Thursday, January 30, 2014

Feelings and faces

Maja left a comment about my speaking Icelandic with Henry, which I should totally do, and it turns out I had Feelings about it, so I wrote a really long comment, but maybe I could put it here instead?

I definitely should give Henry a chance to practise his Icelandic at home. It would help him, plus I'd have more of an idea of where his language skills are at. I'm a bit self conscious about my Icelandic, it's definitely not perfect, and I definitely have to think more as I'm speaking. And don't even get me started about writing.

Anyway, when the midwife was over last time, she went on for a while about how important it was that Henry learn Icelandic, and said that I should be practising more with him. Then the other day I spoke to one of Henry's leikskoli teachers about his two and a half year old checkup, and she told me off a bit for not speaking Icelandic at home (spoiler: she wasn't really telling me off, but I was feeling a bit oversensitive from hormones and lack of sleep, so I probably definitely cried a little bit in the car on the way home).
So that made me realise that although I know I should help Henry to learn Icelandic, I feel weirdly defensive when people tell me that *. Like, I want to argue with them and convince them that I shouldn't have to, when in fact I intellectually agree that I should.

* Not you, Maja! I feel like you are probably one of the people who best understands the situation, because you're also in it - juggling nationalities for the win!

I think maybe it was because they were comparing our situation to other kids - there's one girl in Henry's class whose parents are a German mum and Icelandic dad, and she speaks fluent Icelandic plus a bit of German (I think). Obviously that guy is happy to speak Icelandic to his kid, because it's his mother tongue. Icelandic isn't my first language, and when Henry was little I prioritised being able to express myself wholly and naturally over teaching him Icelandic. I think I resent the implication that it's more important for him to 'fit in' with the Icelandic kids than to bond with me.

And there's a weird Icelandic nationalism that grosses me out a bit, too. Yes, some amount of pride is good, but I feel like it sometimes gets a little too close to racism here, like Icelanders are better just because they're Icelanders. Ew. No.

And I also hate the implication that I just didn't think about it, that I'm speaking English solely because it's easier (although why would that be such a bad thing?)
I did think about it, and consciously chose to speak English at home for a bunch of reasons. I'd hate it if his teachers think it just didn't occur to me that he'll have to learn Icelandic at some point. 

Anyway, I'm glad I noticed my weird defensiveness, because there's really no harm in us practising a bit of Icelandic some of the time, and I think Henry enjoys it. Also because it's good for me to notice when I'm feeling a bit icky, and to figure out why exactly that is. I don't know if I have mentioned it before, but I sometimes get this anxious gut feeling, and my best method for dealing with it thus far is figuring out where it came from. And 90% of the time, it's something so little and stupid and un-worry-worthy, so it's actually pretty easy to reason the anxious feeling away. Whereas if I don't trace where it's coming from, I tend to just go around feeling vaguely worried for days. 


Whew! That got long! Here's some photos!

Felix and Ross

Slightly blurry, but such a good face!

Henry's still pretty anti-photo, but I asked him to make a dragon face, so he was into it.

Sleepy smile! I'm pretty sure it's just gas.

Ah, those photos were a refreshing change from the rant. So everything else is basically awesome. This week is Ross' last week of paternity leave for the moment, so that's a bit of a bummer. Next week I'll have to figure out how to take Henry to school with Felix in the car, but I'm sure it'll be manageable. I have been meaning to do a practice run all week, while Ross is still here to help, but even though Felix usually wakes up around seven-ish and I know I should get up, the temptation to stay in bed is waaay too hard to resist. May as well sleep in while I can...

Felix is still super rad, he's started sleep for a four to five hour stretch from around 1am, so I'm catching up on sleep a little bit. Mum comes round pretty much every day to help with bathtime and burping, and to lavish extra attention on Henry. His sleep has been a bit erratic lately, he's been waking up a lot more and wants Ross to stay in his room. I figure he's just adjusting to the baby, and he was sick last weekend, plus he may be getting some more teeth? Just a little bit of everything, but I think it'll pass with time. Anyway, apart from that he's great, still really loving and adorable with Felix and everyone. 

