Advertisements

Posts Tagged ‘Mummy blogging’

Adventures in Mummying

16/08/2016

20160810_103626

I am now two years and seven months into this mothering lark.

There are moments when I really cannot recall what my life was like without my daughter, and moments I am so exhausted and Mummyyyyyyyyyyyyyyed! out that I feel like she has been here forever (which I am aware is not quite the same thing…).

Then there are those other moments I whip round in surprise at the sound of a squeaky little voice summoning her Mumma, and wonder how it is she seems so confident of who I am and all I am apparently able to deliver when most of the time I still feel as clueless as if the stork dropped her off the day before – although, given that young children are in a state of constant change, I cannot be alone in feeling that I never quite manage to get my mothering shit together or that bringing up a child is substantially more blindfolded white-rapid ride than it is guided amble round a park.

20160430_105953Of course the internet offers a myriad of foolproof parenting methods, playgrounds always contain at least one mother fortunate enough to know everything and bookshops bulge with tomes by parenting experts; all of which give the impression that it really could be a guided amble round a park, if we would just follow their 5-point plan to: Getting the child sleeping through from conception! Getting the child feeding on a schedule from the moment he crowns! Don’t put the child down for the first six months! Wash the birth gunk off, and don’t pick the child up ever again in case she gets used to it! Pretend you can’t hear him crying, he only wants attention! Anticipate your child’s needs the day before so she never has to cry!

It’s a confusing minefield with no possible winners (other than that know-it-all-mother’s ego and the royalties enjoyed by the aforementioned parenting “experts”): no two children are exactly the same, no parents are exactly the same, no families are exactly the same and no lifestyles are exactly the same. Parenting is an ongoing exercise in intuition, compromise, guesswork, consistency, patience and bluff.

One lesson I have learnt is that people who do not have children should not form an opinion on child-rearing, much less voice it. That intense emotional bond with the child you are raising colours every situation you are likely to face from the first moment you hold him in your arms. And your intuitive understanding of that child dictates how you decide to deal with those situations. There are very few OSFA solutions to parenting quandaries, and those on the outside looking in only ever have part of the story.

20160507_102444

Before Maya was even born, I wrote a condescending piece referencing Attachment Parenting (or at least what I assumed it to be). I feel particularly silly about it now because without even really being aware of it, I seem to have ended up practising many of the AP principles. I read somewhere that a child who has all emotional (as well as physical) needs met, is more likely to grow into a well-rounded and confident adult. And not only does that make perfect sense to me; it also fits very nicely thank you with the way I have always instinctively wanted to respond to my daughter.

But in my pre-motherhood ignorance, I confused nurturing with controlling – something I have witnessed quite a bit here in Italy, where meaningful communication with children often seems to be eschewed in favour of endless commands to: Get up of that floor, you’ll get dirty! Get down off there, you’ll fall! Don’t go up there, you’ll hurt yourself! Get your finger out of your mouth, it’s dirty! Do your coat up, there’s a draft! Don’t run, you’ll fall over! Do that again and I’ll smack you!

20160713_175919 (2)In the playgrounds and piazze of my Italian existence, the gentlest of tumbles frequently results in a flurry of panic, surfaces are treated as terrifying germ-coated threats to fallen snacks (and toys and fingers), potential death-traps are seen everywhere, children are bundled up against dangerous breezes about nine months of the year and empty threats of corporal punishment appear to be considered an acceptable parenting tool more often than I care to notice.

It has an uncomfortable edge of negativity to it. I suspect children who are not offered rational explanations for things might have a harder time making good judgement calls, and children not permitted to play freely may struggle to safely discover their own physical limitations. Admittedly the inculcation of a fear of dirt, weather and theoretical parental slaps is not much worse than pointless, but what of the loud proof that these parents have absolutely no faith in their offspring’s fledgling abilities to get themselves safely from A to B? I can’t envisage that being an ingredient for either confidence or independence.

The bizarre bedfellow of the above is the Italian child-worship phenomenon (perhaps partially a result of ever-decreasing family size?) that grandparents, waiters and random passers-by indulge in. This mainly involves a Willy Wonkaesque deluge of sugar in all its most tooth-rotting forms, and a willingness to humour every cappriccio thrown up by the object of their worship.

IMG-20160704-WA0001So is there an absolute right way? I doubt it – there are simply too many variables, but who really knows. All I know is that I have no desire to shout all day, I don’t care about dirt or weather, I think Maya is more likely to learn respect if she is shown it, I encourage her to climb and jump and run as much as she wants and if she falls I comfort her then release her back into play, and although I did slap my child’s bottom once – she slapped me right back AND I WAS PLEASED!

The result so far is a joyous little girl, with a wonderful sense of humour but also a very strong sense of self: woe betide anyone, family or not, who tries to pet her or assist her without being expressly invited. She has strong opinions about what she wants, but gives in reasonably gracefully when told why she can’t have it. She is independent and adventurous, as long as she knows one of us is close by if required. She doesn’t try to dominate other children, but is slowly getting the hang of standing up for herself. She’s endlessly communicative and she’s kind.

On the other hand: she doesn’t sleep well, she has been known to deface the occasional wall with her wax crayons, she’s a bit Mummy and Mummy Milk-obsessed, she cries every single time she wakes up from a nap for no apparent reason, she’s stubborn, she pees in the bidet, farts like her father, is frequently reluctant to do whatever she has been kindly requested to do, and she is far too fond of the television (Blaze and the Monster Machines in particular).

