We’ve got to stop this “Parent Shaming”

We have got to stop this parent shaming !!!

By a show of hands, who here has been judged, at some point, on their parenting. Now by the same show of hands, who here has judged other parents (*no… you don’t actually have to raise your ha*….. you see what I’m trying to get at here). Call it assessing competition/compatibility or just being plain bitchy, but we’re all guilty of at least thinking it.

Now back in the good old days, judging was done behind each other’s backs and we could just stick to our little groups of people who handled their kids the same way we did. However, fast forward to the Internet age, and on a daily basis my Facebook feed is flooded with propaganda, health articles and ‘new research’ that seems to show me exactly how bad I am doing at this whole parenting thing.

Not only do we have the ‘facts’ (and I use that term oh so lightly), but with that come the many voices that suggest to the rest of us that we’re doing a crappy job. In the age of oversharing on social media and a false sense of anonymity online, people seem to have taken it upon themselves to judge, criticize and sometimes just plain bully others ,without accounting for the consequences their words might bring.

Of course shaming each other seems to be somewhat of a global issue ranging from our religious/political choices, how we view our body image and what foods we prefer to eat (spoiler alert…. it ALL gives you cancer.. apparently.)  With that, I’d like to focus in particular on parent shaming and some of the issues I’ve stumbled upon in my short 3,5 years as a parent of two children (yes, based on the above criteria, that now makes me an expert  😉

1. ‘Fed is best’ (phrase taken from an existing Facebook page)

Both my girls have been bottle fed (*gasp*). They didn’t get any breast milk from the very start (*double gasp*). With the second one we even gave up within the first month (*exists and slams door*). But did you know that I was never able to produce the milk to begin with…. and yes we tried every tip/suggestion/hint we could find or were given… nothing worked. I had the storage… just not the stock. My girls were frustrated, hungry and missed out on bonding with their mom because each feeding session caused more and more stress for all of us (at one point I had a nurse milking me like a cow while another tried to attach my baby to the boob…. very sexy.. and relaxing) In the end, feeding them formula made them just as happy and healthy and we could focus again on the key issue of getting them fed and enjoying the time to bond and love them.

A number of friends have breastfed their babies in public (*gasp*)… they didn’t use a feeding schedule (*double gasp*) and some are even still breastfeeding their toddler (*the crowd goes wild*). But did you know that it makes them feel so much closer to their little ones.. and yes they know formula could do the trick just as much to give them a break…. but they don’t need nor want it. This is their choice and they are happy about that and I don’t see the kids complaining either.

Everyone has their own prerogative on how they feed their children and damnit.. as long as these babies are fed healthy (meaning breast or formula… not whiskey) then they’ll be just fine!

2. Dad’s don’t babysit, they parent

Ok, the breastfeeding can be more relatable to moms (in account of the whole ‘having boobs’ thing) but for too long have I seen the dads be pushed on the bench when it comes to ‘knowing how hard it is to be a parent’. So with this, I would like to do a little shout-out to all the papas out there. Being parents is about being a team, and like any team, everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses that we bring to the field. There is no superhero and the silly side-kick when it comes to parenting (although it’d be fun to start wearing our underwear on the outside).

It bothers me when people refer to daddies ‘babysitting’ to give mom a night out, but I don’t see us paying them at the end of the night and sending them on their jolly way for a good night’s sleep afterwards.

And believe it or not, when mommy’s not there, daddy also knows how not to kill the baby, what lyrics go with ‘Do you want to build a Snowman’ and that ‘snugglebut’ is the only teddy that helps them sleep better.

Just like moms no longer want to be seen as the 1950s housewife who gets excited about the new washing machine, dads no longer want to be seen as the authoritarian parent who couldn’t tell the front or back of a diaper if their life depended on it.

3. What if I told you that our babies slept through the night without using controlled crying nor co-sleeping…

When it comes up that our girls slept through the night from 3/4 months onward, I am often immediately greeted with the “Oh, I could never listen to my baby cry it out”. Often, one style of parenting is joined with a number of assumptions linked to that style and we don’t look at the background of the situation or most importantly…. is the kid happy?

We used somewhat of a schedule when feeding our girls (of course if they were really hungry before their scheduled time… we fed them… duh). But having a bit of a routine for both of them when it came to feeding and bedtime seemed to really work for us and them and of course I also take into account the immense amount of luck we’ve had with good nighttime sleepers… a lot of luck.

In saying that, parents who do decide on controlled crying are not sadists who sit outside their baby’s bedroom door and giggle every time the child cries out … like the rest of us, they are just trying out what works best for everyone involved in finding the right way to get our babies to sleep. We might not always agree on other people’s methods, but everyone is trying to just figure it out as we go..

I also know a number of parents who co-sleep, and even though it’s not something we did ourselves, we seen their kids as happy and healthy mini-humans. Yes, the parents are tired, I can’t think of any parent who isn’t, and no, none of them have gotten squashed just yet.. they’re fine!

Again, as long as the kids are happy it’s ok to find a schedule or a method that works for both the parents and the children. Sleep deprivation is just part of the game… find your own way to make it manageable.

4. If you have found the solution, share, don’t shame

I applaud those parents who have found the light and the only true way to parent their babies effectively. I even more so enjoy their regular social media blasts where they share their newfound enlightenment with the clear assumption that the rest of us are all still in the dark and know nothing or are ignorant and resistant to change.

If you find some interesting articles out there, or new research that could interest others, by all means, do share the love! But don’t shame the rest of us for not knowing this obvious valuable piece of information (even though you just read about it only 2 weeks ago yourself).  I’m glad people have found the light and maybe it is indeed the best way to go… if so, give the rest of us a chance to get their on our own … because your smug attitude will just make we want to rebel even more.

(*side note: not everyone sharing an article on parenting is considered a douche, we’ve got the right to speak our minds (this blog post being case in point)

5.  Don’t make up statistics or facts to prove a point

This is where fictional information on the Internet comes to play, or as our buddy D. Trump calls it ‘fake news’. Some people out there are good at relaying their personal opinions as hard facts. An example, chocking and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is a big worry for all parents, so please don’t tell a parent that their way to put their child to bed can lead to SIDS unless you have the scientific facts to back you up. We have been told that our use of ‘sleep positioners’ (to stop baby from rolling) could lead to SIDS… bullshit. Some of my co-sleeping friends have been told they could squash and choke their baby while they sleep…. bullshit. We’ll always find that one case where a baby did die etc, but don’t use someone’s horrible (and most likely rare) experience as a statistic to support your opinion on.

6. If you feel very strong about something, that’s fine, but does it need to be said?

In saying that, I feel strongly about this, but vaccines do not cause autism (I’m sorry that is just a scientific fact, we really can’t dispute that one can we?). That doesn’t mean I’ll go hunt down the parents that choose not to vaccinate, nor will I ever confront them about it (however hard it can be). The same goes for people who choose not to have medical, life-saving, interventions for their children because of their religion… I admire doctors who have to deal with this on a regular basis because I know I would struggle at keeping my mouth shut. Again though, this is the parents choice and it sucks big time to see this happen no matter how strongly we disagree with it (I know I do… just write a blog about it instead :p )

As usual, these are all just a compilation of my own personal opinions and suggestions (this being a personal blog and all). If I’ve offended some people with what I wrote please know this was not my intention, but it can be seen as such a ‘taboo’ topic these days that it’s hard to know what you should and shouldn’t write. I guess the main objective I’m trying to get at here is to try and live in a community where we support each other, not to make each other feel bad because we do things differently.

