I can not believe 4 weeks have already passed since our petit Alexandre was welcomed into our hearts and lives. From the moment we met him, it was love at first sight, as I know is the case for many moms and dads embarking on the parenting adventure, no matter if it is baby number one or ten! So, while I was not surprised at how strongly I felt connected to mon petit poussin, I was surprised at how naturally speaking French to this little bundle of a baby boy came to me. Perhaps it is because I had mentally prepared for so long. Perhaps it is because I regret not having done it with our first three children. Perhaps it is because I advertised the fact that we would be trying this bilingual home thing to all my friends, family, acquaintances and readers with my blog. Whatever the case, the first words I whispered to him when I held him to my heart were in French and they have been ever since.
Timidly at first, I quickly became more confident in our very one-sided conversations. While Alexandre does seem to tune in particularly to my voice when I speak to him, from however far across the room or house I am, I can not attribute my ease in speaking French to him to that. (I believe all mothers’ voices have a soothing effect on their babes!) Rather, I found a connection between he and I that seemed very special, very uniquely our own. During the second night at the hospital, the staff nurses were anything but hospitable. Being over-tired and mentally drained from the birthing experience to begin with, I found myself feeling less than patient with the irritatingly loud banter that emanated from their nurse station at all hours of the night and morning. With Alex, I could vent my emotions and frustrations in French… in front of the instigators!… without their knowing. How wonderful! My complaints sounded sweet enough to the unknowing bystanders, but between my new son and I, an understanding of how annoying our stay had been was shared in our own private world.
Another joy has been having a dedicated audience at all hours of the day and night tune into my French ramblings about nothing more than what I am doing, seeing, or thinking. Alex is content to listen to me all day long, and that is an experience I have never before enjoyed. While speaking French before was reserved for my colleagues, students, or international friends, I now have a captivated loved one who is eager to soak up anything and everything I have to say in the language I love to speak.
So, one month down and we are well on our way to establishing our bilingual beginning. What I hope to explore and figure out in the coming months is how to become comfortable speaking to him in French when other family members are nearby. For example, when my other children are with Alex as I am speaking to him, I struggle with feeling rude by not translating what I am saying, even if it is only telling him which part of his face I’m going to wash next. On the other hand, the “big kids” have already picked up some French expressions. After hearing me say “A tes souhaits” about a dozen times a day after Alex sneezes, no one in the house says “Bless you!” anymore. Everyone has switched to French for that, and I didn’t have to explain a word!
If you have any comments or suggestions on whether or not you think I should translate as I speak to my non-French speaking family, please share here. I would love to know what other bilingual families using a second, non-native language in the home do and it is my goal to seek those people out to share and connect.