We have a two year old! We once marveled at our infant boy’s mini features, wondering who he would become. Today, we already have glimpses of who this little boy is becoming and the journey is truly a lot of fun…
Perfectly renamed “happy activist” by a gracious family member, two year old Ayodelé is strong-willed and persistent yet carefree, enthusiastic, fun-loving and utterly hysterical, observant and caring, snuggly yet independent, rambunctious and high-energy, adventurous and doesn’t feel much pain, yet he is a cautious little boy…
He is tall and lean like his papa, grins just like maman and looks very much like his eldest maternal cousin “Zozos”. He has a frighteningly great memory, very good comprehension of French and English used in daily life but jumbles them all up when he feeds them back, thinking that surely, everyone must understand both cognates. At two, his speech is not terribly clear to the uninitiated and his sentence structures aren’t all that complex, but he makes himself perfectly understood within the confines of our home. He is the kind of kid who will repeat a word 50 times with persistence until you figure out what he means. He loves his maman and loves to cook and taste all ingredients used. He loves to eat, loves his extended family and loves most women who are given the name “tata” (auntie). He also is fond of his play kitchen, toy cars, small containers with marbles inside or real pots and pans with frozen veggies therein. He is weary of most men besides his papi, his uncle TJ and his papa.
Some days, it is perfectly clear that Ayo is still a toddler and on others, he seems like such a little boy, who needs a rock in his pocket, wants to be thrown on the couch or have dirt under his fingernails and the right music played in the car. Two years old feels like a significant milestone around which time we start to wonder how to get him to stop sucking his fingers, how to teach him to dress himself, how to get him excited about the potty. I wouldn’t say that Ayo is an over-achiever, yet as his cognitive abilities increase, including thirst for things like colors, numbers, letters, song lyrics or more descriptive vocabulary, I feel he is at last about ready to learn a third language with some level of intentionality. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to language learning, I certainly believe in windows of opportunity. I do think Ayo is approaching a really good window of opportunity where his French and English foundations won’t be so compromised and yet before a new language feels funny to the ear and on the tongue. For where our family is at in life, Mandarin seems to make the most sense as a third language. So just last night, we were starting to think of ways to bring the gift of Chinese culture (a huge part and parcel of language learning) into our home: not the easiest challenge given our relatively monolingual geographical context, but not impossible either. Of course, that starts with me returning to language study, which has been on the back-burner given our new life with a toddler and a newborn. In this pursuit, I checked out several books on multilingualism from the library. Some great books that I have already read, which seem more relevant now than with an infant Ayo, and new ones that specifically guide parents in navigating the specificities of cultivating more than two languages. The critical difference between bi- and multilingualism is of course that you have to provide enough input in not only two but three (or more) languages to truly enable acquisition. We’ll take it easy and see how Ayo takes to it. As I am on the subject, there is a really interesting book that has just been published surrounding trilingualism, recently promoted on Multilingual Living‘s website: Language Strategies for Trilingual Families: Parents’ Perspective. Do let me know if any of you have read this. (If not and you are curious about it, you can win a copy here!)
We are also just starting to face terrifying decisions surrounding school and education, made even more complex by a questionable American public school system but appreciation for diversity and then there is our desire to further nurture multilingualism without going broke. Then, there is the question of his peers, which you of course can’t choose. Not to sound like a mama bear, but yesterday he tripped and fell as he was helping papa take the rubbish out. A couple of kids cycling past mocked him when he cried. Few things will make a mother more sad than to hear her child is laughed at by other kids. And yet, we must must must allow him to become autonomous and grow up to face people in life who won’t have his best intentions in mind. As his mother, I do know Ayo is growing up, but yet I believe he still strongly craves our parental nurturing and protection. On an encouraging note, Ayo is slowly able to move beyond behavioral instructions (“we don’t throw our food”) to more character building and reasoning (“we want to be good stewards of our food, so we do not throw food”). Of course, we know that character is first and foremost modeled by us. Also modeled by us, how do we show Ayo how to love and care for people around him?
Back to our constantly picketing happy activist… as Ayo’s parents, we want to cherish his fantastic persistence, independence and strong will rather than just crush these gifts. As a family, we want to learn how to harness and cultivate them. Parenting this child can be such a challenge on a daily basis and I repeatedly fail at stewarding his gifts. But by God’s grace, papa and I won’t give up. We absolutely love who Ayo is, we are excited to watch him grow into a caring big brother and love when we get glimmers into who he was created to be.
So many thoughts at two.