We can’t stop from judging… it’s in our nature.. but think before you speak … is it necessary to say out loud or could we just think it to ourselves?

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*(yep, these our kids watching TV… whaaaaaa?! 😉

The Bystander Effect: Why we don’t always act and what we can do about it

(published in Bonjour France, 19 March 2017)

TheSans titre other day, like many days in this beautiful city, I found myself stuck in the chaos that is the RER A with trains delayed for up to 2 hours. People were naturally frustrated, it being rush hour and all, but someone’s frustration got the better of him as he aggressively lashed out at transport personnel and security was eventually called. Nobody reacted (except for a few head nods) and nobody intervened (myself included).

Our increasingly (false) sense of anonymity, especially when living in a large city, can directly defuse our sense of responsibility as social influence leads us to turn the other cheek when witnessing a distressing situation. Be it out of fear of getting hurt ourselves or just not being aware of the danger the situation poses to someone else, we are more likely to intervene and help someone when no one else is around… in a crowd, we’re a bystander.

The “Bystander Effect” is a psychological phenomenon that refers to situations where people do not offer any kind of help to a victim when other people are present. J. Darley and B Latané first popularised the concept showing how the probability of help can be directly related to the number of bystanders present.

On social media our ‘outrage’ is shown by sharing viral videos of bullying, discrimination and often downright illegal acts against others. We share this with the best intentions to raise awareness and stop things like this from happening again, but when push comes to shove, would we act and help when witnessing such a scenario in real-life?

The Bystander Effect can be seen in many situations from bullying at school or the workplace, harassment in public , to dangerous protests that run out of hand. This does not mean people are scum and we enjoy witnessing others getting hurt.  In many cases, people feel that since there are other people around, surely someone else will leap into action.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the reasons why we freeze and refrain from helping others, and what we could do about it?

CAUSES OF BYSTANDER EFFECTS

Fear and uneasiness 

Sometimes we don’t know the entire backstory of what we are witnessing and doubts lead us to question whether we should intervene or not. We are afraid we might make a fool of ourselves if our intervention is not appreciated and we look to our peers for guidance and asses their reactions to the same situation. If nobody else takes action, perhaps we don’t fully understand what is happening and we best mind our own business, right?

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Often when faced with something out of the ordinary, we don’t immediately recognise what is happening nor how to react to it. Our delayed reaction in helping someone in distress could merely be as a result of our brain still processing what it is witnessing.

“Diffusion of Responsibility” 

Research shows when others are around, our personal sense of responsibility decreases. We believe that someone else would have probably called for help already, or is doing something to help. We are more likely to help others if we are alone, as we feel the responsibility to act relies solely on us.

Minimal knowledge or qualifications 

In some cases (especially medical emergencies) we tend to stand back and wait for someone with the right qualifications or experience. We’re afraid we might hurt the person even more as we wait for a professional to intervene.

Minding our own business 

We’ve all experienced or heard stories where someone has tried to help someone in alleged distress, and their good deed went and bit them right back in the bum as they got involved in a tricky situation and got hurt themselves. To avoid any hassles, we turn the other cheek and mind our own business.

Misinterpretation of a situation 

Adding onto the above point, we often look away because we wrongly assess a situation or are influenced by common misconceptions. You’d be surprised at what is considered ‘okay’ these days as we witness a woman being harassed, even though she was flirty earlier; or we watch a man get into a bar fight with two others, but he’d been drinking so perhaps he started it …

Now that we understand some of the reasons why we don’t always jump to act, we could look at ways to overcome this psychological phenomenon and be more aware ourselves.

I’m not suggesting we all go wear superhero capes and go vigilante on anyone showing inappropriate or dangerous behavior, but rather, how can we start with ourselves in diminishing this diffusion of responsibility and engaging in our own helping behaviors?

HOW TO OVERCOME THE BYSTANDER EFFECT?

Awareness

Recognising the signs can make a big difference. Signs can be noticed, by trusting our intuition or educating ourselves on certain topics.

Example: An air hostess was able to recognise the signs of human trafficking on one of her flights when she saw a well-dressed man accompany a raged and distressed teenager. She approached the girl behind the man’s back and quickly found out the girl was being taken away against her will. She was quick to notify police on the ground, who were waiting to interrogate the man as they landed.

Another example, perhaps more recognisable in our everyday life, was when a young woman was being harassed by a man on the metro. He was not being overly aggressive, however, was subtly whispering threats and harassing her physically amongst busy morning commuters who did not seem to take notice, or thought it was a couple having a small dispute. One woman saw the girl’s irritation/anxiety and pretended to know her to strike up a conversation. The man quickly left the girl alone and excited the train.

Sometimes being aware of a situation and acting, however small this may be, could help someone and change the outcome of a potentially negative or dangerous scenario.

Witness or Role model helpful Behavior 

Sometimes we just need to think what we would want people to do, if we were in the “victim’s” situation. What if that had been my daughter, son, friend, parent, sibling… Sometimes just seeing other people doing something kind or helpful makes us more willing to help others.

If we’re too afraid to get hurt ourselves, or we see that our direct intervention would only escalate the situation, call for help.

If we see that action from a few people could deter the ‘attacker’, make eye contact with others and try to solicit a group intervention.

Sometimes making eye contact with or simply acknowledging the ‘attacker’ and their behaviour can be enough.

Education and Training

Knowing specific ways to help in certain situations can often be enough to give us the confidence to act and help. People who have been trained professionally in assisting in emergency situation, often find it second nature to help others where needed.

We don’t need to go and study for years to get the right qualifications in order to help others. Often we can find community training workshops related to sexual assault, self-defense, bullying, recognizing suspicious behaviors etc. Such programs teach us the best (and safest) way to react in certain situations. When all else fails, we can do some personal e-learning online and read up on topics that may interest us.

For example, since the terror attacks in France, campaigns have increasingly informed people on how to recognize, and report suspicious behaviors, abandoned luggage, signs of radicalization and general safety tips in the event of another attack.

Just remember that it only takes one person to stand up and say ‘this is wrong’ in order for others to see it and act too.

Always try to help somebody in whichever way possible, because you might just be the only one …

7 Life-Related New Year Resolutions to strive for

(posted in bonjourfrance.eu, Dec 2016)

It’s that time of the year, when we note down our New Year resolutions with the best intentions of keeping them. But what if we had a look at some resolutions we could all strive for a little more these days, which could have a direct impact on our life and perhaps on the life of those around us?

This is most certainly not an article where I tell people what to do, even though the title indicates a strong suggestion… If anything, these are resolutions I would like to apply more myself and what better way to get motivated than to drag the rest of you along with me!

  1. Be simple

Life is already complicated enough without us adding an extra topping of trouble. Look up anything around ‘simplifying life’ and you’ll read the same rules over and over again: when you miss someone, just call them. Want to see someone again? Invite them over. When you feel you’re not being understood, explain yourself. If you have questions, ask them and if you don’t agree or dislike something, state it..constructively. Just like when you love something or someone… tell it. When you want something… it’s an automatic ‘no’ until you ask. It’s often really just that simple.

Unnecessary mind-games, in my opinion, were reserved for the wonderful world of dating (but that’s another article to write later). It seems like such pretenses have worked their way into our professional and personal lives. Is it because we’re too sensitive and afraid to offend or do we play along because we’re becoming more and more dishonest?