20160522_105702But as a blindly obedient paragon of “virtue” is the last thing I want to unleash on the world, I am extremely content with progress so far as well as being increasingly more besotted with every passing day.

That said, I am also exhausted, wrung-out and in dire need of some time alone with my thoughts: time to write, time to read, time to walk, time to complete work calmly without the stress of trying to squeeze translations in her all-too-brief nap times. So from the 14th of September a new chapter begins for both of us – nursery school! And I don’t know who is more excited…

Advertisements

Conversations with a 2.5 year old

27/07/2016
20160715_201504 (2)

Saturday night fever. No, not the Calpol sort.

Her: Mummy! The airplane has come back to the airplane station!

Me: Excuse me?

Her: The airplane is at the airplane station now. We can go to Mim’s house, flying!

Me: The aeroplane has come back to the airport.

Her: What’s a nairport?

Me: It’s where the aeroplanes live.

Her: Like a nairplane station?

Me: An aeroplane station is actually called an airport.

Her. Why?

Me: Because that is the name it was given.

Her: Why?

Me: Ummm… maybe because it is shorter than aeroplane station, I’m not sure. So anyway, where did you say you wanted to go?

Her: To the airplane station and fly to Mim’s house!

Me: …

Me: Maya, would you like an ice-cream or an ice lolly?

Her: Ummm… a lolly, please Mummy.

Me: Ok, let’s go to the…

Her: And when I finished my lolly, I want a ice-cream.

Me: No, Sweety. The choice is ice-cream OR an ice lolly, not both.

Her: Ok, Mummy. I have a lolly.

Me: Right…

Her: And a ice-cream.

Me: …

Me: Who switched on all the lights?

Her: I.

Me: Me.

Her: No, not you, me!

Me: …

Her: Ow!

Me: What’s wrong? Why did you say ow?

Her: I say ow why I hurt myself.

Me: Because.

Her: What’s because?

Me: When you ask, you use why, and when you answer, you use because.

Her: Why?

Me: Because they are two different words.

Her: Ok, Mummy.

Me: So why did you say ow?

Her: I say ow because why I hurt myself.

Me: …

20160518_152245

Insouciance toddlerfied.

Scaling New Heights

04/02/2016

Maya can now climb out of her travel cot (she’s still in a cot because her room is too small for a bed and a solution to that conundrum has not yet revealed itself to us, and it’s a travel cot purely because I happened already to have one).

The first time it happened, I responded to her call of “Mummy!” at ungodly o’clock, only to have two heart attacks in quick succession – the first upon finding her bed empty, the second on turning round and tripping over a small child standing motionless in the middle of a dark room.

The next time it happened, she actually called through to our adjoining room with a progress report: “Mummy, Maya awake! Maya getting out of bed!” to which I replied (as it was slightly more acceptable o’clock) “Ok, sweetheart, come and get into Mummy’s bed.” Only to be told, “Maya no can come to Mummy’s room. Maya not got slippers on.” Oh yes, my child might be mildly adventurous, but she’s not stupid: chilly tootsies are a fool’s game.

The last few nights, however, she has been wearing pyjamas with feet. And so I am now catapulted from sleep several times a night by a startlingly loud and squeaky voice right next to my ear requesting, “Mummy! Booby please!”.

The politeness of her demands is most endearing, but even more endearing would be being left to slumber peacefully without fear of ambush.

I guess that’s what condoms are for.

 

 

Babel-ing

31/01/2016
20160110_112512

Pondering on Italian vs Romanian syntax, or transfixed by a squeaky-voiced porker…

I was thrilled when a friend recently added me to a Facebook group for parents bringing up children in more than one language. Although I hadn’t noticed any particular feelings of loneliness in my own personal “build a polyglot” project, the moment I was thrust into a cyber world of multilingual families, I realised what invaluable support it was going to provide to our little family over the coming years.

Luckily for me and my (slight) preoccupation with languages, I have a very verbal child. I say luckily, because one side-effect of exposing children to more than one language can be delayed speech, and I would have hated to have spent her first years (patience never having been my strong point) in a haze of furiously impatient foot-tapping whilst I waited to see what sense her little brain had been making of its linguistic baggage. But as we have a child who natters almost continuously from the moment her peepers snap open at whatever ungodly hour of the morning she decides to abandon sleep, we didn’t have to wait long.

And my fascination with being able to witness the real-time language acquisition of a future polyglot is looking unlikely to diminish any time soon.

Bar the four-ish hours a week I am at the office, she is with me all day everyday, so her exposure to English is high. My husband gets home from work at 18:30, and once we have eaten, I make myself scarce and they get the rest of the evening to play in Romanian together until she goes to bed at 20:00. Obviously he spends more time with her at weekends, and I am also starting to encourage him to take her supermarket shopping once a week (two birds, one Rosetta Stone 😉 ). My husband and I speak Italian together, so she hears it when we are en famille, although we both address her in our individual mother tongues. Most people we meet when we are in the village speak to her in Italian. My sister-in-law (who takes her when I am at work, and who we see most days) speaks to her mostly in Italian, with some Romanian, and her cousins use solely Italian. The majority of the television she watches (Peppa effing Pig, for example) is also in Italian.

