just were dedicated and educated- and persuasive enough, I could persuade everybody that what I’m doing is beneficial to my children. Little did I know that I would be dealing with some extremely unhelpful and judgemental people. Knowledge and dedication to the cause is not something I’m lacking but I’m too tired to waste my time with people who can’t help or support me even though I know that what I’m doing is right. Sometimes the best way to deal with these sort of people is to ignore their comments and advice, and not to try argue with them.
My high expectations
I set out on this multilingual journey with the utter conviction that my children will be poster children. After all, I am bilingual myself, and I for everybody to read and be inspired, and hence my children should act accordingly, right? Wrong. Again, I had to adjust my expectations to Klara’s slow speech and language development. But you know, it doesn’t feel like a failure. Instead, I am proud that my children speak all three languages. I am proud that they’re catching up and progressing. In fact, I don’t need to prove anything to anyone. I just need to make sure my children are fine.
Having a language plan
I can’t think of one instance where a plan proved useful. On the contrary, they fool my brain into thinking that I have done something when the only thing I did was actually writing things down. And while I can understand the usefulness of a language plan for some families, it wouldn’t work for us. We’re just trying to work out things for ourselves, and react accordingly to circumstances. It doesn’t mean however, that we don’t think about the future. Our choice of school proves it. The fact that I’m keeping to speaking to them in Polish proves it. Another thing plans do is that they make you feel like we have control over everything, and we don’t.
The idea that if I do things right, I would get the right results
I strongly believed that, just like in all things parenting, if you do things the right way, you will get the right results. And I believed that the same goes for raising multilingual children. Except, parenting isn’t mathematics. Sometimes you do all the right things and still get no results. You could do mistakes and your children could still turn out great. So, no, doing right things right doesn’t guarantee results. We are so desperate to believe that we can control how our children will end up, that we forget we really can’t. So, I can do my best, and hope for the best, but this is all I can do.
The idea that it would be easy and natural
I have long ago heard that being a parent- and especially being a mom comes naturally. I have read about the mother’s instincts that will tell me all I need to know about raising children. And you know what happened when I had children? My mother’s instinct proved to be very shy and didn’t tell me anything. I had to learn everything from the beginning. Of course, I spoke Polish to my children, but talking to them still felt weird. They didn’t reply, they didn’t answer, and talking like that just wasn’t my thing. It wasn’t natural at all to force myself to say, for the zillion-th time, “yes, this is a table”. Of course, it’s a stupid table! It wasn’t at all natural to me to change my way of talking so that my children can understand me. Argh! Sometimes I wanted to bang my head on the table. Luckily, now it’s getting better. Now I can finally talk to Klara more naturally. So I know it’s getting better, but I was in for a shock at the beginning.
[box size=”large” border=”full”]Welcome to Olga Mecking, a new regular contributor at International Almere, who is an expert in multilingual life in the Netherlands.
Olga is a Polish woman, living in the Netherlands with her German husband and 3 trilingual children. In the past, Olga has lived in several countries (including Germany, Canada and the Netherlands), and learned to speak 5, that’s right, 5 languages.
She studied German philology at the University of Warsaw, then followed by a MA in Media Cultures at the University of Bremen. Olga blogs at The European Mama and we recommend you check her out on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.[/box]
This post originally appeared on The European Mama and has been republished with full permission.