  1. Complain Less

We’ve all been a culprit and it would almost be unrealistic to ask someone to stop complaining. Life is an adventure and will sometimes throw us some doozies, where we can’t not complain. There is nothing wrong with venting our frustrations from time to time, and like the above point suggests, stating something we’re unhappy about can help in simplifying our lives. But let’s keep it at just that. Let’s blow off steam, and then move on. Why complain about the petty things we cannot change? Do we really need to spend more than 20 seconds of resentment when the RER is late… I know, again, or when some idiot cuts us off in traffic (the latter being one I need to practice a bit more myself… I mean is it really that much of a challenge for them to use their indicator when turning?! ugh)

  1. Eat well and move

Ahhh, the all too common ‘I-wont-eat-junk-for-the-entire-year-but-I-secretly-went-to-Macdo-a-month-in-when-no one-was-looking-and-cried-about-it-after’ resolution.  With this I don’t mean to go on a diet of any kind or to starve ourselves from life’s goodies. After all, we live in France and are surrounded by gastronomic treats everywhere we look.

Explore new cuisines and discover herbs and spices or bring a twist to an old favorite. Eating well isn’t limited to only the food, but also focuses on how we eat it. Turn off the TV and have dinner as a family, eat something fresh every day and pour yourself that glass of wine even though it’s a school night.

It’s a scientific fact that physical exercise makes us feel better. We don’t need to hit a gym or run a marathon to experience the extra energy endorphins give us. Take the stairs, avoid the elevator, walk when you get the chance and heck… go jump on the bed (just don’t let your kids catch you)

  1. Hate less, tolerate more

I don’t want to get into a political debate nor dive into the Pandora’s Box that is ‘religion’. Rather, I want to focus on criticizing each other less just because we do things differently. Let’s focus on tolerating each other more rather than jumping to conclusions and spreading even more animosity in an already prejudiced world. There’s enough bad people out there lighting up hate, why add fuel to the fire?

  1. Forgive

I’m not saying to forgive and forget.’ Not forgetting’ teaches us our life lessons and helps us not to make the same mistakes again (even though sometimes we need to make them a few times over before we truly get it). But forgiving is important… not because people always deserve our forgiveness, but because we deserve our own inner peace. Wasn’t it our buddy Buddha who said that anger is like holding onto a hot stone with the intention of throwing it at someone else… we’re the only ones to get burnt. For the sake of our own peace of mind, and no one else’s… let’s learn to let go.

  1. Investigate

Dr. Wayne Dyer states that the ultimate ignorance is the rejection of something you know nothing about, yet refuse to investigate. With all the fake information that seems to be published these days, isn’t it better we get our information from various sources before we make up our own minds?

Based on the random articles that seem to flood our Facebook newsfeed and certain sites these days, we are lead to believe that Paris has ‘no-go, danger zones’, vaccines cause autism, you haven’t’ lived until you’ve cooked with coconut oil and pretty much anything you say, do, or eat gives you cancer (which can all be cured by drinking apple cider vinegar by the by).

Let’s educate ourselves more and not accept everything we hear as immediate fact. We are being spoon fed information every day and it’s up to us to consider which stories are truthful, important and worth sharing with others.

  1. Laugh a little

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Farts are still funny (prrt). Liking a video of a cat stuck in a bathtub while an Australian guy narrates, does not make you any less of an intellectual, and remember that a smile is contagious and could brighten up someone’s day. (Perhaps not so much if you’re staring at them with a huge grin on your face for an extended period of time… in that case you might just freak them out a little bit).

I hope this article got some of you motivated to join me in making our world just a little bit more bearable.

With this I wish everyone a happy Silly Season and a great start to the New Year… see you in 2017!

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Making the Heart grow Fonder: 7 Tips for when your partner works Long Distance

(Also posted in BonjourFrance.eu, Nov 2016)

Growing up, I remember my father being away for work quite often and we did not see a whole lot of him during the week. With that said, his weekends were for us and us alone (and maintaining the garden, but he’d put us to work in there together so you know… two birds… one stone).  We didn’t have Skype and mobile phones back then, yet seeing my parents work together like a well-oiled machine really influenced my future relationships.

When I met my husband whilst living in Australia, one of the first things he told me about himself was that he was a French national (although the accent kind of gave it away pretty quickly) and that his work required him to relocate on a regular basis. Our relationship kicked off with a long distance stint before I followed him overseas 14 months later. We traveled in Europe and Asia for his job and settled back in France 2 years ago to plant our feet in the soil and settle down. Nevertheless, his job still has him travelling quite often as I stay behind with our two daughters and the dog.

I certainly am not the only person in this situation, far from it, and have connected with a number of men and women that have spouses working away from home. I thought to share with you some of the tools that we have used over the years and that have proven to be helpful at times.

  1. Communication is key

This is pretty much a given. Communication is vital in all relationships, but it doubles in importance when that same relationship must battle the distance. In today’s tech savvy society, we’re extremely spoiled with all the applications and programs available to us to connect with our loved ones. That doesn’t mean communication over the net is as easy as it seems. Although you miss someone every day, you don’t always have a lot to talk about when you get your 15 minutes on the phone together. Often it can feel a bit forced as you try to sift through the day in your mind and share the highlights. Don’t put too much pressure on having the perfect phone call or a deep and meaningful e-mail, simply touching base can be enough to let each other know you’re thinking of one another.

  1. Prioritize each other

Enjoy the small talk and joking around, but also leave room for the bigger issues.  Let your partner know where you’re at, even if it’s not the fun news of the day. I know some of us hold back as we don’t want to worry our partner while they are away (or vice versa, worry the ones at home).

Call each other on the times you agreed and touching base during the day can also minimize the ‘out of sight out of mind’ pitfall. Send a sweet video of the kids or a romantic picture to let your better half know they’re on your mind. (Side note: Be cautious with the romantic portraits though, you wouldn’t want to accidentally send a sultry image to their boss or have your sexy face pop up on their computer during a presentation).

  1. Learn how to Argue Constructively

Like any relationship, clashes and disagreement happen from time to time. It feels almost artificial to follow what the books say and start an argument calmly with “I feel that…” and “How can we approach this together”.  Take away the face-to-face aspect of the argument and there can be even more room for miscommunication and conflicts. There is nothing wrong with allowing yourselves to have a heated dispute at first, where you throw random arguments at each other and even bring up stupid things from the past (like when they said they would be home at a certain time and strolled in an hour later without a text… the drama :p. Release that frustration, albeit somewhat incoherently. Once all issues have been thrown on the table, that’s when we can calmly focus on the bigger picture and work through the important ones together (some of them might simply go away once you’ve said them out loud).

  1. It goes both ways

After a rough day, you might feel  that you’re doing a lot staying behind and taking care of the family, while you think your partner is ‘sleeping in’ at the hotel and having a nice dinner, but that is not always the case.  While it can be exciting to visit new locations and network, the demands of being away for an extended period can cause both physical and mental exhaustion. A few days away might feel like a nice break, but all the comfy hotel beds in the world don’t make up for missing out on the everyday things at home. Working away, while the  significant other stays behind, can be stressful and taxing for both parties. It’s not a competition and being part of a team requires a little give and take from everyone.

  1. Make the best of it

At first it didn’t bother me too much that my partner was away a lot. Before we had children, I took advantage of the ‘me-time’, and indulged in ‘girly-my-husband-would-rather-have-a-lobotomy-than-watch-these’ movies as well as meet up with friends. After the arrival of our daughters however, we became a bit more house bound and our priorities changed. Nevertheless, as soon as those monkeys are in their bed, I might grab a glass of red and put on the corniest series I can find (I have no shame in admitting I’m currently hooked on the show ‘Pretty Little Liars’… well maybe a little bit ashamed). It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling a certain void while your partner is away, but making the best of a less favorable situation avoids cutting into your couples-time once they are back. (e.g.: file paperwork, catching up with your own friends, or finally do that ‘extreme Spring clean’ you’ve been planning… even though it’s November).