The result of this linguistic distribution is that English is still very firmly in the lead as her spoken language, although her comprehension of the other two, and especially Romanian, is pretty good. I lost count of how many words she uses in English a long time ago, but she has a surprisingly extensive vocabulary for someone who really only has one constant source of it (me). She also makes a concerted effort to form sentences, often pausing for thought and correcting herself before coming out with such gems as:

“Maya helping Mummy in the kitchen! Tati (Daddy) not helping Mummy. Tati on the sofa watching telly.”

(Observant)

“Mummy not clean the kitchen. Tati clean the kitchen. Mummy come play with Maya.”

(Full of good ideas)

“Mummy! Come sit on the sofa, watch Peppa Pig with Maya.”

(Yes, its Peppa effing Pig again. But so much cheaper than childcare)

“Mummy, Tifoter (Christopher) got no hair on!”

(First experience of the follically-challenged)

“Mummy! Come see Maya’s poo poo!”

(Over-sharing)

“Mummy not got slippers on. Put your slippers on Mummy, very cold brrrrrrr.”

(And turning into an Italian nonna…)

Of course her pronunciation is just as any other two-year old’s: Ks and hard Cs are transformed into Ts, her Fs are still Ps, and her Gs are Ds, to name but a few. Nevertheless, I would be tempted to award a gold star for the amount of effort she puts into trying to make herself clearly understood.

When she first starting talking, she limited herself to using the words she found easiest, regardless of the language and regardless of who she was speaking to. English was always in the lead, but there was a smattering of Romanian and Italian words that she apparently found simpler to get her tongue around than their English counterparts. I’m not sure at what stage she started separating the languages in her mind and then attributing them to their speakers, but we became aware that something was happening at around 18 months, when she turned to me and asked for “more cheese” before turning to show her father “Tati, brânză!”

But she still wasn’t attempting sentences in Romanian, and her use of vocabulary continued to be rather random. She began to use more with her father, but also still threw a fair number of Romanian words at everyone else and an awful lot of English ones at him.

The real breakthrough came not many weeks ago, when he asked her where she was going, and she started to say “to the kitchen” but stopped herself, and changed it to “în bucătărie” (a word that she struggles with, pronunciation-wise). It was around that time that we had also decided that he should perhaps stop showing understanding of the English terms she uses with him (he doesn’t speak English, but hearing it every day has increased his comprehension), to try to encourage her to search for the Romanian ones where possible.

It’s still early days, but given that she shouted “Tati, unde mergi?” at his departing back just the other day, I would say this tactic is starting to give results.

Italian is a funny one. It the the language she appears to speak the least, although it is almost always “grazie”, rarely “thank you” and never “multumesc” and we are frequently asked “cosa fai?” whereas I am only occasionally asked “what are you doing?” and Tati is never asked “ce faci?”. She has also adopted “ecco fatto!” and “ancora!” and doesn’t stint in their usage. It is only when she is with her cousins that I realise just how much she is actually capable of speaking: “Vieni qua!” “Dove vai?” “Maya vuole un biscotto!” ” E uno per Mia (her cousin)!” “Dammi!” “Questo è mio!”

And then once we are home, for a couple of hours her sentences continue to be peppered with Italianisms that she would not usually use with either of us.

I have long known that she understands Italian: when my husband and I are talking at the dinner table, she will often turn to me and make comments (in English) about what we are saying. She has also been known to act as my interpreter on occasion: when her aunt informed us that “Mia si è svegliata” Maya turned to me and said, “Mia’s woken up, Mummy.”

One curious thing is her refusal to say “yes” in any of the three languages. “NO!” she mastered long ago, but affirmation is still merely a slight inclination of the head and a thoughtful “hmmm”. I am tempted to chalk this up as a good thing, especially given that I have the reverse problem.

I am also curious to know whether inflicting three languages on a child is likely to slow them down in any other areas. Not being a follower of developmental milestone predictions – all children seem to be slightly different, and as long as there are no glaring shortcomings in progress or behaviour, it doesn’t seem worth worrying about – I haven’t noticed her being particular behind in anything, but then I don’t know what two-year olds are generally expected to be capable of.

Her counting (only up to ten, nothing fancy) in all three languages is often more hit than miss, she is only marginally more coordinated than her mother, she frequently chomps down on her fingers when posting food into her mouth and she is bafflingly obsessed with Peppa effing Pig; but other than that, she’s a pretty cheerful, outgoing, questioning and independent little girl – which on balance, probably gives me my answer.

20160125_155910

Painting too splodgy for a 2 yr old? Not splodgy enough? Who knows…

The Adventure Continues…

30/08/2015

I am currently sharing my life with a nineteen-and-a-half-month old (which, ironically, is the very reason I rarely find time to update the blog that in part is supposed to be about her). It some ways it’s hard to believe how quickly time has passed since I first held that creased newborn in my arms, yet at the same time I am completely unable to remember her at any stage other than the one she is at right now.

Mummy and baby photo faces.

Soooo photogenic. Must be the jeans…

Thank heavens for the endless photographs and the over-sharing blog posts – they are my memory.

Well what can I say: toddlers are, quite simply, fabulous.

Babies might be cute and cuddlesome, but toddlers are both cute and cuddlesome, hysterically funny and uninhibitedly joyous, madly inventive and endlessly curious, crossly independent one minute and lovingly affectionate the next.

Pic

Allowed to hold her hand, but not to intervene in any other meaningful way.

Being witness to the enviable elasticity of their mental processes as they slowly (and sometimes not so slowly) begin to make sense of both the physical and the social world that surrounds them is a constant revelation.

A very small poggy (effs are all pees at the moment...)

