Mooo or Merrhh?: A Guest Post by Patricia

I’m very happy to post this piece by Patricia who I first met at school in Zambia; the second in our series:
A Monday Morning Guest Post in Multicultural Mothering.

Patricia: I was born in the Dominican Republic to a Dominican mom and Peruvian dad. I left DR when I was six years old and grew up in many countries around the world, mainly in Latin America but also in Africa and Europe. I guess you can describe me as a ‘citizen of the world’, ‘third culture kid’ etc. I speak Spanish and English. I met Øivind at university in the UK, where we now live. He is Norwegian and grew up in Oslo, speaks English and Norwegian, and can defend himself pretty well in Spanish! We have a little girl called Mia; she is the apple of our eyes, born in August 2010. I don’t speak Norwegian, but I better get my act together soon otherwise Mia and her dad will have their secret language!

Mooo or Merrhh?

I loved Natasha’s idea of sharing our experiences of being parents in multicultural, multilingual households, and I must say the multilingual aspect is the one I am thinking about of late because Mia is beginning to develop her speech. She spends most of the day with me and I speak Spanish to her, but when Ø gets home, we speak English between us and he speaks Norwegian to her. That’s pretty standard for a multilingual household, except for the fact that both Ø and I are developing a competitive streak about whose language Mia will pick up first – so it’s early days. Mia is saying a few words here and there and making animals sounds.

Although I knew that animal noises may sound different in different languages, I never thought it would be an issue in my household or that I would be telling hubby to stop saying ‘Merrhh’  when we sing “Old Macdonald Had a Farm,” because it’s not like the Spanish cow that says “Mooo” . The other day we were trying to entertain Mia, who was understandably unhappy about being in the car seat for an hour. So there we were, singing Old Macdonald … and making our conflicting animal sounds, when Mia and I start playing peek-a-boo. By that time I had moved to the back seat to be with Mia, when, lo and behold, Ø joins in on our game. Did you know that ghosts also sound different in Norway?!

Aside from the confusing animal sounds Mia hears, she is picking up the languages. Although now, my worry is how it will be when she soon goes to nursery. A Swedish friend of mine started taking her 18 month old to nursery and up to that point she had only spoken to him in Swedish. He was finding it hard to settle into the nursery because he was not able to understand. My friend was “told off” by the nursery staff because they thought she should have also been speaking some English to him.

Oh oh, should I be speaking to Mia in English more often?  I wonder.

I have read that I should stick to my language, and be its “Leader”; and she will pick up the third language in school. But now, the anxiety of her not settling well because she can’t understand, aside from all other worries about putting her in nursery, are creeping in. By the way, my friend also had issues with the fact that English lions sound different to Swedish ones!

What advice have some of you received about raising a multilingual child? And how have some of you adjusted to sending your children to nursery in a language that is not the one primarily spoken at home?

Check out this fun site for animal sounds in different languages.

Missing Ms. Mia

We met Mia in London a couple of months ago. She made a lasting impression on L and R. They talk about her all the time. Mia is Patricia and Oivind’s little girl. Almost one, and walking. L and R, played with her about three times when her parents came over. According to her mum on Facebook, her Norwegian family is safe, but marked after last weeks killings there.

Facebook is fantastic to keep abreast of other people’s lives, but then also for hours of procrastination and sleep deprivation. Not more needed here considering we have two non-sleeping toddlers. L and R’s sleeping patterns have improved a bit probably because we extended our stay in Samui. The continuity helps.

I’m wandering off topic though.

Back to little miss Mia. There was a girl on the plane from Chengdu to Bangkok. Rahul repeatedly called her “Mia.” I wouldn’t say she looked a lot like Mia. R thought so.

At the Bangkok Airways lounge Leila saw a girl cry. She said “baby,” and a few second later, “Mia.” I asked her if that’s how Mia cries. She nodded her head.

The morning after we got to Samui, Maher set-up our rented car with a car-seat. L and R have only ever used car seats in Lebanon when they were nine months old. It was torturous, for them and for everyone in the car. We had at least one continuously crying baby. L tried out Mia’s car seat in London a couple of months ago. Now, in Thailand they are either both fighting to get into “Mia’s” seat, or to stay out of it.

This evening in the kid’s playroom at our hotel, L called a four-year old blond girl “Mia.” I have no rational explanation about why.  It might be a phase where every girl is called Mia, just like her papaya stage. Every fruit is “papaya.”

Mia often ran one of her fingers over pursed lips while making a cute,”bbbb” sound. It has become her trademark gesture. L and R do it often, in the bath, at lunch, in “her” car-seat. and then look up. Smiling, they proudly say “Mia.”

We miss Ms. Mia. Happy first birthday soon, and keep walking. Mum’s running.

Wormwood Scrubs Park

A bright London day at Wormwood Scrubs Park. Maher often runs there when he is in London. We went with a couple of my close girl friends and an uncle. The endless grassy space mesmerized me. The four of us ran around and spun circles. R learned how to roll in the grass. The colorful wild flowers were pretty. L was attracted to them. An unforgettable afternoon in June.