I’m posting at Multicultural Mothering today, about the evening Leila rolled off our bed and had a concussion. Thankfully, she was fine. But it’s also about our Super Cool Doctor, and the generous people around us, who went out of their way to help.
First day back in Chengdu after a month.
Leila hesitates before descending a slope.
Leila: Mum. [Re] Member me, I fall down here?
How the hell did you remember that? I remember Leila! A few months ago, you fell down this steep slope.
Leila: I cry mummy.
Me: You’re bigger now. You can do it this time.
Maher buys bread at a bakery / café. We wait outside, with Rahul asleep in the stroller.
Leila: [Re] Member me, yesterday, I eat cake with you here. Inside.
Me: Oh yes
now I remember! You and I came here one afternoon. Many months ago. We shared a piece of cake. You chose it. We sat there. (I point at the corner table.)
Leila: Big cushion, mama.
Me: Yes that’s right! We put a big cushion on the chair so you could reach the plate.
Leila: No Wrahul, No papa.
Me: That’s right, it was just the two of us. You and me together. Rahul was at home with papa. And before we left, you chose a cake for them. And the ayi
(aunt – lady behind the counter), packed it in a box.
As we walk by our favorite Japanese restaurant.
Leila: Hey mum! Wemember me, Wrahul, you, papa, Imad, Pascaline, Liu Yan, Marwan go here to eat. We sit down. We eat a lot.
Me: Yes my love, we ate here many times. We sat together and ate lots of noodles, fish, and spinach.
Leila: Many times.
Leila looks at the weighing scale.
Leila: Wemember me, I baby, I lie down here. And Rahul also.
Maher: Oui, bien sur mon bebe, je me rapelle!
Leila: Wrahul cwy, Leila cwy.
Maher: Oui c’est vrai, quand vous etiez tout petits vous pleuriez quand on vous pesait.
At a fountain in our housing complex.
Leila: You wemember me, Leila and Wrahul sitting here, on the step. Wrahul stick. Leila eating.
Me: Yes I remember baby girl. You were sitting next to each other. Rahul was playing with a stick.
When my babies and I returned to Chengdu from Hong Kong after their birth at 31 weeks of gestation, they were almost 6 months old. Many of our friends came over to visit; to meet the tiny babies.
One of those friends was a school principal. Since we’ve been considering schools, and when to start them – I’ve heard from friends that children start anywhere from 2 to 6 years old depending on where they come from and what their parents can manage and prefer to do – I remembered something she said to me.
For every week of prematurity, hold back the child from starting school by a month.
When we visited a school a few months ago, that principal also suggested that we hold them back and not push them into school early.
This all worked well with my thoughts on not sending my children in too early, on not pushing them.
Then more recently, yet another principal talked to us about some of her experiences in the past, with premature children having difficulties in music classes, for example.
I’ve felt that my children are in the average of their age group. I can’t say that on any scientific basis, but I’m not too bothered with what they can or can’t do, of course that is keeping in mind that they are highly energetic children with no major, obvious issues. They talk. A lot. They play and laugh.
Last month I sent my 2 year 3 month olds to school. They were the youngest in their class, by a few months. At this stage of extremely quick growth and change, I’d say they were the youngest by far. So after a week of battling with myself, after having done the exact opposite of what I believed in, and what I was advised – I pulled them out of school.
In terms of separation from me, interaction and focus in class, they did very well, but I wasn’t convinced that it was the best thing for them at that time. My son was crying in his sleep, and unusually quiet and forlorn. My daughter became even more clingy than usual. I saw obvious changes. Of course there will be an adaptation phase when they start school, but we didn’t have to have it at that time. I have the luxury of being a SAHM (Stay At Home Mum), and all the plans that I made of what I would with my free-time, can wait a few more months!
But mainly I am hoping that the extra six months at home with us, will give them more confidence and security, other than more words, the ability to better express their emotions, they’ll be potty trained. After speaking to a number of close mum friends, I realized that almost all had waited until their children were 2.5 or 3 before sending them to school, and even then, they only went 3 half days every week.
Now, we are doing many activities that include music, dance, and just simple play – and we are all happy with our decision. I’m sure that the 6 months I hold them back will give them time for growth, and confidence.
My question to parents, both of premature children and not, to teachers, educators, paediatricians, and anyone who has opinions on this: When did your children start school? Is there much change in a child between the ages of 2 and 3?
Have you read or heard of studies about prematurity and education, prematurity and its relation to holding back children from starting school?
Some conversations from the last month:
Koh Samui, driving around the Southern parts of the island
Maher: Les gars, vous avez vu les vaches? Et il y a des chevaux aussi! (Hey guys, did you see the cows? There are horses as well!)
Me: Do you know what cows eat?
On the beach one day:
Rahul picked up a strange white jelly-like fish egg (I think)
Me: What’s that Rahul?
Rahul: Mama, this lenses (as in contact lenses)
One evening just before bed:
Leila: What dat Rahul?
Rahul rubs his body: Keam, body. (As in body cream / lotion),
Leila picked up a tube of zinc oxide used for nappy irritation: What dat Rahul?
Rahul pointing at it: Toos paste that.
Leila tapping her bottom: No Rahul, Keam bum-bum.
Rahul: No, toos paste.
Leila: No, keam kiki(cute way to say vagina in French).
Rahul: Afu zizi, Leila zizi (cute way to say penis).