Observing a small poggy (effs are all pees at the moment…)

Socialising with her favourite cousin, on a lilo.

Socialising with her favourite cousin, on a lilo.

It is also mind-numbingly exhausting, especially once they get into the swing of talking which is where we are at now. My daughter natters incessantly from the moment she summons me to her cot in the (far too early) morning, to the (far too short) lunchtime nap, and then on again until bedtime. About 75% of the chatting is done in English, but for every new word she casually tosses into conversation we have to execute a rapid mental-Rolodex through the three different languages, cross-checking the vagaries of her still-dodgy pronunciation against context until we hit the jackpot and can satisfy her with a vaguely coherent reply.

We spent a lovely 20 minutes watching a baby dolphin behaving with similarly carefree enthusiasm for its brand new environment.

Confused by Mummy’s insistence that dolphins, are in fact, not pishies.

We are now lucky enough to have a narrator for everyone’s daily movements (and oh my, you don’t realise just how tedious those movements are until that happens). In her own sweet, but surprisingly comprehensible way she likes to ensure we know exactly what she is doing at all times, what she has just done, what she is about to do and what she would ideally like to be doing if we would just get our acts together and make it happen (ok, the last bit may be more implied than directly verbalised). We are also informed about what we are doing, what we have just done and what she thinks we should really be doing if we would just etc etc. And what she knows or imagines everyone of her acquaintance is doing, has just done and might conceivably be about to do.

She recites the names of every familiar object, creature, pet and person she spots, and enquires after those she doesn’t.

She listens to the vehicles passing along the road below our apartment, and identifies them: Bus, Mummy. Car. Moto (motorbike). Ape (Piaggio 3-wheeled jobby).

20150718_122542

Spying on the neighbours in her big girl pants.

And the winsome inveigling is constant, as she tugs at my hand: Vin (come), Mummy! Play! Sit! Book! Animals! Song! Toys! Go outside!

A person in her own right. Who’d have thought it?! Admittedly still tiny – tiny little arms with tiny little blond hairs, tiny little legs and their tiny little calf muscles, tiny little feet and dinky little toes, wonderfully plumpsome cheeks on a tiny little face: an 80cm tall, 10.4kg version of the adult she will eventually become. My daughter who grew inside me for nine months, but who is an entirely separate being. It is quite a concept to get ones head around.

And then there is the independence – the frequently grazed knees and bumped forehead that speak of a combination of derring-do and still-uncertain coordination. I am torn between wanting to protect her from all harm, but also wanting her to be bold. I would like her to learn how to pick herself up and dust herself off, and I think that some lessons are actually safer if she learns her limitations/capabilities through trial and error, rather than relying on the panicky assumptions of her overprotective parents. But, oh, how poignant are those scraped plump knees…

Showcasing a recent knee 'bua' on the swings.

Showcasing a recent knee ‘bua’ on the swings.

I am hugely relieved to report that we have managed to ditch the pesky nappies, at least in the day time (bar the odd “Mummy, pee pee sofa” moment). Most of my feelings of relief stem from the fact that some months previously I had finally given up on the cloth nappies, bulk bought with such smug glee before her birth – the budget option never managing to fit her nether regions snugly enough to stop major piddle leakage. We went on to “eco” disposables, but even they didn’t manage to assuage the feelings of guilt that accompanied every dirty nappy on the first leg of its journey to the landfill.

Quite a few people have expressed surprise that we managed to crack it so early, but the entire transition was surprisingly smooth. I bought a potty when she was about 8 months old, just to see how she would react. She was unfazed at the first seating and even left a small offering, so we continued – when she woke up and after meals, usually. Sometimes she did, sometimes she didn’t; but it didn’t really matter either way. Then when the weather began to hot up, I decided to intensify things – she was mostly bare when we were at home anyway – so I put the potty out in clear view, and pounced every time she looked thoughtful and at least every hour to ninety minutes thoughtful or not. When we went out we took a little loo seat with us, and the same applied.

Post nap Pooh

Post nap Pooh

During the first few weeks there were a fair few spills – most memorably the turd my husband leapt forward and caught in the palm of his hand (whilst I dithered helplessly), as well as the one he tramped around the house on the bottom of his slipper.

But after about a month she seemed to have got it, and we haven’t looked back although I do have to be vigilant enough to pop her on regularly when she gets distracted by events and forgets to ask.

Multitasking...

Multitasking…

Discipline is another new, if slightly less welcome, component of our everyday lives. Trying to stop a toddler doing things they shouldn’t do and making a toddler do things they don’t wish to do is turning out to be a tricky business indeed. I have chosen not to indulge in any literature on the subject – the conflicting views that exist regarding almost every aspect of parenting just confuse me even further, instead I am plodding on pretty much as I have done since day one in my like-to-think-of-it-as-instinctive-but-am-mostly-winging-it, way of mothering.

Having observed other families in action, I drew the conclusion very early on that consistency is one of the keys.

Consistency is very very tedious and very very time-consuming, but I have a feeling it might pay dividends and have therefore decided it is worth all the mind-numbing repetition. We shall see. I have also opted for the explanatory route: Maya does or doesn’t do something, I explain why in fact she shouldn’t or should do it. She does or doesn’t do it a second time, so I then have to come up with some sort of undesirable outcome should she do or neglect to do it again. And then follow through.

Technology affording a few moments of tranquillity.

Technology affording a few moments of tranquillity.