  1. Perspective

Whenever I do feel a bit down in the dumps because, yet again, my husband gets called away for a few weeks, I try to put things in perspective. I have friends in the military who can be away from their partner and kids for 18 months at a time… looking at it that way, our measly 2-3 weeks feel modest. This does not mean that your situation is irrelevant nor that it feels any better being apart. However, reflecting on others’ situation could bring a certain comfort in knowing you’re not the only one doing this and people are rocking the long distance relationships every day! It does take a village to raise a child, so don’t be afraid to accept outside help where offered and build yourself a little support network.

  1. You’re a rock star!

Maintaining a relationship from a distance (any relationship for that matter) is not always easy and needs us to be bold and to hang in there. It’s for those who are willing to spend a lot of time alone; in exchange for a little time with the ones they love. It’s for recognizing a good thing when they see it, even when they may not see it nearly enough”. I read that once somewhere (thank you random late-night Internet searches whilst hubs is overseas).

Long distance relationships (however short or long) are hard, but they are also incredible. If you can communicate with, love and respect each other from a distance, well then you can knock it out of the park when you’re together!

“Distance gives us a reason to love harder” (Anon).

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“Tongue tied”: When you think you’re fluent in a foreign language and 7 setbacks that show you’re not quite there yet…

As a Flemish-speaking Belgian; who lived half her life speaking English in Australia; and subsequently married a Frenchman and moved to Paris; it’s safe to say that my linguistic skills range from being a fluent smooth talker to stumbling around like a 4 year old (sometimes even changing levels within the same conversation).

When I first met my husband, my high-school French had to suffice, while I took on extra language courses in my quest to become a bona fide ‘française’ (or at the least, sound like one….) Being a native Flemish speaker as well (which is essentially just Dutch, but with a cooler accent, teehee 😉  I honestly thought I was doing a good job.  However, often I’m met with a few setbacks which take me down a peg and remind me that, no matter how fluent I might become, there will always be these hick-ups. This, in turn, damages my confidence at times and makes me feel like I’ll always be the eternal ‘outsider’.

The following setbacks do not necessarily block the communication, but tend to derail the messages I’m trying to get across. These obstacles are not only limited to my time in France but are based on various experiences my family and I have had over the years, all over the world.

1. Vocal cultural contrast 

I don’t know if this is specific to English-speakers, or if I’m just a talker, but I always tend to add a little backstory or example to ‘further explain’ my messages. Even writing this now, I know I’m not making a lot of sense.. so let me add a backstory to clear it up 🙂  For example, when needing to change an appointment; the French simply call… change the date….say goodbye (they are direct, but still have manners).. and hang up. Me, on the other hand, I feel the need to explain why I am changing the appointment. Doing this in my native language, takes a matter of two seconds: “Hi, I need to change the appointment, I have to pick up my child from school earlier than I thought“. However, throw in a second or third language, and that simple explanation turns into a mumble of excuses! “Hi… I need to change my appointment.. the family… my kid is at school… but they can’t be for long.. I have to pick them up..*fumbles with phone’s translation app* ..*groan*”.  Frankly, no one has time for that; and some lose patience;  which gets you even more tongue tied when you hear someone’s annoyed sighing on the other end. Keep it simple… if you stay simple, chances are you’ll be understood better.

2. The ‘direct translation’ catch 

This one has gotten me on numerous occasions… I know that the basic message is usually received when we translate directly from our native language.. however certain misuses of words can often lead to either comical or awkward situations. I once told my mother-in-law I was excited to see my husband again after 3 months… sounds innocent enough right.. but the word ‘excité‘ in French is more commonly used when someone is excited in the .. let’s say.. more ‘romantic’ sense (yes, I mean horny).  I also once told them I lost my mind which, using direct translation, lead them to believe that I had misplaced my brains. My Belgian friends have had a chuckle or two where I’ve thrown in some expressions directly translated from English. My girlfriend was very confused when I randomly started blabbing about pastries when her partner ‘wanted to have it all‘.. in Belgium, it seems, people don’t “have their cake and eat it too“.

3. You’re not funny in another language

There’s nothing worse than trying to fit in with a joke and being the only one left laughing to an awkward silence or the sound of crickets chirping. Unless the joke is a primary school leveled wisecrack, I’d stay away from using witty humor in another language until you’ve mastered it. Like the above two points, a lot of the underlying wit is often misinterpreted or the message is lost in translation. A direct translation can lead to an entirely different joke and don’t forget the cultural differences in what we perceive as ‘funny’. What may be seen as dirty in one language, can be construed as completely vulgar in another. Also, some things are just funnier in one language and not the other (looking at a play of words, colloquial meanings etc) …. well at least you cracked yourself up right?

4. Some people just switch off as soon as they hear an accent

It’s unfortunately true that some people switch off and stop listening as soon as they hear an accent. This does not mean they are completely ignoring you, nor that they are discriminating (calm down), but they only end up hearing what they want to hear and they no longer put in the effort. For me, this happens most frequently when on the phone. At least in person you could charm them with a smile or sad ‘please-I’m-not-fluent-but-I’m-trying’ puppy eyes. In certain cultures, it is also common that someone refuses to tell you they don’t understand you…. a Chinese person will rather send you clear across town before admitting he did not understand your request for directions (then again, by being sent all over the city is how I got to explore the majority of Hong Kong.. brownie points).

5. An attempt to master the accent ends up in a drunken slur

Sometimes we try to master an accent in order to sound more fluent, however we focus less on the grammar and start making mistakes. We often pick up on these mistakes straight away, but instead of changing our accents mid sentence (because we don’t want to sound like an idiot), we end up slurring or mumbling our way out of it. I think it’s better to speak the language correctly, even if our accents are lousy, rather than sound like a fluent, but moronic, native.

As a side note, I would like to include the actual slurring incidents (usually  as a result of one too many beers) where we think we’re a lot more fluent than what we are (we also think we’re better dancers, philosophers and peacekeepers).

6. The nonexistence of certain words

Anyone who speaks more than one language is familiar with the scenario where you know the perfect word or expression to describe your situation, just not in the language you need at the time. A direct translation of such a saying only results in confusing the person even more. Just like having ‘chickenskin’ (‘kippenvel’ in Dutch) is not the right way to describe goosebumps, neither is ‘becoming a goat’ (devenir chêvre’ in French ) to tell people you’re being driven mad by all the language jumbles. We,multilingual speakers, would kick ass at scrabble if we could just mix and match the languages we know.

7. Language fusion 

Any multilingual family can relate with the vast mixing pot of languages we deal with on a daily basis. Because we all speak the different languages together, often our sentences can start in one language and finish in the other (heck, let’s add a third one in the middle, just for shits and giggles – another expression badly translated by the way). We do it with such speed and accuracy that we don’t even notice the difference.

Fast forward to when you’re speaking with someone who is not part of that same family and you’ve got yourself a very confused listener. Just like our 3 year old, who is currently speaking in three languages… often in the same sentence (seriously, the teachers at her kindergarten have no idea what she’s talking about), I’m often throwing in a word in English hoping no one will notice and think I’m super fluent and oh so funny hahahaaa.. Nevertheless, unlike my 3 year old who will grow out of it soon and master her linguistics, I’ll need some more practice…..

