This post was sponsored by Sagebooks. All opinions are mine and mine alone.
If you’ve been following me either on the blog in general, just through the Sagebooks Series, or on social media, you’ve likely gathered that I’ve been struggling. Mostly in life (because life) and it has crossed over (as life is wont to do – rude) into teaching Glow Worm (~5) the Sagebooks Series.
I have no excuses. Well, none that would make me sound better than I am. (Otherwise, I totally would trot them out! I admit; I have no pride.)
We have been stuck.
Ok, it’s not really Glow Worm’s fault.
It’s not a reasonable expectation to have an almost 5 year old be responsible for learning by himself the 500 most common Chinese characters in children’s books. Although, if your child is self-directed enough to do so by themselves, I am equal parts impressed and disbelieving so pardon me while I spew some invectives to get it out of my system so I can be adequately happy for you.
Anyhow, I have been stuck.
If you’re interested, here is part of the reason why. But suffice to say, whatever the reason, there will be times when you just can’t muster up the energy to do Sagebooks with your child, your schedules are too busy, or your emotional well-being just cannot handle one more thing to pile onto the never-ending things.
You’re completely normal. (Also, if you’ve never had to struggle for anything then jolly for you. This is not your post and not your time to chime in on how perfectly perfect your life and Sagebooks experience has been. Just try me. I have been in a mood.)
Look. It’s a fact of life that there will be times of ease and times of hardship. Sometimes, life is stacked in one direction more for some than for others. Is it fair? No. Not remotely. But we’re all adults here. We know that life has never been fair – and it’s fairer for some than for others.
Why should it be any surprise then that this same principle crosses over into teaching our kids Chinese?
I believe it’s a hard adjustment (at least for me, anyway) because sometimes, early success feels like a set up.
The Golden, Easy Years
I call this time period anywhere from birth to the moment your FIRST child goes to a pre-dominantly English speaking school. (FIRST being the key word. Because whenever your FIRST child switches over to English, your subsequent children are screwed. Ask me how I feel about this with my four children. Go ahead. Ask. I have many feelings – most of which resemble resignation.)
You can possibly stretch out this time period if you put your child in a Chinese immersion school – but eventually, it is unavoidable. Chinese will ALWAYS lose out to English.
Always.Any Chinese dominance after your kids start school in English is a gift.
Of course, there are other tactics you can employ to perhaps buy you some more time, but the English slide is inevitable.
Even homeschooling in Chinese forestalls English only so much.
Before my children got older, I used to think that people who complained about their kids refusing to speak Chinese just weren’t trying hard enough. My 3 year old boy and 1 year old girl spoke ONLY Chinese to me and their father only spoke English so surely the people who had two native speakers at home were just subpar and not even putting in any effort at all.
I mean, come on. Just make a tiny bit of effort!
But you know what? Sometimes even a tiny bit of effort is too much. (I currently feel that asking anything of me beyond my children still being alive at the end of the day is too much. I would even settle for half alive.)
What I didn’t understand yet was that though I was providing a good foundation for my children at a young age, language loss is relentless and surprising and sneaks up on you. I didn’t realize that since I controlled every aspect of my children’s lives when they were pre-K aged, they watched what I allowed. They socialized with whom I allowed. I had them 24 hours a day.
It was easy.
But unless you want your child to grow up into a maladjusted adult with zero social skills and relatability to the outside world, you have to allow your children to pursue their individuality. Often times, that is away from what you want for them.
I am excited for the independent, incisive, stick to their guns type of adults my children will be in the future, but in the short term, it’s highly irritating at best.
Enjoy the Golden Years while they last – but don’t get too smug. Karma is swift and has a mean sense of humor.
Everything Else is Bonus
Any Chinese dominance after your kids start school in English is a gift. If you’re super diligent and lucky and throw a lot of time, money, and resources at it, your kids will perhaps either tread water or make some headway in their Chinese fluency. But if not, be prepared for the utter annihilation of all that you worked so hard for at the beginning.
It is totally demoralizing.It's not a reasonable expectation to have an almost 5 year old be responsible for learning by himself the 500 most common Chinese characters in children's books. Although, if your child is self-directed enough to do so by themselves, I am equal parts impressed and disbelieving so pardon me while I spew some invectives to get it out of my system so I can be adequately happy for you.
Throw in whatever other crap (such as mid-life crises or just the regular slog of life) and you know what? It becomes super difficult to want to make your kids three meals a day (OMG – WHY DO THEY HAVE TO EAT SO OFTEN AND SO UNGRATEFULLY?) let alone expend the effort of teaching your kids Chinese.
You are not alone.
Wherever you happen to fall on the spectrum – whether the heady days of your baby first babbling in Chinese or the soul-crushing moment when you realize that the best you can hope for is that the Chinese of their babyhood is still in their brains somewhere so that should they choose to study it in college or as a grown up with children of their own, it will be of some marginal assistance – it’s ok.
You are not alone.
You are totally normal.
It is hard. It is a long, arduous path. It is okay to give up. It is okay to continue.
Whatever you decide, or re-decide, or re-re-decide, it’s okay.
Live your life. Raise your kids well. Love them. Love yourself.
Give yourself grace. Give your children grace.
Be gentle with yourselves. Chinese is important but in the end, so are you.
Be well, friends.