Sometimes it’s easy: we don’t put crayons in our mouths because they might make us poorly. If you put the crayon in your mouth again we will stop colouring.

Sometimes not so easy: we don’t pick the flowers because the bees and butterflies like to eat them. If you pick another flower…ummmm… Mummy’ll bin all her balcony plants? You’ll never set foot in a garden again? No, not good. Ummmmm.

And often I just have to resort to distraction with a new and less destructive activity.

What I am trying my hardest to avoid, however, is losing the plot completely to screech variations of the following: “If I’ve told you once, I must have told you a million times – STOP PLAYING WITH THE BLOODY TOILET BRUSH!” or “BECAUSE I SAY SO!” or “If you do that again, the gentleman over there (yes, the one minding his own damn business) will get VERY cross with you!” plus the usual threats of punishments never to be carried out, and wheedling promises never to be fulfilled.

And once all you parents out there have stopped rolling on the floor laughing at my naivety, I would like to add that these are very early days. Revisit this blog in a year or two and you could well find a mother who swings between screaming like an incoherent harpy, bribing her child with an endless supply of calorific treats and turning innocent strangers into bogeymen at the slightest provocation.

Enjoying a very rare 'weety in her partay frock.

Enjoying a very rare ‘weety in her partay frock.

So my little girl is getting bigger, and braver, and funnier, more opinionated and more recalcitrant, but also more loving. Arms are flung around my neck endless times a day, accompanied by a sighed Mummy into my ear. She scrambles across the bed in the morning, and before I know it, little hands are cupping my cheeks whilst she covers my face in kisses that make my knees weaker with adoration than any man has every achieved.

I did not know there was love like this – keep bringing it, Little One ❤

And there's that family photo face again!

And there’s the family photo face again!

Building a Polyglot from Scratch

30/03/2015
Library corner.

Library corner. Just because.

Building a polyglot from scratch is proving to be a fascinating process.

Up until a few months ago it all felt purely theoretical – I’m not sure I ever really believed that Maya was going to be anything but confused by having three different languages spoken to her on a daily basis – but her communication skills have enjoyed enormous leaps since the beginning of the year, and it is suddenly becoming astonishingly apparent that this still-tiny person really does have a linguistic trio circling around her left hemisphere.

As I spend by far the most time with her, and speak English to her 90% of the time (occasionally lapsing into Italian when we are in the company of Italians so as not to exclude them from our interactions, plus throwing in the odd badly pronounced Romanian word or phrase when the occasion calls for it) at least three-quarters of her current vocabulary is in English.

But that doesn’t change the fact that she has an obvious understanding of the other two languages. More so Romanian than Italian – probably due to the fact that her father dedicates much of their communication to activities that stimulate wider comprehension and usage of his mother tongue (as I do in English), whereas her Italian interactions are briefer and more simplistic – but given that a good 85% of those that speak to her outside the house use Italian, I imagine the gap will narrow fairly fast.

And once she starts pre-school, probably in September 2016, I think it is highly likely that Italian will eventually gain a slight lead on both other languages.

(One current and interesting advantage to this linguistic soup seems to be the availability of different options for each item of vocabulary; enabling her to choose the easiest to wrap her toddler tongue around and thus facilitating communication just that little bit more.)

I’ve recently cast my eye over several articles on the subject of bilingualism. One was debunking claims that speaking two or more languages increases the speaker’s intelligence – something I would find hard to believe anyway given the number of unenlightened multilingual souls I have met over the years, as well as my own intellectual shortcomings, but I can’t help feeling speaking more than one language still has more advantages than disadvantages:

– It widens the network of people with whom one can effectively communicate.

– It helps dispel insular tendencies by increasing awareness and understanding of other cultures and mindsets.

– It can create employment opportunities; invaluable when (like me) you have no other real qualifications to speak of.

– It offers the speaker the potential to read loads more books (although it sadly doesn’t guarantee he/she will have the time to indulge that possibility).

– It apparently also wards off dementia (I would give you an update on that over the next few decades, but the way my memory is going I will probably have forgotten where I left the blog…).

– And of course, for those who are fruit of a union between different nationalities, it allows them to communicate fully with both sides of the family.

Given all of the above, I am always surprised when I come across parents who choose to deprive their offspring of the maternal or paternal mother-tongue.

When I was growing up as the bog-standard English child of two resolutely English (with a small smidgen of Scots on each side, wow) parents in England, I used to fantasize about the vastly more exotic existence that could have been mine if my progenitors had been of furrin’ extraction. Spanish, for example. Or Italian. Or one of each. Gasp. But it was not to be. Sigh.

So whenever I met anyone who did boast a furrin’ parent, I would be all over them like a rash trying to discover just how much more fascinating their life was. And shockety shock, many of them transpired to have been cruelly deprived of the second language, thus rendering (to my mind anyway) the possession of an exotic furrin’ parent utterly pointless.

In some cases I imagine it is a result of a desire to integrate, especially if the foreignness is of a sort frowned upon by a close-minded general public.

In others the education authorities are to blame: a Argentinian friend and her Italian husband living in France were told (twenty-odd years ago) that they should only speak to their daughter in French so as not to put her at a disadvantage when she started school. Another Argentinian friend who moved to Italy with her Italo-Argentine husband and their four children (twenty-odd years ago), was told to stop speaking Spanish to the children immediately so that they would better fit in. Even now I am told on a daily basis (mostly by Italian pensioners who I roundly ignore) that I should be speaking Italian to Maya or she will never ever pick it up – one English mother versus a thousand Italian villagers is apparently enough to tip the linguistic balance in my favour.