The idea that the world of each language is divided into two groups: “fluent” and “non-fluent” is not realistic . Language is a living thing; it always happens within a certain context and every scenario is different for everyone. Fluency is not purely linguistic but involves non-verbal communication as well . Written fluency won’t help you to understand the meaning of a nod or a gesture. I think that’s why children (well.. children and drunk people) can communicate so well… they focus on what the person is trying to relay rather than how they are saying it.

I know, with time, I’ll hopefully master the French language and walk around like I own the place, but in the meantime I’ll just row my boat on the ‘fluent enough’ plateau and go from there..

I hope some of you could relate, and you’re welcome to share your funny ‘lost in translation’ moments in the comments below for us to have a shared chuckle..

In the meantime I bid you ‘adieu’ with ‘nog een prettige dag verder’ or ‘une bonne journée’

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“When we try our hardest not to be a f°ker, but we end up being a bigger f°ker just to outf°k the f°ckers”: Can’t we all just get along?

After a recent rage induced build up, resulting in my first public argument with a total stranger, I got to thinking why the number of ‘assholes’ seems to have increased in our society over the last few years? Have they always been there? Am I just more susceptible to them now? Or worse even.. am I an asshole myself?

I did a little brainstorming session on the possible causes responsible for “assehole-itis” (which funnily enough is actually a term already defined on the internet).

1. Delusional Anonymity

Because the world is becoming vastly overpopulated, it’s only natural we’re running out of space. The morning rush on public transport with a sea of nameless faces, endless traffic jams and access to the Internet behind a hidden desk; all provide us with this false sense of anonymity. We can pretty much do what we want and no-one knows who we are or where they can find us, which in turn could lead us to forget about the consequences of our own crappy behaviors. You see, “we try our hardest not to be a fucker, but people we deal with everyday are fuckers, so we become a bigger fucker, just to outfuck the fuckers” . I read that somewhere a while back, I couldn’t tell you the original author, but they were spot on! I think most of us do try to be the best we can be, but even the best intentions have their limits.

Treatment for this does not require taking drastic measures, like hugging random strangers out of the blue, but rather starting with the basics, like the common smile. When making eye contact with someone, a smile goes a long way (please note: this can be brief and minimal – staring with an overbearing grin for longer than 4 seconds will most likely result in the person freaking out a bit and probably changing seats). If you accidentally bump into someone,that’s okay, sh*t happens, but excuse yourself and continue on your busy day.

When in the car, I know- I for one- have a very short fuse.. It drives me crazy when people don’t indicate, drive careless and don’t even get me started on what I think of texting and driving (idiots). It would be unrealistic to expect we all drive like saints following the speed limit to the dot with our hands on the 10 and 2 position at the wheel…and yes, it becomes a bit of an ‘eat or be eaten’ mentality on the road at times, but just be careful. It goes without saying that if your driving also puts others at significant risk, you’re not considering the consequences (and if you do think about the consequences but still don’t care, well then my friend, you’re an asshole).

2. Social Media overload 

It’s true that social media networks have given every man and his dog a platform to share their ideas. I remember the days where our news feeds were flooded with people’s lunches, holiday pics and baby/pet gushers… but lately the majority of posts seem to comprise more opinion pieces, scary documentaries and 500 different ways on how I will get cancer from pretty much anything I eat…. Don’t get me wrong, I fully support the right for absolutely anyone to share their opinions and info (our differences is what makes us such a dynamic bunch!). However, when social media is no longer based on sharing information but rather aiming towards judging others for not thinking the same and downright spreading the hatred, that’s another story (I’m looking at you, Donald Trump). This isn’t just limited to the big guns like politics and religion though, as people are becoming more and more divided on daily topics (what we eat, marriage equality, how we parent, the things we watch on TV, the fact we even watch TV at all, etc)

Since when did it become an intolerant “us vs them” mentality as opposed to the less aggressive “let’s agree to disagree” attitude? I’m not suggesting we all go hug a tree together, but unless someone’s opinion or actions are directly affecting your life in a negative way, do we really need to break each other down the way we do and create even more hatred in an already pissed-off society?

3. Seasonal Affective Disorder 

This is an actual mood disorder that affects an individual the same time each year, usually starting when the weather becomes colder, and ends when the weather becomes warmer. People with SAD feel depressed during the shorter days of winter, and more cheerful and energetic during the brightness of spring and summer. It seems to be related more to daylight rather than temperature.  That being said, of course, not every Grouchy Marx in winter is diagnosed with this disorder, but I have noticed a difference in behaviors during the colder seasons (especially on the train where people are sweaty from their thick coats and pressed together like sardines).

For those who truly struggle with this, treatments such as light therapy and medication (for more severe cases) are available. For the rest of us who are just grumpier in winter, we need to acknowledge that it’s not our neighbor’s fault that it rained last night nor can the woman on the bus help it that you slipped on that patch of ice earlier (unless she pushed you, then well..).

4. The Departure of Basic Etiquette 

Gone are the days of curtsying, bowing and throwing your coat over a puddle. But it seems that basic etiquette rules have reduced (and a few disappeared all together) for some people. Again, this doesn’t have to go to the extreme case of shaking everyone’s hand in the store and striking up a conversation, but knowing a few basic terms will help us go a long way and not shit on anyone’s day. Words such as “hello”, “thank you”, “you’re welcome” and “goodbye” are still in today’s dictionary… let’s use them more often.

I stopped counting the times where I’ve seen people buy something at the store without eye contact or any form of acknowledgement of the seller, or where strangers tell another stranger to ‘fuck off’ merely because they were standing in their way, and many more examples come to mind.

It’s okay to not be the friendliest, most social person in the world… just don’t be a dick.

5. Someone else’s story 

Of course, anonymous-fast and the furious-Facebook-users standing in the cold, are not the only ones that can act out and behave like an a-hole. We don’t know everyone’s backstory and you could be having the worst day of your life, with someone else’s feelings being the last thing on your mind. But be mindful, that this goes both ways..

Just be kind to people, always, as everyone is battling their own demons that we know nothing about…

The last thing I want, is to encourage a divided society of thin skinned wieners who get offended at the slightest hint of conflict. We can of course still clash with each and show our annoyance at others…we can be angry, grumpy, and downright moody when we need to.. but there are many ways we can do so, and being an asshole is just not a very productive one.

Disagree, just don’t be disagreeable…

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“Workin’ hard for the mommy”: I chose to bench my career for family

Just like wanting the ability to eat what I want and not gain weight.. (which sadly was no longer an option once I hit 25.. *pff*)  my need to ‘have it all’ did not stay limited to my love for peanut butter M&M’s and party snacks…

When I first started my career, fresh out of university, I was a doe-eyed optimist with a Psychology degree under her belt, ready to dive into the workforce….and boy, did I dive in! I launched my career working for children services, which opened my eyes rather quickly to all the darkness that’s out there. That being said, it became clear that I had a knack for working in the field of psychological trauma, where I could not always prevent the trauma, but made darn well sure that I was there to help survive it! It was not long before I started to live and breathe the job, just like my colleagues in the field did. After a few years of working close to 12 hour days in high risk situations and court deadlines, I decided to take it down a notch and move into private practice where I could focus more on the psychological process rather than the initial intervention. I loved my job and everything it stood for .. the only people I had to look out for was me and my dog (yes, he counts as a person). And then, another many years later… I met a boy.. (*blush*)

Being a French expat in Australia, I knew my partner would not be around forever, but that didn’t stop us from falling in love (*nawww*) and a year and a half later I followed him back to Europe. As my parents were expats (we’re originally Belgian), I had lived in various countries before, so the idea of moving away did not scare me as such. I had finally found someone I wanted to actually commit to and although some interpreted my move as ‘throwing away my career’, I saw it as a great opportunity to learn more (and be with the one I loved.. you know…. ‘having it all)…and of course the dog came along as well…

