Friday, October 28, 2011

I only like your English

This past Sunday night, my daughter and I had the following conversation:

"It's time to go to bed so you can get up for school in the morning."
"I don't want to go to school tomorrow. I'm not going to go there any more."
"Why not? You love going to school."
"I don't like my teachers or my friends or toys."
"But you like your teacher Lida."
"I do like Lida but not the other teachers."
"And you like your friends M [Russian] and L [New Zealand]."
"I do like M but not L. I don't want to be her friend any more. I bite L."

(K has claimed not to like L several times in the past several weeks, and actually did bite her at school a month or so ago.)

"That's not very kind, is it? L is your friend and we don't bite our friends."
"But I don't like L any more, because L speaks English and I don't want to speak English at school. I want to speak Czech like all the other kids. I don't like English."
"You don't like English?? But you and I speak English together."
"I do like your English, Mommy, I just don't like L's English."
"Well, that makes sense. You don't have to speak English at school if you don't want to, because everybody else speaks Czech there. Maybe you could tell L you want to speak Czech together."
"But L doesn't speak Czech."
"She does speak Czech actually - she just doesn't like to. But you know, even if L speaks English to you, you could answer her in Czech. You don't have to speak English if you don't want to, and if you want to play with someone else, just tell L that."
"I did tell L I want to play with somebody else, but she said no. So I bite her."
"It really isn't kind to bite people. Maybe you could tell your teacher if you want to play with someone else and L won't leave you alone, because you should be able to play with whoever you want."


I had suspected in the past several weeks that L might be more attached to K than K is to L, but I didn't know it was bothering her to this extent. I couldn't believe she was able to put into words at her age that it bothers her to stand out by speaking another language at preschool from the rest of her friends. It had occurred to me that she might feel that way (at least eventually), but I didn't want to suggest it to her by asking. I can't agree with her way of handling the issue - biting and telling L she isn't her friend - but I really can't fault the desire to use her languages in the appropriate contexts. That's completely understandable! After all, the rest of us get to choose when and where to use our languages. And I would hate for K to feel so self-conscious about it that she started to actually dislike English. Basically she is getting pulled into another child's language rebellion.

I brought up the key points from the above conversation with K's teachers at school on Monday, and they confirmed my feeling that L is more attached to K than K to L. They also added a new bit of information, which is that, in addition to preferring English, L is a bit bossy - always wants to choose what and how to play - and K is the only child agreeable enough to put up with it. K isn't a passive child, but she is obliging and typically doesn't insist on her own way, so I can see that dynamic existing. Being easy-going and adaptable is a good trait and evidence of a good heart, I think, but I don't want K to be so overwhelmed that she lets herself be pushed around until she feels the need to lash out in order to escape. Which seems to be what is happening.

We are reminding K regularly now (as are her teachers, once they found out how much it bothers her) that she can choose who to play with and what language to speak - she doesn't have to speak English if she isn't comfortable with it, even if L addresses her in English. And she doesn't have to go along with everything someone else wants in general, either. That's the trick, I suppose: taking charge of your own languages and your own life, and learning to stand up for yourself without biting people...

Monday, October 24, 2011

It's All Over

So now it can all begin.

Marek Jákob was born last Tuesday, October 18, at 4.3 kg (9.5 lb). That's right. I had nearly ten pounds of baby inside. This may well have an impact on whether I decide to have another child or not...with a first child of 3.6 kg (8 lb), I don't really like the size trend I'm seeing! Overall this labor was actually faster and easier to recover from than the first one, though, so I'm not complaining too much.

We came home from the hospital on Friday and have been settling into our new family of four since then. K is loving being a big sister and only having mild behavioral (not listening, etc.) issues. (Although, after my last post, things actually got worse - she came down with an ear infection and we all got colds. Thus proving that excessive stress does not, in my case, bring on labor. I still had to go for induction.) The laundry we're simply adjusting for.

K came to see us in the hospital Tuesday evening when the baby was several hours old. She brought him a toy she chose for him a few months ago - a soft cow similar to the soft giraffe she sleeps with. We had also prepared a gift from the baby to her, which the Slovak smoothly put into the baby bed when K wasn't looking. She thanked the baby profusely.

