For the many awkward moments when I wish my trilingual daughter knew English a little better (when somebody asks her a complicated question in English that she doesn’t understand like “Did you help your mom pick out those peppers today?”), there are more moments when I praise God that the other people around us do not know what we’re talking about. Corralling young children can be a messy business, and it helps to be able to keep our business to ourselves.
I actually think I am a better parent knowing I won’t be judged by the others around me, except for that time at Target my two Little Sprouts were trying to outdo each other in the volume of their shouts of “kaka.”
7. The how-to-ask-nicely conversation
This morning we were at the park and T-Sprout started yelling at me from the swing, “Higher! Higher! Higher!” My answer of, “I don’t understand you,” was enough to elicit “please, please, please,” to the tempo of the swing.
6. The how-you’re-expected-to-behave conversation
It took me a few years to figure this out, but it still works every time. If we have a discussion in advance about her behavior, she acts as perfectly as a princess of the realm.
My favorite use of this is when we go someplace fun and I anticipate a problem leaving.
Mama Sprout: “When I say it’s time to leave, what happens?”
T-Sprout: “I come when you first ask me to.”
5. Bribes and Promises
Sometimes when T-Sprout is misbehaving it helps to abruptly change the conversation topic.
“Oh! Do you remember what we bought from the store yesterday that’s yummy? That’s right! Chocolate chips, and what can we make with chocolate chips? Yeah! But only good little girls can have that, so you can’t bite your sister again…”
4. Explanations of other people’s unusualness
I have pleasantly been able to explain, thankfully in another language, why a man’s beard goes down to his belly, that that lady is not pregnant, why those kids have blue hair, and yes that person’s old but that doesn’t mean he’s going to die soon.
3. Discipline and Threats
From promising to take away her favorite princess underpants to mentioning the dreaded wooden spoon (she’s had one encounter so far, don’t judge), threats are much better made in another language. Instead of the judging stares I imagine I’d get if we were speaking English, I see nods of approval from people seeing my sternness and assuming I am adhering to the social standards of discipline.
It’s also nice to say, “I’m going to start counting to three and then you’d better watch out because XYZ will be the consequence,” with those around me having no idea I’m disciplining. After one of my count to three episodes I’ve had a lady come up to me to say that it’s so nice that I’m teaching my kids my language.
2. “We don’t have the money for that.”
I don’t know why I don’t want the good people at Target to know I’m telling my daughter we can’t afford the cheap plastic thing that’s in the dollar section, but for some reason I feel better doing it not in English. Warding off the gimme’s is so much easier in another language.
The line has been so effective to this point that sometimes when she shows me something and I tell her we’re not buying that now, she asks, “ because we don’t have the money for it?”
Yes, dear, that’s exactly why we’re not buying the 3-dollar 10-pack of glittery princess tiaras.
1. “Don’t touch yourself there, it’s not polite.”
Actual conversation last spring:
Mama Sprout: “Honey, do you have to go to the bathroom?”
T-Sprout: “No, I’m just getting my underwear out.”
Fair enough, it happens to the best of us.
Although I didn’t know what to think when she randomly came up to me one day and said, “Cinderella doesn’t touch herself there.”
Darn tootin’ she doesn’t.