Fast forward another 3 years, when we welcomed our eldest baby girl, and life truly changed for both of us. We were living in Hong Kong and, given the situation, I was able to stay home for a year and raise our daughter. Now, I had worked in trauma, interviewed sex offenders and dealt with pedophiles… and yet that year, being a stay-at-home-mom, was one of the more challenging years I had had in a long time (not that there’s really a comparison..but you see what I’m trying to relay here..) I had never experienced this feeling of being so busy; you didn’t have time for anything, yet feeling so bored at the same time; before. I felt like I couldn’t identify as anything else but ‘a mom’ and although I poured my heart and soul into this gorgeous little monkey, I didn’t feel like I was making a difference in the world anymore. Please don’t get me wrong, being a stay-at-home-parent is a full time and admirable job and for those doing it every day, you’re bloody amazing and my hat goes off to you ! This is merely a depiction of what I was feeling at the time and the internal struggle I myself felt, missing my career and trying to find my place again. I like working, having a routine and feeling like I’m going to be a productive member of society for the day.

I expected life to change when I chose to follow my husband overseas, and I felt nothing but excitement. I expected life to change when we started having kids, and I felt nothing but love… some fatigue… a bi-it of nausea… but mostly, love.

But what I didn’t expect was the feeling of guilt when I decided to give up some of that precious time with my child and go back to work, paired with the resentment I felt every time I lugged a big laundry basket down the stairs. I wanted the best of both worlds, but that was just no longer an option. I made the choice to shelf my career for the time being,  working in a less stressful job with fewer hours. Coming to terms with these new priorities in our lives still created the occasional internal battle but as I would’t give up one for the other, I had to find a middle ground.

The reason for this post, is because we just welcomed our second little monkey into the world.  I spent the last 3 months living in a blissful cocoon, sniffing my baby’s hair and what not, but the reality of postponing my career for that while longer, has come and hit me all over again…

I’m not the only parent going through this and after speaking with a number of people in similar situations, I decided to share a summary of useful tidbits that are helping me along the way and that may be useful to others as well.

1. Drop the guilt-trip

There is absolutely nobody, other than yourself, judging you for giving up on the work you were doing in order to put your family’s priorities first. You didn’t fail because you’re holding a degree you’re not using nor did you waste the last 10 years to just be a house wife/husband (what we do before molds us in who we become today, that doesn’t change no matter where our paths take us). We are our own harshest critics. Those who do judge, don’t know your story and therefore don’t deserve your guilt either.

2. You can’t have your cake and eat it too… *mmm cake*

I know many couples where both the parents have a successful and driven career whilst raising beautiful and happy children… it is possible yes! Having a career does not mean you make unhappy babies…..far from it… but it’s only realistic to say that one does impact on the other (and like a scale, the balance changes from day to day).  That doesn’t mean it can’t be great.. we just can’t have it all. The sooner we drop that expectation, the sooner we can jump on the seesaw and just go where gravity takes us and balance as best as we can.

3. It’s okay to feel resentful once in a while, just don’t drown in it

There’s nothing wrong in feeling that bit of bitterness from time to time.. I sporadically have pangs of jealousy when seeing my single friends and reminiscing of the times where we went to dinner any night we wanted and going for an after-work beer was a spontaneous choice rather than a well-planned-out operation. But then I come home to my kid picking her nose and licking the window while the other one is laughing hysterically at her feet .. and as much as I loved that family-free, social time in the past.. I wouldn’t want it any other way now. I think we all look back at certain moments in our past with much fondness, but that doesn’t mean we want to be right back there either.. And of course, having kids does not mean you become a total shut-in.. that too, is a choice..(one, I know, I personally need to put more effort in).

4. Sacrifice is a team effort

My husband and I chose to rank our jobs and made the conscious decision which one to prioritize (future opportunities, financial input, location etc). Safe to say it was a no-brainer that we would follow his career and I would put mine on hold for the time being. But a decision like that is made together, and there is not one party sacrificing more than the other. As a couple,the most important aspect for us is to remain part of a team and where I have given up certain things for him, he has most certainly given up things for me as well. I know, at times, because I was no longer the main breadwinner, I felt like I didn’t contribute as much as my husband did,  which clouded my view and often would be the basis for arguments. Not once has my adorable Frenchman made me feel like I’m not contributing, and it was, yet again, my own inside voice that put me down more than anything. I know my partner fully supports me when I decide to jump back in the saddle… no one needs to be the martyr.

To be honest, once the kids are at a school age, I don’t know if I’ll fully get back to the career I had before. But what I do know is that I wouldn’t trade my life nor my little family for anything, not even a job. (Unless I become ‘George Clooney’s personal body lotion application executive’.. then they’re on their own)

In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy these little rugrats and the bearded lover who is the absolute cheese to my macaroni, and be grateful for all that I have.. I might not have it all.. but it’s more than I need and for that I feel like the luckiest one.

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Parenting Wars: Bringing Balance to the Force..

Episode II

“It is a period of subliminal unrest. Online forums, striking from a hidden base, have won their first battle in spreading insecurity within the Parenting Galaxy. During the clashes, parenting styles were dissected and misinformation lead to judgement and ridicule .The Internet, an armored entity with enough power to destroy an entire mindset, left parents confused and turning against each other. 

Joining the battle in keeping the peace, Stef attempts to write a blog, with the help of Yoda, to try and aid her people and restore freedom of choice to the galaxy…” 

I always sensed it.. I had heard stories.. but I was never confronted with the force until I became a parent myself. I’m most certainly not the first, and definitely will not the last, to write a post on the ongoing tension between parents and the different parenting styles out there, but I wanted to throw my perception on the topic in the mix as well… trying to channel the great Master Yoda.. yoda-photo-drawing

(Note: before you have me committed to the psych ward, I am fully aware Yoda is a fictional character created by George Lucas in the Star Wars Space Opera franchise and therefore not real..)

1. No true parenting style, there is ..

There is no such thing as the one and only, perfect parenting style. There’s already enough conflict around the religions people practice and the political parties they vote for, and don’t even get me started on the ‘tight are not pants’ or ‘is the dress blue or yellow debate’! Why should we add more stress and fight over the best way to raise our child? “There is no such thing as a perfect parent, so just be a real one” – (S. Atkins.)

2. “Many of the truths that we cling to depend on our point of view” 

There is absolutely nothing wrong with disagreeing with a particular parenting style. But before you go and condemn someone and call them a ‘hippie’ for practicing attachment parenting or mumbling ‘nazi’ as an authoritarian parent disciplines their child, educate yourself on what is out there. I believe there is not one true solution to each problem. Every parent and every child is different and what may work wonders for one, does nothing for the other. When you don’t understand someone’s reasoning, try and see it from their point of view (that does not mean you have to agree or understand it.. but just to respect it..)

3. To only one style, limit yourself, you should not..

I’m a very indecisive person at best, picking a restaurant with me can be an absolute nightmare! I’ll be craving pizza with just a side of sushi but really that Indian place has the best Naan… So it was no surprise that when it came to parenting, I could not make up my mind on which style to follow and implement. I like the idea of giving my children choices and trying to negotiate with them on certain topics, but then again I am also a very firm believer in having boundaries and routines to guide them. I don’t believe in physical punishment, but have no problem putting my 3 year old in the corner as she calms down from what I can only describe as a satanic episode. I want my child to explore the world around them, but often I also have to say the word ‘no’ (quite often actually). I don’t believe the child needs to adjust to the parents’ schedule or vice versa for that matter. I think both parties need to compromise and the family works together as a unit to try and have a happy, balanced life for everyone. Children need affection, love and attention.. no doubt.. but sometimes mommy also needs 20 minutes and that glass of wine..

