I find the process of learning language and developing motor skills quite intriguing. It seemed to me, babies are clumsy, ham-fisted, chubby people who take a vow of silence, or in our case, a vow of screaming. But yet suddenly, and unexpectedly, they get the hang of things.
I thought Missy would never be able to walk, she was just too unsteady, and then one day, she did. Learning to use a spoon, discovering those scary mini fingers actually belonged to her, talking in sentences – they all just seem to happen one day. I know mums and dads, who spend all day with their kids will sigh, and explain the rocky journey from weeing on the floor to using the facilities in a more socially acceptable way, is a combination of perseverance, hard work and much mopping up.
But for me, being out most of the day and missing the hard work of it, it’s a magical Cinderella story, except the pumpkin stays a beautiful carriage at midnight. Not withstanding that this wizardry of development is actually the result of mum or dads hard work, it’s a spellbinding time watching Missy master herself and her environment.
Riding a scooter, I thought, was simply beyond her. She never looked as if it was going to be anything other than a convenient way to scratch her knees. Then, with Tour de France determination, (sans pharmaceuticals), she mastered the one foot on, one foot pushing, conundrum. It was a proud day.
Then it struck me. A child is geared to leaning and mastering their world. Miniature brains are permanently set to “learn”. It’s adults that put a break on what is achievable or what should not even be attempted.
Missy speaks French just as well as English. That’s because my wife, who is fluent in French, has talked to Missy since she was a baby in that language, while I spoke to her in English. The fact she is bi-lingual, especially in Hong Kong, isn’t rare at all. Most kids are bi-lingual, because it’s common for parents to come from different language backgrounds.
What is exciting is that my wife never “taught” her French; Missy just picked it up the same way she picked up English. Although I have to admit, I did a much better job than my wife. Missy can’t swear at all in French; in English, however, she can curse like an overdue truck driver with two flat tyres.
To her, everything just naturally has two words, (except for the blaspheming bits) and now she easily slips between the languages. She even tries to teach me, realizing, much to her amusement, that dad can’t, shall we say; converser en Français.
Missy loves to point at something, ask me to say it, Louis XVI style; and when I stumble in my less than schoolboy French, she collapses in fits of laughter, and I am sent, post haste, to the proverbial scaffolding of Madame Guillotine.
The fact my daughter has the inbuilt desire to venture happily into the unknown and untried, leaves me with the thought; it could conceivably be me that stifles her creativity, or her will to try things, by simply being an adult. So I aim to be aware of supporting and encouraging her to have a go at different things. Of course, she won’t like them all, nor indeed, will she be any good at some, but that’s not the point. It’s in the attempt, and in the way she processes her emotions when she doesn’t succeed that’s important.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill