If Nelson can get through tummy time, the bilingual experiment can survive this week.
This week was the first time since I became a new parent that I felt really, truly, tired to my bones. Alex was in the midst of final exams and papers, so I was on full time baby duty while Daddy pulled all-nighters in the computer lab. Had it been a normal week it wouldn’t have been so bad, but has been a needy little one this week, in need of constant consoling. I laugh at myself reading the bright-eyed optimism of my last post.
I don’t know how to feel about this past week. The first couple days after my last post I was an engine going full steam ahead. I was writing journal entires to get corrected on lang-8.com, I was listening to an hour of French talk radio a day while he napped, I was pounding away at French flashcards, and at night I would watch an episode of a TV show in French. I felt like a superhero. It was great, though probably not sustainable even in the best of conditions.
From that starting point, I felt like the past seven days had been a disastrous backslide, though now taking stock for the blog I feel more like we are just moving in slow motion. While I have been alone with him he only hears French, except the occasional sentence I let slip out because I am too tired to notice which language I am speaking. But where before I was constantly chatty, this week I’ve spent a lot of time just staring at him or saying simple and repetitive things: “Je t’aime toujours mon petit lapin.” “Ce ne’est pas le fin du monde ma puce.” “Ciel, quelle moue !”* Where I once had many topics of conversation, this week I struggled to describe what we would be doing that day or what items of clothing I was putting on his (very unwilling) little body. I also spent a lot more time out with other mommies, speaking English. Not for the English, but for my overall sanity– one can only spend so much time cooped up in an apartment with an unhappy baby, and for some reason the little rabbit is a lot happier when we are out and about. I brought a book with us, and would sometimes read to him in French if I found myself between new parent support groups and coffees with friends, but still some days I would barely manage two hours in slow, repetitive, zombie French.
I don’t know wether I should regard this week as a success or a failure. I fell short of my most recently stated goal for sure. I keep trying to remind myself that I far exceeded what I would have thought possible 8 weeks ago while I stared at my very pregnant belly wondering what the future would hold, when I thought I would speak French for maybe an hour a day and build up from there. But I also feel like those old goals are outdated, based on insufficient knowledge, and established before I experienced the joy and frustration of living life with my baby in a language in which I can’t fully express myself. I guess in the end this week doesn’t really matter, what matters is the general trend, the slow compounding of hours on hours until him and I either wind up fluent or drown in a sea of linguistic dispair. I think I am sounding melodramatic– I assure you, it is mostly the lack of sleep.
I am trying to make myself accept that there will be ups and downs. Really, it won’t just be this past week where the bilingual project is in slow motion. Tuesday Nelson and I fly to Florida for my best friend and cousin’s graduation, and to get out of Alex’s hair while he prepares for his qualifying exam for his doctorate. I’ve never heard anyone say that traveling with an infant is easy, and we’re going to be spending another week without Daddy’s help. The trick will be coming back to full speed after the world settles down.
So for now, I am focusing on the small triumphs. Even zombie French is French, and I did manage to get through some flashcards!
**”I love you, always, my little rabbit.” “It isn’t the end of the world sweetheart.” “My, my, what a pout!”