Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Raising Multilingual Children: Multilingualism and Travel

Home sweet home was in Utah for 6 years as a married couple. We also had our two oldest children there. But when we go home to the United States, we go to California because that's where my family lives. We would love to go back to Utah as well, but in life there are priorities and family just happens to be number 1.

We are a family of 6 and flights from Paris to California are not cheap and we are not rich. We've set a goal to go every two years. We work hard and we scrimp and we save and in the end we would be ungrateful to not recognize all the help and blessings that we receive from up above and from family members who love us and help us so generously. And so up until now, we've been able to travel home to California every two years.

My parents get to see their grandchildren every two years. A lot happens in two years. Kids grow like weeds, lose teeth (and grow them back), mature and blossom and change so much. A pregnancy and a birth can happen in two years... We are taking Rémy with us on his very first trip to the United States, to meet his grand-parents for the very first time at 7 months old. And so naturally, I want my parents and my children to soak up every second of those four weeks we spend together. Every second.


In the past, due to our limited budget and lack of vehicle, we've realized our limitation in adding on an extra trip to also drive "home" to Utah (about a 12 hour drive). Our resources were so tight that they were entirely focused on spending time with my parents and seven siblings and their families who are almost all in California. And yet we would so love to go back to the place where we started our life together and show our children where home used to be. But up until now, it just hasn't been possible.

But this year, we are being spoiled. Whereas in previous years we would borrow a member of the family's car during our stay in California, this year we are very, very blessed to have a rental car for the entire month we will be there. And so the possibility to escape to our first home sweet home in Utah presents itself. We we would need to take 5 days to drive to and from Utah, that means two 12-hour drives, leaving us with about 3 days of a flash lightning trip where we could visit my sister-in-law and her family who now live there, visit our alma mater BYU, drive by our old homes and show Alex and Elena the hospital where they were born. Oh, nostalgia! You are so bittersweet!

Nevertheless, I've told my husband no. And him, being the sweet considerate man that he is, has told me that it's my decision and to not feel pressured. I'd really love to, but everytime he brings it up my stomach twists and turns at the thought of spending time away from my parents whom I love and miss so much. What to do? And the thought of telling my parents that we've come from thousands of miles away, from across a continent and an ocean and a country far from theirs to spend 4 tiny weeks with them and that now we are leaving with our children for 5 days? My heart feels torn in two. What would you do?

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On a much lighter note, my children and I have decided to speak only Spanish while in the United States. We figure they will get plenty of English with their cousins and even their grand-parents (who have a really hard time speaking to my children in Spanish)! And since Spanish is becoming more and more tricky to maintain here in France, we thought it would be useful to have a full four-week intense period of Spanish, knowing that their English will not be neglected! We can afford to set the French aside for this period because we know we are coming back to our life here in France and also because the children will continue to speak French with their Papa, even while in California.

So why is Spanish becoming trickier and not English, you may ask? Well, because Sam and I speak English with each other and because the children are getting older and becoming more involved with our conversations. When we are in our English period it works just great, but when we are in our Spanish period, it means the children speak French to each other and their Papa, my husband and I speak English to each other and the children and I speak Spanish with each other! That makes for a whole lot of code-switching! English feels so easy and natural and to make it our family language would make things so much easier. And yet, not a single one of us is willing to give up our Spanish! Thus, operation español in California is a first step to strengthening our Spanish, but other adjustments will have to be made in the near future.

So there you have it, my friends. I hope I haven't bored you all to death. And kudos to you, if you are actually read this far! Please do share all your wisdom with me! I'm going to need it at this slightly bumpy spot in the road of our multilingual, multicultural adventures!

Big hugs,
-The Paris Busy Bee!

This article was written for the Multilingual Carnival. This month the theme is Multilingualism and Travel and will be hosted at AllDoneMonkey.com

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