The following is a post for this month’s Raising Multilingual Children Blogging Carnival hosted by All Done Monkey. This month’s theme is Multilingualism and Travel. Click here to read great posts from others.
Once upon a time, it seems so long ago, summer meant packing our bags for an adventure, or two, or four. I prided myself on my ability to pack for two plus weeks in a carry-on. Over glasses of wine uninterrupted by children who needed to use the potty or who wanted to eat NOW, we vowed that we wouldn’t fall into the trap so many of our friends had, we would keep traveling, having adventures, and our kids would simply come along for the ride. I look back on those evenings and it’s like I’m watching a sit-com; I double over in laughter and point at the former me and say: “You think you are so savvy, so above it all, BWAH HA HA! Just you wait!”
Thing is, in my mind I skipped right over the toddler years and straight to kids that were able to talk, bathe themselves, and walk more than a quarter mile before needing to be carried. I didn’t think about the car seats, Pack ‘n Plays, nor the strollers that would need to come with us. Hotels equipped with cribs, restaurants with high chairs… not even on my radar. I definitely didn’t envision a full-blown tantrum in any of these scenarios.
We took our daughter to France when she was nine months old. She did great – there were almost no tears until the last leg of the flight there, at which point she’d reached her limit. She screamed – SCREAMED – for an entire hour, and nothing we did could comfort her.
Then there was the train ride from Brittany to Paris. We had our suitcases – three – plus a stroller, plus her car seat, plus a diaper bag and a backpack. The train station had one elevator. One. The elevator held about three people with one bag each. The group waiting to board the elevator was fifty deep. Each trip on the elevator took four and a half minutes. Seriously. I timed it. To make it even more complicated, the platform wasn’t announced until 10 minutes before the train was due to take off.
This was France, mind you, where a line is more of a group of people pushing and ducking and manipulating their way past all the others. There’s no polite and fair waiting your turn. It’s survival of the fittest, and they aren’t above shoving past a woman and her stroller, or even shoving that stroller. While I complained about it, Stéphane took the stroller and turned it into a battering ram. When in France…. We pushed our way to the front of the group, made it to the platforms, and sprinted – he dragging two bags and wearing the backpack, me pushing the stroller/car seat and dragging our third bag with the diaper bag slapping against me and knocking me off balance. We boarded and the train immediately began to move.
Then I realized I had a diaper to change. The train had one car – one – with a diaper changing table, but I couldn’t find it. I ended up sitting on a toilet seat, my feet braced against the wall and my legs a makeshift changing table with my daughter stretched across them, rocking precariously every time the train hit a curve.
So, other than a small weekend trip up the coast, we aren’t going anywhere this summer. I’m intimidated by the thought of traveling with a one-year-old and an almost three-year-old overseas. Next year, we hope to go to France and spend at least a few weeks there. It’s obviously important that our children know their French family and their French heritage. And that we eat crêpes. Lots and lots of crêpes. There are all sorts of opportunities for family language vacations throughout France, where the three of us could enroll in language courses and really immerse ourselves. Plus, with my husband’s French citizenship, there are options for sending the kids to summer school there. Soon, while they’re young, before they realize that school instead of lazy summer days equals Mean Mom.
But here’s the silver lining: We live in San Diego, a top vacation destination for so many. All it takes is a morning at the beach, my toes in the sand, watching the surfers, for me to feel like I’m on vacation.
My daughter’s preschool lets out this week. She’s made so much progress with her French over this past year, but soon she will be home with English-speaking me every day rather than at school with her native French-speaking teacher and French only classes. I’ve been so worried that she’ll lose all she’s gained. Then I realized –hey, my French is decent. It’s certainly better than nothing. So we’ll be tourists in our own city, but we’ll do it in French. San Diego Zoo day, where we learn the animal names in French and talk about what they are up to. We’ll learn what noises they make – in French! Sea World? Lego Land? Balboa Park? The Embarcadero? The beach? Oui oui! Ce n’est pas mal!
I mentioned my idea to another mom at the preschool, and she quickly said she wanted to join us with her kiddos. Then another mom. And another. So my little idea just became a big deal – most of these families are not French speaking, so I’ll be leading the charge with our efforts to keep the kids progressing in French.
I still vow to get back to traveling adventures. I haven’t given up the dream. It will just hopefully be without a diaper bag.