Last night, Ana had packed a box of Ean’s old toys and stuffed animals that he never pays attention to. She put the box by the front door to take outside the next day. In the morning, as I and Ean were getting ready for our daily morning run, he discovered the box and started pulling things out. Out of all the things in there, the goose from Jysk caught his attention and he started walking around, exclaiming, quack quack!
Oh, I said. Is that quack quack? Yepp, he replied enthusiastically. Mind you, he almost never plays with toys and has no emotional bound to any materialistic items. He generally prefers songs, learning and educational things on our iDevices but never feels the need to take any of that outside. But, as as we were getting ready to go, I asked him to give me Quackquack (that was his name now of course) so I could put him to sleep while we went for a run. To my surprise, all of a sudden he broke into hysterical tears, sulking and repeating, quack quack, Quackquack!
Whoa, easy easy fella… chill. Okay, I said, here let me strap him in with you in the stroller, and all is right in the world again.…
Among the rare things for Ean to have seen in his short lifetime, unbelievably enough, rain is one of them. We live in a country (for 9 more days!) where it almost never rains between June and September. For me, as a child of Sweden, it’s suffocating at times, especially when not even the sea is enough to give a refreshing break from the summer heat. This is all Ean has ever known though.
So seeing rain, a proper down-poor is something he hasn’t seen since last winter and judging from his reaction this morning, it wasn’t something he was familiar with. I mean, he identifies it as rain from Super Simple Songs “rain, rain go away” but he hasn’t had any personal relationship with it as such, which is a shame!
This morning, when I opened the front door and he ran away in fear when he heard the loud gush of water from the sky, I picked him up and stood by the front door so he could see it wasn’t anything dangerous. So I put him on my shoulders to take him outside for a second to feel the rain.…
Ean has always been a timid child. Shy and reserved at first, blossoming and interacting more freely with confidence once he felt safe. It has always been a struggle especially to get him to interact with other kids but things got easier once he started at daycare at the age of 1.5 years.
In June he turned 2 years and since then I’ve been waiting for those terrible two’s and tantrums to set in and a few weeks ago we started to see the tendencies growing from random “no, no, no” protests and stubbornness to more audible scenarios. As I’ve explained in previous articles I’ve taught Ean to deal with strong emotions by focusing on breathing and by doing so, recomposing himself and regaining control and understanding his emotions better. Up until now that has worked flawlessly, in fact the other day he got really upset and was close to start crying and without me having to coach or tell him anything he just took a few steps away from us and we could hear how he started breathing really deep and slow, a few seconds later he was okay, as if nothing had happened.
Before your child learns your language, you’re going to have to learn theirs. It’s a funny thing to experience, the seemingly nonsensical gibberish that you understand perfectly fine. If you’re a frequent reader, you might also know that Ean is being raised to speak 4 languages. Most people disagreed with this idea and thought it would be confusing for him but being a child of trilingualism, I can easily hold conversations in different languages at the same time, without any problems.
Ean has come to that point where he’s putting words together into simple sentences. He does it in Spanish with Ana, in Swedish or English with me and has no trouble distinguishing which language to speak with whom whether it’s us parents, people in the park or his grandparents.
To teach him what languages are, I used numbers. He first learned to count to 10 in English, then Spanish, Swedish and finally Assyrian. He doesn’t mix the numbers up by language so I used this to my advantage, saying “uno, dos, tres is Espanol”… and so on. So if I said, “Count to 10 på svenska” he understood what I meant and subsequently when I teach him new words now he can separate them by the name of the language based on the numbers he learned. Besides giving each language a label, it also helps him get an idea of what the language sounds like.
For the sake of simplicity I say the name of the language in each respective language. So I say, “svenska, espanol, english” and so on. By doing that, it makes the learning more efficient rather than having to learn 3 different words that describe each language. It’s hard as it is to make sense of, and understand the concept of languages at that age so I just simplified it for him and it works great!
A good example of how this can work, even without the prep work, is how I did with my cousins kid. He’s 3 years old and understands Swedish, two Assyrian dialects and English. With all of us in the same room, it became a big soup of languages so I started to explain the names of the languages. For example I said, the language Ana is speaking is English, if you want Ana to understand what you say, you have to speak English with her. It took a few days but he got it! Identifying and giving a label to those series of sounds we call languages, is key. Once you do that, it becomes much easier to comprehend, compartmentalise and expand on the kid’s vocabulary.
I’ve always believed that a child’s mind is a super computer and I’ve heard many horror stories of parents and families underestimating their kids and ending up under-stimulating them, ultimately crippling their abilities long before they’ve developed an interest for anything in particular and that’s just sad. If we are to live up to our potential, we have to be challenged, encouraged and stimulated, and that’s true for all of us, not just the little ones.…