(Too late for those now monolingual children, but I am hopeful that received wisdom on the subject in professional circles has advanced since then, as well it should have given the incredible capacities of the young mind.)

But parents who are not facing serious integration issues, and who have not been told to withhold their mother tongue? Those parents I really struggle to understand, especially in Italy – a country with an undeniably lovely language, but one which is next to useless outside its borders. I know a couple who are currently depriving their children of Romanian and Spanish in order to bring them up as monolingual Italian speakers. Another couple who could be using the mother’s heritage to raise Russian speakers (an increasingly sought-after language, especially in this area), but are instead sticking to solo italiano. Another Romanian mother who has chosen to speak only Italian to her half-Romanian offspring.

And they are far from being alone.

Aside from being denied the opportunity of being able to communicate fully with immediate family members, I can’t help feeling that these children are going to be extremely cheesed-off adults at the realisation that they have been deprived of their linguistic heritage – often potentially very useful languages that they now have to laboriously learn from scratch with their decidedly less-elastic adult brains.

But who knows: we are, after all, only fourteen and a half months into our Polyglot build job, with a very long path to tread before we discover whether we have contributed to the production of a linguistically fulfilled adult, or one who still calls every single thing her backside comes into contact with “chair” because we fried her brain early on with too many words.

Searching for enlightenment, be it linguist or otherwise.

Seeking enlightenment, be it linguist or otherwise.

Mission Statement Ahoy

19/03/2015

I give up.

This poor little blog has been left to moulder like an unloved elderly relative in a nursing home, and all because I felt I no longer had much to say about anything but the highs and lows of navigating the rather time-consuming waters of full-time motherhood.

But I like writing.

I love writing.

I miss writing.

And so, until my life becomes less one-dimensional, and as the anniversary marking the start of its sixth year in the blogosphere approaches, I hereby declare Status Viatoris reborn, from this day forth, (temporarily at least) as a Mummy Blog – with occasional forays into Life in Italy, News Items That Make Me Fume, Cross Country Hacks on my High Horse, and Random Philosophical (and not so Philosophical) Ponderings, inspiration permitting…

Mummy Blogs are two a €uro cent, I know, but then so are Ex-Pat Tales from Abroad, so the competition for the hearts and minds of my dozen or so readers is unlikely to be any more fierce than I have been accustomed to up till now, and I am nothing if not primed and ready for the fight.

So primed and ready am I, that I am going to make the rash promise of producing at least one blog post a week from now on.

No matter how dull the content.

And I am aware that for many it will be considered really rather dull, but I find myself with no choice but to write about the things that absorb me, and my current Mummying experiences are both absorbing and entertaining me at least as much as any of my previous adventures.

So if there is anyone still out there, I very much hope you consider the thrills and spills of parenting a trilingual sproglet in Italy enough of a departure from bog-standard Mummy blogging to stick around for this new chapter in the life of Status Viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage.

Two girls on a journey...

Two girls, on a journey…

Just You Wait…

18/01/2015

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

An attentive audience is always gratifying...

An attentive audience is always gratifying…

The “just you waits” flew thick and fast when I was carelessly chucking around my (admittedly not very numerous) pre-Maya declarations of mothering intent. They tended to be followed by a slightly world-weary shake of the head, which I’m sure must discomfit even the most confident pre-mother mother. You know, the one who has read ALL the literature, and subsequently mapped out an infallible parenting plan from meticulously choreographed birth through to high school graduation.

But now I’ve been in the thick of my own personal mothering reality for just over a year, I feel a little backward glance at any previous naivety is perhaps due, to see how my intentions have fared:

There is no way baby will be co-sleeping in my bed!

Although she would very much liked to have snuggled down with Mummy from night one (and let me know it with all the breath in her tiny lungs) for me it remained a definite no. Taking a newborn into bed with an exhausted mother and a winter duvet seemed risky, plus I am an appalling sleeper at the best of times and fear of smothering her, as well as the constant baby snuffles and wiggles, would not have helped. Lastly, eventually having to persuade an habituated older child out of my bed and into its own seemed to offer just as much potential for ear-splittingly disturbed nights as having a newborn grizzling itself to sleep next to me in a cot.

Sharing a bed with her for the duration of our Romanian road trip only served to further convince me that I had made the right decision for us: finding Mummy boobs in such tantalisingly close proximity every night turned out to be a much stronger lure than sleep, and from only a couple of nocturnal slurps, I was suddenly being badgered every hour or two – an exercise in sleep deprivation that I sadly remain unable to shake her of to this day.

Baby will be in a cot in her own room from six-months!

What with roof issues and illness-dogged road trips, her room took a little longer than six months to sort out, but she finally went in when she was about eight months old with nary a backward glance at her clingy slightly wistful mother.

I admit to being surprised at my wistfulness, although it only took a couple of nights for the lack of baby snuffles and wiggles to work their restful magic and banish all and any feelings of regret.

Loadsa teef...

Loadsa teef!

I will regularly get a babysitter in order to spend time with my husband as a couple!

So far only twice, and both times under duress.

The first when she was a teeny tiny three weeks old, and I was persuaded out for a pub lunch, through which I fidgeted obsessively. The second; just last month, when we left her with the Mothership and went to watch the latest and final Hobbit offering (rather disappointing, I thought), and through which I again fidgeted obsessively.

