Friday, 30 September 2011

My Petite Frite - Why LLC is Bilingual While Chris and I are not

As a little kid, I can remember speaking gibberish to my sister in the supermarket, faithfully believing that other customers would think we were speaking another language.

The difference for LLC is that hopefully, she actually will be.

When I was heavily pregnant with LLC one of my neighbours stopped me in the street to let me know she was becoming a childminder, and would I need her services in due course?

Having bought into the London pre-booking nursery craze, we’d already booked LLC into a local nursery three days a week even though she wasn’t yet born and I was no longer gainfully employed. Madness. So initially, I didn’t consider her offer too seriously, even though now the answer would be a total no brainer for me.

But at some point, Chris and I actually sat back and considered the convenience of dropping LLC with a neighbour literally five seconds from our front door. So I asked for more information, and really liked what I saw. The cost was significantly lower than the nursery, and my neighbour’s creative, laid back but firm style felt comfortable to me. Plus, there was the French offer.

My neighbour, I’ll call her C, is French but is married to a Brit and has been living in the UK for a number of years. And one of the benefits she pitched as part of her childminding service was speaking to LLC in French.

You might think I leapt at this opportunity, but I didn’t – quite the reverse. The offer discomfited me. If Chris or I spoke another language, I believe we would definitely have raised LLC in a bilingual style from the start. But this was different, in my mind. LLC would only be with C 3 days a week, and I was concerned whether this would be enough to enlighten her, or merely confuse her and impede her English development. Plus, if C had other children that she didn’t speak French to, would this end up confusing LLC further, leading to her mixing her languages?

I asked a number of friends and family what they would do and received a mixed reply. Some said it was a wonderful thing to do for LLC, others understood my concerns. My conversation with the mother of a little boy C used to regularly babysit ultimately tipped the balance for me. She said even if her son didn’t come away from his time with C fluent in French, she felt that exposing him to French so early on, while his sponge-like young brain was taking shape, would potentially “wire” an innate capacity for French into him that he would hopefully pick up on later.

For whatever reason this rationalisation struck a chord with me and Chris and I decided to go for it, enrolling LLC with C with the understanding she would speak French to her.

Fast forward just over a year. Oh how naive was this over-concerned mama! LLC’s inherent aptitude for learning has guided her, and she’s picking up the French in leaps and bounds. She never mixes languages or has tried speaking French to me, her English vocabulary is developing and she never appears thrown whether C speaks to her in French, or English when addressing other children or me.

On a recent trip to the Loire Valley, LLC frequently said “Merci” and “Au revoir” when I observe C speaking French to her, she understands and responds in action, even if not yet words.

So we haven’t looked back, and seeing what I do now I can’t believe I questioned giving LLC this opportunity.  Plus, perhaps this will be a kick up the bum for me, rapidly losing my six years of school Spanish, to reconnect with language. I’m tired of being a spoiled purely English speaker!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011


Hysterical laughter greets me at the door following my Sunday morning run.

Wow, all the fun happens around here when I’m out, I think as Chris greets me on the threshold.

“You have to check out LLC,” he grins, padding back in the direction of our living room.

What’s she got up to now, I muse, grabbing some water and trailing after. Maybe she’s upended the laundry basket and is rolling around in our clothes? Cue crescendo of laughter.

Maybe she’s got Rico our cat in a headlock, poor boy. Or possibly Chris has riled her up with one of the many “indoor” ball games they play? I brace myself for carnage. Cue high pitched hysterical fit of giggles.

Nothing prepares me for the sight I find. LLC’s toys remain in their box, giving the room an uncharacteristically calm and tidy aura for a Sunday morning. On the couch sit Chris and LLC, like possessed zealots, eyes animatedly fixed to the television. And there on the flat screen, two half-naked men are rolling around, hair streaming, punches flying, slam dunking each other across a wrestling ring. It’s WWE “Raw” or something like that, but why is it on my television and why is my daughter lapping it up?!

With that, LLC leaps up as one fighter pounds the other into the floor, all smiles, practically pumping her fist in an animated cheer. And I look at Chris like he’s crazy, and with a click of the remote put an end to the fun before LLC has any more time re-invent herself as a WWE wrestling champ.  I shudder at the thought.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011


Children are magic. Maybe it takes becoming a parent and having your own kids to marvel at to really realize this. Maybe it’s just a matter of temporarily disconnecting from the noise of adult life to observe children and see the world through their eyes to recognize it.

What I do know, is that LLC has the striking ability to cut through my consciousness at the most unanticipated times, stopping me in my tracks and providing respite to my heart and mind as if a restorative tonic.

Like when I’m struggling to prepare LLC’s dinner, prep for Chris and my dinner and wash the dishes from breakfast and lunch when LLC burrows her head in my bum and throws her arms around my waist.

Or when I’m huffing and puffing up a hill on my bicycle, cursing the exertion of it all when I notice LLC lolling from side to side in the seat on the back of Chris’ bike; the fresh air and motion have lulled her to sleep.

Like when LLC stands tall, shoulder backs, belly out (no holding in the stomach for her!) focusing her attention 100% on learning how to remove a CD from a CD case.

Or when she gets frustrated and slaps me, but the immediately provides a gentle follow-up stroke and cheeky kiss. In her mind the latter has completely undone her previous assault. We are working on this to encourage this affection in its own right rather than as an apology!

Such small but significant moments. I think it has something to do with children’s innocence, instinct and the ability to live wholly in the present, drinking in each sensory experience for what it actually is. Though it’s impossible to live adult life from the same perspective, it’s still a compelling and invigorating one that cuts through my busy thoughts and reminds me to remember the little things. And for that I smile.