4. “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering” 

(yes, I’m channeling Star Wars in case we hadn’t picked up on that yet). 😉   In today’s society where the internet bombards us with factual and fictional information, we are torn between what we truly believe works for us and what we fear others will think of that (and I’m not only talking about parenting here).  Rather than being proud of the way we parent, we often feel as if we have to justify why we do things a certain way. This underlying defensiveness blocks us from sharing experiences with each other and learning from others. Rather than passing on what we have learned, we hold back out of fear of sounding judgmental and minding our own business. There is nothing wrong in sharing what we know.. as long as we do it with respect and not through judgement.

5. “A Jedi uses the force for knowledge and defense. Never for attack”

Elaborating on the above point of sharing information with each other… share it to do good, not to judge or attack. If a parent is struggling, positive comments such as “what worked for us was…”, “you’re doing great, have you tried….?”, “We’ve been there..” etc can be useful and comforting. Comments that focus on attacking someone’s parenting only encourages the divide that is already there. An example that comes to mind is when I heard someone tell my attachment-parenting friend that the reason they weren’t sleeping well with their 2 month old was because co-sleeping is not the way to go….*pause* you see, to me the reason they weren’t sleeping well is because… ding ding ding… they have a 2 month old!?! I don’t co-sleep myself because it’s not for my husband and I, but I have many friends who do with perfectly happy kiddos and it works just fine for them.. so no dramas here if you ask me.  Don’t get upset if someone does not take your advise, don’t take it personal if your advise did not work for them and if you have one of those  mythical ‘Oh-my-child-never-does-*insert negative behavior*’ children.. that’s amazing news… keep it to yourself.

 

6. “Truly wonderful the mind of a child is”

I think the most important thing that should be present in every parenting, is the love and respect for our children. At the end of the day, the way we parent directly affects our children.. we’re going to screw them up no matter how we go about it, so we might as well focus on what works best for us and them, as long as they know they are loved and protected and pass on the same courtesy to others.

7. Reckless you be, matters get worse 

As much as I support and preach the need to be open minded and respect other’s decisions, it goes without saying that this too falls within reason!  There is no condoning child abuse or recklessness where a child is placed at direct risk of harm. Everyone has their own rating scale of what they consider to be reckless and harmful, and that unfortunately I cannot change, so I’m basing this on my own experiences as a child psychologist and former child safety officer. From where I stand, if you physically harm your child (I’m not talking a spanking here or a tap on the hands, I’m talking abuse) you are wrong. If you demean your child and emotionally batter them (I’m not talking about raising your voice or getting angry, I’m talking abuse) you are wrong. Then there are the grey areas that are not necessarily illegal… I must admit, if you choose to not vaccinate your child with the basics or let your child die because you do not believe in blood transfusions or modern medicine.. I find it very hard to understand and respect that decision, and for that I’m sorry.

8. A parent, you must not necessarily be, to support 

You don’t have to be a parent in order to help someone or give advice on parenting. There is also no parenting level of who knows it better depending on how many children one has or how old they are. You don’t ‘level up’ every time you have a child… Everyone has their own experiences and many of these can be second hand and just as valuable. It does take a village to raise a child and the more we know, the more we have to work with..

9.” Do or do not, there is no try “

Just dive in… sink or swim. Parenting is all about figuring out what works best and going with the flow (or sometimes being swallowed and dragged down the stream by the flow). Nobody knows it all.. although some may claim they do, and sadly they will never find out that they don’t. Just do the absolute best that you can..

10. Your example, your child follow, it will 

At the end of the day, let’s just focus on raising children that are tolerant of others (even when those others are different), that love one another (even when the others are being a butt) and that have the confidence to live in a society where we all just live our lives the best way we can.. together. In other words.. don’t be a dick and your child will follow by example…

As usual I haven’t written anything new here but I do hope I managed to share some of the love and show other parents out there that we’re not at war.. we’re raising the new generation, with all it’s beautiful variety (warts and everything) as we aim for our children to have a great life.. and there’s many different ways to give that to them

wars

 

 

 

Three’s Company after kids…(my dog’s first blog post)

Not many can say they actually remember their parents bringing them home for the first time .. but I remember it as if it were yesterday… or was it in fact yesterday? (I don’t know, I’m not very good at estimating time).  My mother fell in love with me from the moment she saw me.. she said she had been waiting for me for a long time… and those first few moment were all a blur of cuddles where she wrapped me warm in my blanket, held me securely when seeing the doctor for my shot and everyone ooh and aah’ed when they saw me… I had landed in paradise. (That’s until a few months later when she had the doctor remove my balls…not cool dude.)  Maybe now is also the best time to mention that I am in fact her “canine, life companion” Ed (short for Edward)… also known as ‘the dog’ but that seems like such a derogatory term don’t you think?  (*scoffs….bends down and licks own butt hole*)

The first 10 years of my life (or at least I think there were 10, who knows really… for all I know I was already 70, ha!) I was the king of the castle.. Everywhere we lived we had a garden where I could bury my bones, forget where I buried them, and then have my mom buy me new ones to bury all over again! I got a cheeseburger on my birthdays (*wags tale*), endless cuddles and long walks along the beach and river. After she met dad, we moved to new countries, with new parks to explore… I had them, and everyone around them, wrapped around my adorable chunky paw.  I knew it.they knew it. and life, my friend, was grand!

After some time, I noticed mom was more emotional than usual and standing a lot in front of an open fridge just eating anything and crying a lot (and I mean anything…. dude, coming from a dog.. you can imagine it wasn’t always a pretty picture). I don’t know why, but I had a strong need to protect her even more from the many dangers of the world such as loud noises, other dogs and random bursts of wind. Dad was also acting different around her and I admired him for remaining a gentleman and not saying anything when she got fat… Then one day, she packed a bag, gave me a kiss and took off. She had gone on holidays before, but had always taken me with her, so I was quite surprised when dad came back home the next day without her. He didn’t stay long before he took off again… and when, later that day, he came back home he shoved a dirty old diaper all up in MY FACE!! *** A stinky, dirty, DIAPER,man!! I mean what the f*k was THAT for !?!   He mumbled something about ‘getting used to her scent’.. who the frick is ‘her’ and why did I need to smell her nasty leftovers ?!!! I was royally confused…. but..then they brought ‘it’ home…..

Its name was Charlotte, and the same thing was happening as when they first brought me home… cuddles, cooing and blankets (although I didn’t see them take her balls when she was 3 months old, but whatever.) She was so annoying!!  Yes also adorable, smiley and kinda funny.. but mostly annoying. She took up all of their time, our walks ended up me pulling my parents around like zombies and suddenly I wasn’t the one sleeping in between them on Sunday mornings anymore, but I was sent to the foot of the bed..(*pause for dramatic silence*) really…the foot of the damn bed..like a SERVANT!

I was ready to pack up my bowls and leave for better pastures, but then she kinda grew on me. She learnt how to throw a ball (BALL!!) and quickly figured out I would eat literally anything she would pass me under the table.. so I stayed… and I fell in lo…ahum ..started to tolerate her more…the kid was alright.

Another few years passed (or 20, who knows..) and our small little family was doing great. We had moved back to dad’s homeland and they even took me to go see the Eiffel tower and some new parks (more statues in these ones, but hey… grass is grass and I peed anyway.. French style).