I'm feeling pretty good, still very much enjoying not being pregnant - the mobililty! The comfort! The unpasteurised cheese! I'm sure with a lot of distance, one day I'll reminisce about how nice it was being pregnant, but now is not that time. Oh, that reminds me, there's this post on Cup of Jo that rings pretty true for me at the moment. She's also had her second (and probably last) baby, and she writes about how she's kind of missing the tiny baby days, even while she's experiencing them. If you're into that kind of thing, read it, she says it better than I can.


northern musings said...

Hey, don't question your own judgement on this. Do what you feel is best... Just to add my two cents worth, I'll relate my experience as a non english speaking five year old in Australia. I was the one that decided that I did not want to speak English with my mother... it wasn't an option with dad, he never spoke English with me around EVER. I know that often my English grammar isn't the best, but I reckon I do ok. Henry will be fine, don't let anyone get you down on this..... you do what you think is best for you and Henry. I know that Amanda has had this problem in Germany as well, maybe she can provide more insight or advice. You and Ross are such super parents and your boys are amazing... be proud and just let others opinions go with the flow...

Unnur said...

I know from experience that children who recieve a solid linguistic background at home will readily pick up a second language when exposed to it. Henry's English is amazing and when he starts to communicate in Icelandic, his skills will be quite on par with a native speaker. You guys have done the right thing, giving Henry a rich language base which will translate into any new language learning. On ya!

Unnur said...

I know from experience that children who recieve a solid linguistic background at home will readily pick up a second language when exposed to it. Henry's English is amazing and when he starts to communicate in Icelandic, his skills will be quite on par with a native speaker. You guys have done the right thing, giving Henry a rich language base which will translate into any new language learning. On ya!

Gil Liane said...

Firstly, geez, you just had a baby and is this really the time for people to get into the subject with you? No wonder you cried. I also totally understand that hint of nationalism going overboard vibe, other friends have experienced that before. Finally, Henry definitely gets a lot of exposure to Icelandic already and that will only increase as school time increases. My mum's parents spoke Slav at home and you know her English is fantabulous. Also, if this bothers you in conversation with educational types, put aside an hour/hour and a half where you and Henry only speak Icelandic everyday, like 4-5 or something, more as appeasement than anything else, though. Add that in to the exposure he gets with relatives, and out in public, like the shops and such, and at daycare, or while playing at friends houses, and that's MORE than enough. And to be honest, I'm not a fan of so much developmental testing and commentary on someone who's just past two, it sounds a tad obsessive (not on your part, on Iceland's, I mean). I understand the motivation, but like most good ideas, can go a little askew in practice when the instigators become a tad overzealous. And let's not forget- by the time he's five or six Henry will be bilingual which is amazing and should be applauded and recognised as a skillset that the majority of his classmates will not have, and will not have access to. You're doing a wonderful job, and I think this is a topic you can discuss in a year or so when you've had some sleep and at which time it will becomes obvious that Henry's language skills (English and Icelandic) are developing just fine, so they can all pipe down! Don't let them get under your skin, your parenting is amazing xx

Anonymous said...

Hi Olga this bring back memories, when you were kids and living in oz. Most Icelanders where shocked that we did not speak Icelandice to you at home. Is it not the same if English is your first language. Dad

Maja said...

Ugh! Icelanders always bring up some other foreigner who speaks perfect icelandic so their kid knows icelandic. I hate that! Obviously the German lady's husband speaks icelandic to her at home, not english (and not german, I bet). It's pretty hard for you to speak icelandic at home when Ross's first language is english.

You don't have to speak solely icelandic, just phrases that are easy to say off the top of your head, I reckon. I don't speak icelandic to Olivia very much, but when I do I often interchange between english and icelandic. I asked my parents to speak only icelandic to Olivia but they mostly speak english to her, too.

Henry has grown up hearing icelandic all his life, so it will come to him easily when he learns it. You and I learnt icelandic when we lived in iceland as children and it didn't take long.

I hear you about the icelandic nationalism. Everything is better in Iceland blah blah blah. Sure some things are great there, other things are just average, or even shit. Hey, that reminds me, have you seen that average icelandic blog?
Love it.

Felix looks adorable, I want to munch on his chubby cheeks!

When my friend had her second kid, the 4 year old sister started waking up a lot at night (more so than the baby). It's probably something that happens a lot.