The next day when they came to visit, the Slovak had prepared another small surprise for her (we have a small stash of goodies to bring out if we think she's feeling too neglected or overwhelmed over the next few weeks). So of course the day after that she ran in the room asking if the baby had anything else for her. I explained to her that the baby wouldn't give her a present EVERY day, and suggested to the Slovak that he may have inadvertently set the bar a bit too high. Haha.

Apparently the Slovak had to do some fast talking to get K to let him wash her "Big Sister" shirt instead of wearing it to school again on Friday, after having worn it Wednesday and Thursday. She begged me to bring the baby to her school so she can show him off to her friends and teachers, so I went with the Slovak in the car to pick her up. She was proud and her teachers were very admiring of her little brother.

I've managed to get out a bit each day (i.e. Saturday and Sunday) and have even got the hang of the baby wrap I got to try with this baby. We had a sling and a front carrier with Baby K, but couldn't make the sling work for us and the front carrier did get used but was really hard on the back. So far the Moby is a much better fit! My mother-in-law, who is visiting for ten days to be an extra body in case I gave birth in the middle of the night or similar, was shocked that we went for a walk so soon. My mother just seemed in awe of my Amazon-like stamina. :-D

Marek seems to be conditioned to obey K's voice already: the other day, I was trying to get him latched on and said, "Just open your mouth, sweetie." K repeated to him, "Open your mouth, baby!" And he did, but not enough, so I told him, "Now just a little wider." K instructed him, "Wider, baby!" And he instantly opened his mouth as wide as it would go. We're going to have to try to teach her to use her power for good instead of evil...

Also, the sibling language appears to be English at the moment. Of course, it's only been a few days at this point, and only one of them actually talks, so we'll see how things develop from here!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Buried Under a Mountain of Laundry

...and the baby isn't even born yet.

On which point don't get me started (yes, due date has passed).

I never expected that the transition from three to four family members would be entirely stress-free, and I was definitely expecting some level of regression from K - AFTER the baby was born. I didn't realize that the adjustment and anxiety can start even before the baby is born, but...apparently it totally can.

I'd say it's been at least a month of increased wetting (from a child who NEVER wet), going from twice a week a month ago to twice a night last night. And then there's the daytime.

And then there's the increased clinginess and weepiness at pick-up and drop-off at school, although, interestingly, never actually during school. Presumably because the stress and changes are at home, not school.

And then there's the difficulty listening, which is what kicked everything off - back before I made the connection with the upcoming baby. Since I was expecting all of this more like now, not a month ago.

Generally we've been fielding a lot of emotional issues in our parenting recently. If you ask K, she is perfectly happy and not at all worried about anything. But then she tells a sad, sad story about being lost, alone in the woods, surrounded by lions (levs), tigers and spiders, having left the house in the night when Apo and I didn't hear her, and calling and calling us but we don't hear her so she gets eaten by the spiders. Alone. In the dark. And I think, could you tell me 'fear of abandonment' any more clearly?

I remind her that she's never been outside alone in her life, and she replies, "I know, it's PRETEND! And I was really sad about it..." I amend the story to say that nothing like that ever happened or ever will happen, but if it did, then we would hear her opening the door to leave and we would come to get her in the forest and protect her from the lions, tigers and spiders. She objects, "But we couldn't run away fast enough, so we got eaten." - "No, I picked you up and carried you while I ran." - "But your tummy is too big to pick me up or to run fast." - "Well, Apo came and found us and HE picked you up and rescued us both." She seems to like that ending, but it doesn't stop the stories entirely.

Despite the somewhat increased defiance and refusal to listen, K is actually still pretty sweet and affectionate - in between non-listening episodes, which seem to frustrate her afterward as much as they do us. Like she can't help herself. And the wetting isn't defiant; it seems genuinely involuntary and distressing/embarrassing to her. It's almost enough to make me think it's a physical rather than emotional issue, but the timing seems too coincidental to be a random infection at the same time as a major change at home.