Then, not so long ago, mom was getting all teared up again for no reason… she started getting fatter and gassy. At first I thought it was all the cheese, but when I saw them grab Charlotte’s old clothes out of a box, I felt it… a familiar panic .. the flashbacks of dirty diapers being shoved in my face came rushing back, and I knew it… Oh Dear Dog Lord, there’s another one !!!

And sure as sniffing another’s butt-hole, a few months later, there it was… a second Charlotte (but this one they called Mathilde.. beats me as to why they needed a different name .. still looks like a potato to me.. just like the first one did). So again we have begun the ritual of having zombie-like parents and taking shorter walks. Suddenly me being all winy, needy and running in their way isn’t adorable anymore. I mean come on, I run in front of your feet, you almost trip holding the baby.. but then you don’t…and we all have a laugh..?!  .. no? Needless to say, I had already lost some of my royal power when Charlotte came along, but now with this new one it’s like I’m ‘just the dog’ or something !!

I tried to show my parents my distaste with the new roommate situation many different ways… First I started by staring intensely at them for minutes at a time but not telling them what was wrong …I also did this in the middle of the night.. in the dark (you know, for extra dramatic effect). That only freaked them out so then I started to place myself in their way as they were doing housework (laying in the kitchen when dinner was being cooked, blocking the toilet door when someone was in there and asking to go outside..then inside again..then outside again..). When that didn’t work, I started to become needy but I would refuse their hugs when they offered them to me… I sure was showing them, ha!

Then one day, my mother did something I never thought she could do.. she broke my heart…. (*whimper puppy eyes*). While the toddler was making an awesome castle out of her dinner and the baby was crying loudly cheering her on.. I decided to whine a bit more and steal some of the food that was lying on the table.I mean no-one was eating it and everyone seemed so excited about all the mashed potatoes being sprayed around the room. But then my mom suddenly got so angry with me and sent me to my bed. I refused to go and then I heard her say it … sure, she mumbled it… (I’m a dog.. I can’t tell time for sh*t, but I can hear you from a mile away)… I heard her say “Sometimes I think it would be easier if you’re no longer around Ed“. I know I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, I am old , forget how to use the stairs sometimes and have trouble controlling my anus..(*prrt*) but that hurt, man..

I think she felt the same though, cause shortly after this stab to the heart, she hugged me like she hadn’t hugged me in a long time and cried “I’m so sorry Eddie” … first I panicked and thought she was pregnant again, but I quickly realized she just felt bad.. the woman still loves me (*wags tail*).

Since then, we have been cuddling more.. She is trying to be more patient and I try not to trip her on the stairs as much.. and when the two potatoes ..ugh..I mean ‘adorable children’ (*rolls eyes*) are being a handful, I try to give her some space to deal with them… then I winge some more  😉

I’ll never make peace with the fact that I am now ‘just the dog’.. I was a damn king. My days of eating off the same fork and sharing the bed are over, but I know she still loves me very much. She still picks up my poop.. with her hands… and you just don’t do that if you don’t love…

I’m sure the second one will grow on me as well and the silver lining here is that, soon, I will have two little hands sneaking me cookies under the table… bon appétit!

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“Please”, “Merci” en “Dank u wel”: Raising our Child in Three Languages- our seven cents worth..

There once was a Belgian/Australian lady with an Aussie dog who met a French/handsome man in the land Down Under. After travelling some time across the world for work, they settled back in Paris and now have two perfect little, curly-haired blends of all of the above. Safe to say we have our own little mixing pot of various cultural habits, culinary discoveries, and most importantly all the languages that come with being a multi-national family.

Before our girls were even conceived, we had made the conscious decision that we would be raising our future children in the three languages we ourselves grew up with: French, English and Flemish (which essentially is Dutch but with a way cooler accent 😉 hihi – says the person from Belgium.

Raised as a multi-lingual child myself, and living among expats for most of our lives, we knew that such a task would come with its own challenges (besides the techniques taught to us by the literature surrounding this topic). We’ve got a long road ahead of us still, but thought to share with you seven truths we have learnt so far:

1. Raising a multi-lingual child will not confuse them.

Despite what some people believe, having a child learn multiple languages from day 1 is not as difficult as it would be for an older child or adult. Their little brains are sponges who will soak up any information they can and will put it into place later. Keep filling that sponge – but be as consistent as possible.

2. Consistency is key

It’s important to remain consistent. No language is ever learnt by throwing around random words without a clear context or setting. As we are raising our little poop machines in the three languages, we have mom who speaks to her in Flemish, dad in French and English is spoken when we’re all together as well as in the cartoons they see on Netflix (yes, we’re those kind of parents who let their children watch TV…. a lot… for shame!)

3. People will have an opinion about your parenting, regardless of what you say or do

I must admit, a cocky part of myself thought people would react quite well to the fact we are raising our child in a multilingual setting. So it came to a bit of a surprise that quite a lot of reactions leaned towards the negative or even critical side… Comments such as ‘it will only confuse them’..’they will loose their French (*we live in Paris)’.. ‘I would not put that pressure on my child’ .. and ‘who needs Flemish anyway’ are among my top favorite ones. At the end of the day, people are crappy and will have something to say about your parenting no matter what you do or don’t do.. so let them criticize away as your child learns how to say ‘mind your own business’ in three different languages.

4. Lost in translation

As most multilingual families/couples know, a lot of arguments can blow up with a simple mistranslated sentence or saying… some can turn out quite comical where others have you turning on each other like a couple of stray cats. Always communicate with each other and your children, and identify where the confusion lies so we learn from our mistakes. For example, ‘What ya doin’? in English does not correspond well with its direct translation of ‘Tu fais quoi?’ in French. On the contrary…. saying it like that sounds more like ‘what the bloody hell do you think you’re doing there mate!’ (we learnt that one in the car!)

5. Don’t underestimate the power of cartoons!

As I mentioned before, our children do watch TV daily, and before you put on your ‘judge-y’ pants, all their programs include age appropriate and educational cartoons. They do not watch Game of Thrones with us nor do they become violent as a result of over stimulation to movement and colors. In fact, our eldest learnt (when she was 2) to count to 10 with ‘Curious George’, the names of all the playground equipment with ‘Peppa Pig’ and experienced the joys of completing a task with ‘Dora the Explorer’. I most certainly am not promoting our children sit in front of the tube all the livelong day without any other activities, but don’t worry too much if some days that TV has been on longer than others.. they’ll be fine.

6. Some delay in speaking can be expected

A lot of children speaking more than one language, may mix up some of the words a little as they start forming full sentences.  Yes, compared to little Johnny from next door, they may not be reciting their favorite poem just yet or they tend to sound like a UN translator after a few drinks as they mix up their languages… but give them a few extra months to get the hang of it and they’ll be able to tell you all about their day in more language than one. If anything, the initial mixing of languages can be quite adorable at times!

7. Your child is not better than any other

There are of course some parents who act as if their multilingual child is far more advanced than any other child who can’t ask for their blanky in Latin or what have you… Every single child has its own strengths and weaknesses and where your child might excel in one area, another trumps them in another field. It’s not a competition (contrary to what most of us experience) and our little monsters are all geniuses in their own way!

None of this information is new and I’m sure most of you have far more experience to back up the above points.. I wanted to share what we’ve known so far and encourage those multilingual parents who may have had doubts before to keep on going !!

In my opinion, if you can raise your child with more than one language,  it’s nothing but a gift you can give them ……

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