Whereas I can cope relatively well with leaving her with sister-in-law for an hour or so when I am secretarialising for the local estate agent, absenting myself for longer periods in the pursuit of leisure activities brings with it a ghastly wave of separation anxiety that I am hoping will lessen with time (and practice). Lord preserve us from clingy mothers 😉

We have, however, opted for one couple-friendly parenting technique than most families around here seem to eschew: the early bedtime. Whereas it seems to be common for local children, no matter how young, to stay up as late as their parents; Maya always goes down sometime between 19 and 20 in the evening, giving us a glorious few hours to be (albeit exhausted and only semi-functioning) grown-ups.

I will encourage baby to be independent! 

Of course it’s very early days, but one thing I was determined to avoid was to find myself still spoon-feeding a child capable of feeding itself (something I have seen rather a lot of here). A potential pitfall that was rendered even less likely when we chose the baby-led weaning route – basically chucking bits of whatever is on our plates at her to do with what she wants. And what she wants so far has been to eat some things, jettison others onto the floor and wipe most things into her eyebrows.

This method of introducing solid food appears unheard of in Italy, where spoons and purées still reign supreme, and at every monthly paediatric appointment I am forced to hide my blushes as the doctor adds another bland ingredient to my daughter’s paltry puréeing list, utterly ignorant of the fact that the previous night the very same baby gobbled down distinctly un-puréed spicy sausage and bean casserole, fish pie complete with leeks and capers, or a beef and broccoli stir fry from which the slices of practically raw ginger and garlic went down a particular treat.

Krissmuss!

Krissmuss!

I will be making sure to get as many snatched moments for myself as I can!

Ahahahahaha!

Make that a double Ahahahahahahahahahahahaha! now she’s mobile.

Actually, I am astonished at how much I actually enjoy my daughter’s company. Having lived the epitome of a selfish existence for almost thirty-six years, one of my biggest worries about becoming a mother was that I would resent the time it took from me. And yes, I would be lying if I said that I don’t think longingly about the possibility of sitting down with a book, of being able to write an entire blog post uninterrupted or even clean the house without a small helper bumbling along in my wake, pongling in the dustpan and attempting to cram its contents into her mouth. Some days I feel utterly cowed by the monotony of keeping on top of the nappy changes, the naps, the demands for attention, the constant clearing up of spilled food and the scattered contents of my lower shelves…

But I still wouldn’t change a thing: being able to spend so much time with this little person – being able to watch her explore, grow and learn, without any twinges of nostalgia or sadness at the passing of time because I am not missing a single moment, makes me feel indescribably lucky.

I have lived almost exclusively for myself – wandering off on this whim or that whim at any given opportunity, fretting about ways in which I could justify my rather feckless existence by finding something worthwhile to do – and now I am now living the ultimate dream of someone who thrives on the excitement of new beginnings, but who is frankly too old and knackered to keep setting off on her own: I am experiencing them vicariously through the insatiably curious eyes of the next generation.

There will be no more babies after this one!

On Maya’s second night in the big wide world, she started feeding at 19:30 in the evening, and at 5 the following morning she was still going strong (cluster feeding to get my milk supply up, although I didn’t know that at the time). I was tearful with exhaustion, and desperate to make it stop, so eventually a nurse took her away in order to let me get some rest.

Rather than feeling relief, I just felt all wrong. I lay there for an hour or two trying to sleep, but eventually gave in to the overwhelming need to find my baby. She was asleep on the nurse’s chest, but my whispered enquiry immediately cut through the noise and chatter of a busy maternity ward, and up reared the tiny head – craning tearfully around in a desperate attempt to locate me. Me. Her mother: the only person in the world she wanted to be with.

It was a terrifying, yet heady moment. One I never want to forget, and one of the many that have thus far epitomised what becoming a mother means to me. But for all the reasons listed here, I still have no intention of experiencing it all over again, except through my memories.

I am hugely fortunate to be Maya’s mother, and that is enough for me.

From this....

From this…

To this, in 365 days. Crazy!

…to this, in 365 days. How crazy is that?!

This is Status Viatoris, currently compiling her declarations of mothering intent for the next 365 days of Maya’s life, in the hope and dread of harvesting another intimidating crop of just-you-waits, in Italy 😉

Condemned to Solitude

07/11/2013

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

No sooner is a woman in the position to pin on her twinkly primigravida badge (yes, they give them away free with each plastic pee pee stick – didn’t you know?), a surprisingly high number of curious bystanders begin to request information regarding her future procreational intentions.

It can be a little disconcerting, especially when her mind is rather full of other things: the anxiety involved in assisting this embryo through the gestational minefield before ushering it into a healthy babyhood, for starters. Questioning her sanity at placing herself in such a responsibility-laden situation, for seconds. And lastly, the dawning realisation that she has just willingly compromised her rights to being entirely her own person for at least the next eighteen years.

But regardless of the mental gymnastics that appear to be delivered – along with nausea and a tendency to easy tears – by the victorious spermatozoon, many women do already know the answer to this rather inappropriate question and can confidently state, “I plan to have two, three, four children…” (delete as appropriate and biology willing, natch), thus apparently satisfying the informationary requirements of the question poser.

However there is an answer that does not seem to satisfy, and – typically, I suppose, given my contrariness in most matters – it is the only answer I can offer.

“I only want this child. I have no intention of having any more.”