I've tried to dial up the affection and reassurance and dial down the frustration, but it isn't easy. Especially knowing that the baby hasn't even been born yet, so we have at LEAST another several weeks to few months of this ahead. Our mattresses, and possibly our nerves, may never recover.

Monday, October 3, 2011

I want to go there! The far east edition

My daughter loves to travel and see new places. Sometimes the places she wants to go are easily accessible, but recently she's been really agitating to New Zealand and China. Kind of hard to get from Central Europe.

I can't remember if I wrote about it here or not, but K has still been continuing to process our move from England to the Czech Republic - which happened a YEAR ago - in recent months. She asks repeatedly, most recently the day before yesterday, "But why did we move to Prague? Why don't we live in England any more?" I explained (the first time it came up) that we moved because of Apo's work so that we could be with him, that the move to England was never intended to be permanent, and that we might move again someday, too. K was upset at the idea that we won't go back to live in England (we spent so long living between the countries that she thought we were just on a particularly long visit here, I guess), but excited at my suggestion that maybe we will go back for a visit someday.

In the same conversation, I think, she wanted to know why not everybody speaks English in Prague, and why we do speak English. I talked about different languages spoken in different countries. She also wanted to know why her friend from New Zealand speaks English but the other friends don't. I said that New Zealand is a country far away where they also speak English, like in England and America. Her eyes lit up and she asked if we could go to New Zealand, please.

Then during the part of the conversation where I explained that if/when we move again someday, we'll have a new house, new school, new friends (...), she instantly joined the two topics by asking if we can move to New Zealand. Since then, the idea of moving to New Zealand has come up with surprising regularity!

And then, just to add to the list of places we can't actually feasibly go, K has had a slowly growing fascination with China in the last several months. We have some family who lived in China for several years, and on a visit they gave her a little doll and explained it is from China. K doesn't play with the doll really, but she started to mention China occasionally after that. Then recently we were looking at a children's atlas and she was very interested in the map of China (K loves maps in general, in fact).

And THEN she started to watch episodes of Ni Hao, Kai-Lan in the mornings before school (it and Dora come on back to back at about the time K wakes up), and now she keeps asking me things like, "Mommy, how do you say ___ in Chinese?" To which I have to answer truthfully that I haven't the faintest idea. If she were interested in Dora, I could actually help with Spanish vocabulary, but it seems K is only interested in repeating the phrases in Chinese. It's kind of funny.

I suppose if I were really on top of things I would actually find some materials to teach K some basic phrases in Chinese. It is pretty sweet that she is developing such an awareness of other countries and languages and interest in learning about them.

And now...she wants to visit China. I've had to tell her it is unlikely that we will go to China in the near future, though maybe we can someday. Like, it would be much closer to fly there from New Zealand once we move there. Sigh. :)

It does occur to me that New Zealand and China are possibly the only places K knows something about where she hasn't already been, so maybe I just need to increase her exposure to places like Vienna. Or Rome. You know, places on this continent.

Once we get back on our feet enough post-baby to contemplate taking a real vacation again, I think K would totally love somewhere like Paris or Rome. And China, well, maybe we'll make it there eventually, too.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

It's All Downhill From Here...

My daughter used a Czech phrase this weekend that I didn't know.

Actually, she's been using this phrase for a while and it was only this weekend that the penny dropped: on Friday I learned the phrase myself, when her preschool teacher used it in front of me, and on Saturday K used it again and I realized, "THAT's what she's been saying all this time!"

The phrase is "mít kozí nohy" - having your shoes on the wrong feet. Obviously something that comes up regularly in a preschool environment. Literally it means "having goat feet." K's version is more like "Mám kože nohe?" so maybe I can be forgiven for not recognizing it - not that I'd have known what it meant if I had. Sigh.

I comfort myself with the fact that the Slovak had never heard this phrase either. Last year it was asking me for a word I didn't know (banana peel), this time it was knowing a word I didn't know.

Overall, though, I still have the edge. The Slovak has the edge in English, too. Vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation. We know how to use "he" and "she" properly. Things like that.

Also, we can spell, drive and go to bed whenever we want. (I spell better than the Slovak - in either language. For the record.)

We aren't ceding ground to our almost-four-year-old quite yet.'s still coming.


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