I am very lucky to have an amazing husband!*
My Englishman drives me nuts on daily basis and I surely drive him insane too on a couple of occasions a year (only joking, I know darn well it’s more often than that!).
But he is a very kind and tolerant man in nature.
By saying ‘being tolerant’ I mean that J really lives and breathes by the quote: Live and let live.
When I fell pregnant with our eldest bilingual cherub and first started seriously talking to J about bilingual parenting and raising children bilingually, he was neither familiar, nor totally comfortable with the ‘how to go about it‘ ideas, but he was very open-minded about them.
More than the scientific proofs regarding the cognitive advantages of bilinguals, he understood the common sense advantages:
When we go back to Petra’s country our kids will be able to communicate with everyone, they will feel comfortable, they will have a better chance to build good relationships with their grandparents, cousins and other relatives abroad and they might have an extra skill for employment in the future, who knows…
This combination of him knowing about the benefits:
1/ a little bit about all the scientifically proven positives
2/ understanding that it was ‘common sense’ to do it, played an important role as to why my husband has been supporting me.
But, needless to say, J looked a bit puzzled when I for the first time announced:
‘Darling, I think I will have to talk to my kids in my language only,` no matter what. Otherwise, they won’t learn it.’
‘Like you mean all the time? But I won’t be able to understand what you’re saying to them and what they’re saying back to you!’
This ‘belief’, describes perfectly THE NUMBER ONE concern of most of monolingual English speaking partners have either temporarily or permanently.
They have strong underlying fears about not understanding you and your kids and the chance that you might gang up on him.
You’ll be sneaky and talk behind his back.
And it’s gonna be happening right in front of his eyes!
How old are you? It’s time to grow up I’d say.
But I know, it’s not so easy, I can feel you. Well, we all have to deal with our own insecurities in life and in some situations, it feels harder than others.
I’ve witnessed this I-won’t-understand-my bilingual kids FEAR on several occasions with other friends’ families and it’s very sad, but, unfortunately, not uncommon.
The usual scenario used to go like this:
Our kids would be around 3 and 1 or older, when other dads of English/foreign not-so bilingual kids would with amazement watch my 3+ year old child talking to me in my language and switch back to English to talk to everyone else and vice versa.
And then he would with great disappointment, ask his wife (right in front of me and everyone else!): ‘Why is our son/daughter not talking to you in your language? How come Petra’s kids are doing it?’
Trust me, as proud as I am of my bilingual kids having their language skills, in embarrassing situations like that I just wanted to hide under the table.
Or slap him one, sorry guys.
Because I could feel the mum’s pain and anger.
I knew that she’d always wanted to bring up her child bilingually, but given up because of her child’s dad’s fear that he won’t understand.
I believe that knowing the benefits of bilingual upbringing was great, but not crucial for my husband’s support.
J truly felt how important it was for me to raise our children bilingually, how important it was to me, not only that our children would passively understand me, but also that they would speak to me in my native language.
And he was prepared to trust me with that and during that process.
He’s put me and our bilingual kids first.
*Message for my darling husband: I know you’ll be in hysterics reading this, but deep down you know I mean it, it must be true if it’s been published on the internet! ;-)))