Leila: No, Leila kiki
Rahul smiling: Leila zizi
Leila: Noooo, Leila kiki
Rahul really pushing her button: Leila zizi
I had to pull them apart. Stop them from shoving and pushing each other after that one.
In bed that night:
Leila: Mama, where papa?
Me: He’s in Hengyang. He’ll be back in two days.
Leila crying: Leila kiss papa.
Early, very early one morning:
Leila pointing at some soft boiled egg that she spilt on the table: Mum look. Fwog.
Me: Wow Leila, is the from jumping around in your egg?
Rahul walks into the kitchen, barely awake.
Leila: Rahul, look. Fwog. Egg.
Me: Hey Rahul, did you see the frog in Leila’s egg?
Leila: Fwog, water, jump ribbit ribbit.
A little later, still at the table that morning –
Rahul: Tomorrow xiao He ayi back. Some bady bump, went see doctor. Better now.
Me: Yes Rahul. She’s much better now, and she’s coming back tomorrow!
(He ayi, our dearly beloved nanny had a motorbike accident a week ago. A three-wheel-taxi driver bumped into her, watched her fall to the ground, and zoomed away.)
Still at breakfast-`
Leila: Banana mama
Me: Nana nana banana banana
L and R: Nana nana banana banana
L and R: nani nani chapatti chapatti
Me: Jiddo jiddo potato potato, teta teta batata batata
L and R: jiddo jiddo potato potato, teta teta batata batata
Rahul: Zazu Nanu, Zazu Nanu
Leila: Zazu D2, Zazu D2. D2 jiddo.
Me: D2 jiddo or Jiddo Kamal
Leila teasing: D2 Dubai
Rahul: Jiddo Kamal Dubai
Leila: Teta Houda Lebanon
One evening all of us in bed:
Me taling to Maher about something: D2 was talking to his girlfriend.
Leila: girl-fwend mama?
Me: Ummmmm, D2’s girlfriend Stephanie, do you remember her? She is his girlfriend.
Leila nodding her head: Member mum.
Me: Ummmmm Pasca is my girlfriend.
Leila: Leila mama dotter. Rahul mama son. Mama papa girlfwend. Liu yan Marwan girlfwend. Leila Rahul girlfwend.
The four of us together. Maher sings a song. I join in. After two years of “practicing”, I’m still out of tune!
Rahul says: Mama no sing!
This evening my children and I spent a couple of hours running and playing at a neighbouring housing complex. A friend joined us. While the children were playing on the slides and mini monkey bars my friend stayed close to them, allowing me to respond to a text message on my phone.
A little girl accompanied by two men came over to play. Through the chatter, I heard Rahul say, “Ni hao shu shu,” (hello uncle), as he typically does when a Chinese man engages in some form of communication with him, or if he instigates the conversation himself.
Leila chimed in with her Ni hao!
One of the men asked how old the children are. My friend responded with the whole “They’re two and three months old, they know mandarin, yes they’re twins, not only that, they’re dragon / phoenix twins,” spiel.
“These foreign kids are the same age as you. Why don’t you play with them?” the man asked the little girl. He was beaming, bouncing internally, and obviously over-excited by the situation.
The little girl joined Rahul and Leila.
At one point the man shared the bars with Leila to stretch is his hamstrings; still smiling, he asked her, “Ni shi bu shi lao wai?” (Are you a foreigner?)
I was stunned.
“Lei-la,” she responded.
My daughter’s dignified response, albeit due to her ignorance impressed me.
Should I intervene? I wondered.
“Ni shi bus hi lao wai?” he repeated.
I couldn’t believe it.
“Lei –la,” she enunciated.
My friend, who is of Chinese heritage and fluent in the language explained that she is called Leila.
I wanted to say something; at least ask how he expects a two-year- old without the slightest notion of this concept or of the word at all, to respond. I mean he insisted.
But his “blissful” demeanor made me think that he obviously didn’t think it strange at all to ask this of a two year old, let alone ask it.
Or was he making fun of us because he thought I had no idea what he was saying? I have no idea.
I joined the group and a few minutes later Rahul and Leila were chasing me around the play area. The man told the little girl to join in, to chase “the two little foreigners, and the big foreigner.”
We ran and played.
“What Dat Mum?”
“What’s that Leila?” I repeat. “It’s a mushroom.”
Outside our apartment, near the elevators:
“That? It’s a tiny, scrunched up piece of paper that we can throw in the dustbin Rahul.”
After a bath:
“That’s a hairbrush. But those? I don’t know Leila, umm…they’re a part of the hair brush that look like the spokes of a bicycle wheel. I’ll have to check.”
(I have no idea where that came from?! “Like the spokes of a bicycle wheel,”) I doubt she can make use of that simile anyway, not that it works at all!)
So I googled “Hair brush parts”. What she asked about are the “bristles”. OK, even I knew that. At some point!
A couple of hours after we returned from Lebanon, Leila walked up to me as I was unpacking. She stood right in front of me, full of confidence.
“Where Maher?” she asked.
My eyebrows scrunched up, “He’s at work,” I replied.
She nodded, and returned to her toys.
They ask questions all the time, but it’s different now that they are using words.
I’m bracing myself for the “why’s” and the “how comes?”
Friends who know all about child development stages, mum’s who’ve been there, please tell me I still have time to study the parts and functioning of the world around us; before my children find me out for the sham I am. They’re 2 and 2 months. Is it days or months before I’m bombarded with even more questions?!
When did you children start asking questions? Any difficult ones?
When Preschoolers Ask Questions, They Want Explanations:
Why Children Ask “Why?”: