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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bonjour Inglos (the Fish!)

Inglos the Fish

So of course, almost immediately after reflecting on all the progress we've made, I've been struggling again this week to get Zach to speak to me in French. I think it is part of a more general lack of vitality I’ve been feeling, sort of a sense of being on autopilot -- which I've learned tends to happen to me every few months. And while adult ruts are bad enough, I am painfully aware of what a waste of developmental time it is for a four-year old when all these windows for learning-- like between 0-3 years when the brain grows something like 1000% (I have no idea what the real number is)-- are concentrated during this early childhood period. I tend to stress out over this and when I realize that our daily routines--while comforting--are not necessarily stimulating his brain the way I think I am responsible for doing, I go into a state of panic-motivation-frenzy in my attempt to push us through to a more mentally active (which usually means happier for both of us) place. This usually ends up bringing in some fresh new activity in our lives (i.e. more trips to new places, soccer classes, painting on the windows...). That makes me feel like a halfway decent mother for another few weeks.

This is a long way to explain the existence of our new housemate, Inglos the Fish. The idea came about as we were sitting and having lunch at Subway today.

[That in itself was also a bit of a shakeup from the home-and-lunch or park-and-picnic routine. I've found somehow that eating out--and also not worrying about where the food will go once we're finished, using someone else's utensils, et cetera, allows me to focus on talking to Zach in a way that I don't do at home, where also I can never time the food so that everyone begins eating at the same time, and by the time I sit down to eat with him he's off to some other corner of the house -- usually computer or TV (another topic and source of recurring anxiety).

Anyway, we were brainstorming about ideas for his Baba’s birthday present. I found his first suggestion -- a computer that has Internet when there is no Internet -- brilliant, and a testament to his incredible creativity and sensitivity. This is indeed something that caused chaos in the house this past weekend when we lost Verizon DSL service and usually rational, upbeat Baba became exasperated while on the phone with customer service.

And the next suggestion -- a magic fish that turns into an airplane -- was pure genius. Since the pet store happened to be next door, I thought, "why not?" and off we went on our mission. Having settled on a tiny fish (the plain swimming kind) and getting him home and into his new micro-aquarium (maybe 1 foot square, poor thing), I decided to try capitalizing on the fun by suggesting that possibly the fish was French, and why don't we name him François? Zach nipped my efforts in the bud, telling me that no, his name is Inglos. Guess which language he speaks.

So after introducing Inglos to his new surroundings, I resorted to my old but reliable method of putting the timer on and announcing that in ten minutes it would be French time. The good news is he cooperated without grumbling and we had fun reading about "les outils" (perceuse - drill; vis et clous - screws and nails; escabeau - ladder; marteau - hammer; scie - saw) and watched some Trotro videos and Alouette as performed by Alain le Lait with musical animations.

I suppose I am learning that there is no real separation for me between being a good mother in English or in French. Either way, when I put in the effort to be fun, present, and experience life to the fullest along with him -- it pays off in a happier child (and me). And if I need the help of a fish to do that, it doesn't really matter what language we speak to him in. Maybe we'll upgrade to a bird someday and I’ll try to name him Alain l’Alouette.

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