Coming to Italy, I fell into a job opportunity I just couldn't pass up-- teaching English to preschoolers. It's the dream job! I spend 3 mornings a week playing with kids, and then get to spend the entire afternoon at home with MY kid. Who could ask for anything more?
Today, I hit the one-week mark at my new job, and I realized something... Talking and playing with these little ones, I kept having flashbacks to my days as a high school teacher. Because KIDS ARE KIDS! It doesn't matter if they're 2 or 12! They're all kids!
Now, I know this is not a "new" thing, but it's just so interesting to actually see first hand.
Take this little boy today, for example. Every time I asked the class to repeat a word in English or sing a song in English, he refused to open his mouth or participate in any way. I could barely even get him to crack a smile. And believe me! If you've never seen a pregnant woman singing HEAD, SHOULDERS, KNEES, AND TOES at warp speed, well - it at least deserves a smirk.
Later on I asked him why. His answer: "Because I don't know English." Suddenly light bulbs flashed! Alarms blared! How many times had I seen high school students completely closed up, acting as intimidating as possible, simply because they didn't have the confidence they needed to try?
So I did what I tried to do with those high school kids- I got to know him a little. For him, that meant playing cars. We built a train track. He told me about all the parts of a fire truck (a very difficult conversation for me in Italian!) And while played, we chatted about our families, and his likes and dislikes. It was fun! By the end of "free play", we were buddies.
But here's the miraculous part. Later that day, we were singing another of our English songs and -- cue the fireworks-- that little boy moved his lips!
Now I realize, little kids warm up much more quickly than the older ones, and normally, "playing cars" wouldn't work on a teen. Yada, yada, yada. But the point is, all those same root emotions of fear and embarrassment are exactly the same. And that, to me, is amazing!
Because kids are kids -- and kids are fantastic!
If you have children, you'll understand. There are some moments when your child does something -- reaches a milestone, overcomes a fear, goes pee-pee in the potty for the very first time-- that just leave you breathless.
The sweetest of these moments are the ones that are uniquely "your child". You know, something that only feels worthy of celebration to YOU, because you understand how much your child had struggled in the first place. Maybe he jumped OVER a stick, when his feet had never before fully made it off the ground. Or she FINALLY tried her loathed peas after you sang the Daniel Tiger Song "You've gotta try new food..." a bazillion times. Other moms might sneer and wonder, "Why is she celebrating?" while you're jumping up and down with snot running down your face.
Well, I had one of those moments yesterday. No one else may "get it", but that doesn't make it any less amazing in my eyes.
But first, a little back story.
My daughter is being brought up in a bilingual. I speak English to her, while my husband speaks Italian. And despite the fact we lived the first three years of her life in California, my husband has ALWAYS spoken ONLY Italian to her. Bravo, Papa! Unfortunately, listening to my daughter jabber away in English you'd never know it.
Now my daughter "knows" Italian --she understands practically every word-- but she will typically with respond with only two: si or no.
Moving to Italy, I knew this would change. Surrounded by Italian 24/7, it would HAVE to. But as a mom I worried, would she start speaking quickly enough? Will she be able to make friends? Will she understand and be able to communicate with her teachers? Will she fall behind? On and on and on!
However, the other day, I had one of those "proud-mom moments." After only 2 full weeks here in Italy, my daughter did something amazing! She switched from the singular to the plural in Italian for the first time EVER!!!! And this, my friends, is not as easy as simply adding an 's'.
Un cerotto = i cerotti!
A band-aid = bandaids!
It happened in a flash. I almost missed it... but, thank goodness, I didn't. And hearing her sweet little 3 year-old voice, say "cerotti" suddenly erased those motherly worries - at least some of them. I had to hold back the tears of joy.
With one word, I realized, my daughter is going to be ok. WE'RE going to be ok. Because now she knows how to make a band-aid into band-aids. And that's huge!