A statement that even in Italy, where the birthrate is one of the lowest in Europe and where there are more sibling-less children than one could shake a rosemary and olive oil grissino at, is greeted with a surprising lack of respect for my capacity for rational thought.

So, just to prove to the sceptical masses (ok, to the nosy few) that I have actually given the matter some consideration, I shall now list my reasons for feeling that one child will be my lot in life:

1) Although the statistics on overpopulation vary, there can be no doubt that many of the more serious current and future world problems are/will be caused by there being far too many human beings on the planet. My conscience simply would not allow me any peace if I had more than one child.

2) I would be able to afford educational possibilities and horizon-broadening opportunities for one child, that I would not be in a position to offer to two. Important considerations (I feel) in a world that is becoming evermore competitive and complicated.

3) Similarly, as I am English my husband is Romanian and we live in Italy, much of our holiday time over the next years is going to be spent travelling hither and thither to keep sproglet in touch with far-flung relatives. Not something that we would be able to do either financially or logistically with any ease in the case of multi-sprogs.

4) A child needs to be loved, sheltered, fed, clothed, educated and tirelessly cuddled. Having a sibling is not a need, it is a circumstance. A circumstance which plenty of us have never found ourselves in and not suffered as a consequence. And as an afterthought, it is important to remember that just as there are people who have wonderfully close and supportive relationships with their brothers/sisters, there are plenty of others who would happily cross continents to avoid them.

5) I don’t actually want more than one child. Seeing women walking along with a toddler at her side, another in a pushchair and a third “on the way” (for example) makes me want to run as fast and as far as I can. Watching friends juggling two or more children with their different and often opposing requirements – baby’s having a nap, four-year old is clamouring to go to the park, got to pick her up from ballet, take him to football practice, we’re late for school but the toddler’s just filled his nappy… simply reinforces my conviction that it is not for me.

6) And to the wagging fingers that are accompanied by: “Just you wait and see. As soon as you’ve popped that sprog you will be swept away on an uncontrollable sea of biological impulses that will have you planning the next three before the umbilical cord is even severed!” I would say: whilst I do not doubt that at some point during what remains of my fertile years I may well have a brief hankering for a second baybeeeee, I sincerely hope that I have the strength of character to take my present concerns into account and not be dictated to by my hormones. After all, what woman would seriously consider placing her hormones in the driving seat when attempting a spot of rational decision-making?

Exactly.

So there we have it: the reasoning behind my inability to offer curious bystanders a satisfactory answer to their queries in six explanatory steps! Now all that is left to do is translate it into Italian and post flyers round the village 😉

This is Status Viatoris, who maybe one day will have a strongly held conviction that people actually approve of! Unlikely, I know…

The Tedium of a One-Track Mind

24/10/2013

 status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

This post comes with a content alert: as much as I have tried and tried to steer my mind towards non-pregnancy related topics over the last months, I regret to announce that I have finally succumbed to the same dreamy preoccupation with my condition that I imagine affects most first-time mothers in this final stretch.

(Of course I quite understand that such a topic holds very little interest for many, so I wholeheartedly forgive you for going in search of more scintillating reading fodder, and hope that in turn you might eventually forgive me for my current one-track-mindedness…)

There is no doubt that I am exceedingly lucky to at last be in a position to succumb to such aforementioned dreamy preoccupation:

The shop has finally been tied up and put to eternal sleep, my Overseas Guides Company writing commitments have been passed to a lady living in Puglia, and my darling husband has taken over the thankless task of tussling with neighbours and daft Italian bureaucrats in order to replace our uninsulated and leaky roof with something entirely more satisfactory.

And me? I have been gifted with the indescribable luxury of being able to flee the frustrations and the potential builders’ dust, straight into the welcoming arms of the mothership and a relaxing month or so of doing little else but observing the perplexing, uncomfortable, fascinating, terrifying, unique and exhilarating changes to which my body and my life are currently being subjected.

That is not to say that this time has been without its challenges: barely four days after touching down in Blighty, my brand-new waddling centre of gravity tipped me off a perfectly straight stretch of path and headlong into the agony of a badly sprained ankle.

Just over a week after that, and I find myself struck down with intense round ligament pain (something to do with those stretchy parts that give the uterus a supporting hand during this, its time of toil and overwork).

But although I am still as permanently knackered and frequently snotty as ever I was, I have found a somewhat greater sense of purpose; as the parasitic little being within me steals my energy, my health (and a worryingly large portion of my heart) in order to become the strong and active individual now turning endless somersaults under my tummy button whilst pushing my spare tyres into miraculous peaks and crests with each flex of its still-tiny limbs.

Being given this opportunity to “enjoy” the last few months of my pregnancy in relative peace and tranquility is exactly what I had hoped for. Primarily in the interests of my health and that of the sproglet; but also because this is highly likely to be my only pregnancy (a tale for another time…) and I am suddenly very aware of the importance of savouring each intriguing moment; as one probably should every major life experience when offered the chance to do so.

So the next few weeks will be spent in quiet contemplation of my rather busy naval, reading it stories from my childhood, using my constant diet of Classic FM to assess its preferences for Saint-Saëns’ organ symphony over Rossini’s overtures and being utterly and undeservedly spoilt by the Mothership whilst indulging my cravings for sleep and books – both of which I suspect I shall soon have to do without for a very long time…

This is Status Viatoris, 28 weeks and hoping that the daft Italian bureaucrats pull their roof-deciding fingers out before she is forced to give birth on an Easy Jet flight somewhere over France…


%d bloggers like this: