|A Solstice Sky in the Southwest|
I just read (in my latest favorite, Radical Acceptance, by Tara Brach) about how the true courage of a person lies in their power to not give up, specifically on themselves, and to see the good that we each possess. Apparently, reading is just the beginning, and I've still got some progress to make in this arena...maybe that's part of why I write.
Lately--what feels like weeks to me, though who really knows, as my inner critic is clearly going strong--it seems like I'm fumbling over my words when I try to speak to Kaya about certain topics. Granted, they are often the prepositional phrases--the 'on top of that's', the 'with it's and 'about which'es (darauf...damit...darein...drinnen...darin?!!!)--though, there have certainly been plenty of moments of wondering what the hell word to use to describe a situation or offer a thorough, educated answer to her curious inquisition (Warum ist der Mond in dem Himmel, wenn die Sonne scheint, Mama? [Why is the moon is the sky when the sun is shining, mama?]. In some ways, it's wonderful to have a walking dictionary who is our German host daughter--when she doesn't know how to say something, she's quick to look it up in her iPod. And on the other hand, I find myself second-guessing my abilities and criticizing myself when I might otherwise let it slide.
Sometimes, it feels like a lot of internal work to humble yourself to a 16-year-old who speaks your daughter's native language better than you do.
I'm trying to think of a specific example from today to paint a better picture of what I'm really experiencing here. I was so frustrated this afternoon, however, that I think my amygdala blocked my ability to access what I otherwise might have access to in my frontal cortex. Oh, little brain, you--trying so hard to protect us from danger--when really, the danger is just inside of us, in the thoughts we think and the stories we create.
But what I can remember doing, at one point, is actually inserting an English phrase smack dab in the middle of a German one when I couldn't figure out how to say it--and didn't want to slow myself down to ask Estella. This may not seem like that big of a deal to many of you, especially for the many families who mix as a matter of habit. For me, however, it felt like a pretty big deal--a dabble with devil, in certain respects: it felt so easy, so natural, so relaxing, actually, to just throw that phrase in there like that, as opposed to stalling to wonder how to phrase it, to get stuck on feeling like I suck, to have the moment frozen in time while I get it together to attempt to express myself in this non-native language of mine.
What was a big deal to me, however, seemed like nothing to Kaya. She didn't flinch. But the last time I did something novel like this, it didn't take her too long to start in on the habit herself. It was a couple of weeks ago, as we were sitting at the kitchen table. She was struggling and frustrated because she couldn't figure out how to say what she was wanting to say in German. "Es ist schwer zu sagen!" [It's hard to say!] she told me. "Schaffst du das auf English?" [Can you say it in English?] I asked her. She looked at me, and sort of nodded. Pausing, I looked at her intently, and followed through on this crazy idea that I had: "Maybe you could whisper to me what you have to say in English?" I said to her, whispering, as if being quiet might somehow diminish the fact that I was dipping into this new world of 'mixing with mama'. I thought, for a moment, that maybe we could have this 'rule' where we could speak in whispers to express those things that we just can't seem to say in German. She just stared at me, as if she liked the idea, but like the words wouldn't come out. She's been speaking exclusively German with me for so long now (1.5 yrs) that the idea of speaking to me in English is still completely foreign to her. But then, the other night while staying at our friend Amanda's house, she stormed into the bathroom, proclaiming, in English, "I don't want to brush my teeth!" It's not so strange that she speaks English in my presence...as that's the language she speaks with everyone else, including Estella, when we're not at home (at home, she and Estella speak only German). But that night, in the bathroom, it was only she and I, and it was obvious that she was aware of our solitude. "I don't want to brush my teeth!" she said again, clearly waiting for my response to her attempt to mix. Very aware of her test, I ignored the statement, and continued to speak to her in German, validating her in lack of excitement for dental care, while making my meager attempts to inspire her despite.
|Loves her Chocolate as Much as her Mama!|
In some ways, I really want to start mixing. I want to be able to fall back on English in those moments when German just doesn't do it--for one or the other of us. What I really want is to know that, no matter what, my relationship with my daughter won't be sacrificed because of a language. The whole point of this bilingual adventure was to increase her options for communication (among other things), not to create limits. At times, lately, it feels that we're hitting those walls, bumping into those limits, and they are causing me a bit of anxiety in regards to what might, or might not, be possible with my daughter.
And at the same time, I expect that, with time, Kaya's German input will decrease--as she enters school (unless we home school), as her English-speaking community grows, as she's with me less, she will have fewer hours of German per week, which could naturally contribute to a decrease in her ability to use her German (as I believe is beginning to happen already, now that she's in pre-school 3 mornings a week and at her grandparents' one night a week). So, with that thought, the last thing that I want to do is decrease the amount of time, and opportunity, that she and I communicate in her mother tongue. To think that, after 2 1/2 years of busting my butt because Kaya would mix and even tend towards English with me, I'm now considering re-introducing English into our relationship--it's crazy for me to think about.
So, we'll see. At this point, with this language and in the rest of my life, I'm practicing Being, practicing an awareness of what Is, without having to judge it or change it or figure out what's next. Granted, as you can see with the judgment piece, it goes against my (our) nature to just Be, and just sit with what Is. But it is working, slowly, so for now, I don't know what I plan to do with this language of ours--except to keep on keeping on, communicating with her as I've done since day 1. To put things in perspective, and provide a little update, she's fluent in German, with hang ups now and again when it comes to expressing herself in very complicated, new topics (in both English and German, actually). But all in all, she and I have a ton of fun--and it's all happening in German (and body language). I feel more in love with her than I've felt EVER (though that doesn't feel possible!), and SO enjoy listening to the words just fall out her mouth, especially when she's happy and excited! She, like I, seems to have those 'good language days', and what flows out on those days is really quite impressive.
|Laughing about Papa with Auntie Sara in Cave Creek, AZ|
As I move along in this process--in life and otherwise--I grow less attached. And more committed. Less attached to my need for her to speak German, less attached to her bilingualism. Less attached to how we do it, and more committed to her well-being. Less attached to the details, and more committed to the peace in the moment. Less attached to the language, and more committed to the sweet girl that I love more than I ever thought possible...
Once again, thanks for being a part of our journey.
I'm glad to be back...I've missed this. I've missed you.
Look forward to hearing from you out there...and to connecting again soon!