Although I entered my thirties with trepidation, it turned out getting older has its perks, beyond just reevaluating dating and career decisions and no longer being carded at grocery stores.
1. Picking Battles
The human brain keeps developing through adolescence and into our twenties, changing the way we react overtime. It’s not uncommon in our teens and twenties to blow up at the slightest emotional provocation and then regret it (so-called amygdala hijack).
I’ve certainly mellowed out in my thirties. For example, the other day, my neighbor who likes to wear a Make America Great Again hat and a t-shirt emblazoned with “U.S. Border Patrol,” left a note on my car threatening to tow it, because it was parked near his house. I took a deep breath and knocked on his door, my two children in tow. “Hello, neighbor,” I said, smiling. “Is this your note?”
“Yeah, sorry,” he mumbled. “I thought you were one of them soccer moms who park here.” I wondered if he’d personally observed these women’s children playing ball or seen them pushing soccer balls through their birth canals to warrant the “soccer mom” title. I would have asked, in my twenties. Instead, though, I wished the neighbor a good day and left.
Now we are besties who go shopping and get mani/pedis together. Just kidding. But at least we’re civil.
I’m excited that my Quartz essay on bilingual parenting was picked up by social channels of The Atlantic, The New York Times (The Upshot), National Geographic, Vox, KQED, Flipboard and Pocket Top 10 and government and educational organizations, including Harvard and Stanford, in the past week.
Unfortunately, there seem to be some misconceptions, so I’d like to address them:
Yes, many parents are lucky to raise bilingual/trilingual kids with less effort. That’s indeed wonderful. While this has been my experience, the process is as unique as each family member’s language ability and environment.
- Yes, bilingualism has lots of cognitive advantages, too many to list in a short article. It does not cause speech delays, confusion, retardation, measles or rubella.
- Yes, unfortunately, this is a particularly American situation, as much of the world outside the U.S. nurtures multilingualism.
In addition to the positive feedback from educators and folks who are in the same boat, it’s been interesting to read some personal comments and messages, calling me a lazy, bad parent and a dumb American (with jabs at my kid).
I encourage anyone interested to check out the work of the wonderful experts that were generous enough to speak to me during the preparation of this article, as well as the resources linked in the piece. I hope parents keep exposing their kids to many cultures and languages and don’t lose the link to their roots, despite the struggles. And that they don’t feel alone doing it.
This reported essay was published in Quartz on Aug. 13, 2017.
Note: There are many unique approaches to bilingualism that may or may not work for different multicultural families living in the U.S. This is just one of them.
“What’s that music?” my three-year-old asked as we listened to a song in a foreign language last December.
Could my toddler be showing an interest in her Russian heritage? Maybe this would be a chance to tell her about the revered winter holidays of my childhood in St. Petersburg, Russia—calling up images of the falling snow as schoolgirls in black-brown uniforms and giant bows in their hair sang carols about solidarity…
For the complete article, click here.
A version of this essay was originally published in ScaryMommy.com on Feb. 25, 2017
I see you, Mama, pacing from room to room, recalling what still needs to be packed for tomorrow. You pause by the sleeping baby’s crib, in awe of his eyelashes and his measured breathing, unsuspecting that tomorrow someone else will be reading him his favorite bunny story and putting him down for nap time.
You try to cook as much as possible to prepare for your upcoming 11-hour, perhaps 12-hour, absences. You bought a crockpot and bookmarked recipes online; you stocked up on groceries as if Armageddon is fast approaching, and now your freezer door won’t close.
This essay was originally published by Kveller.com on Dec. 29, 2016, titled “Embracing the Russian Food of My Youth for the Sake of My Kids”
I never thought I’d miss Russian food, the unassuming cuisine of my birthplace. I was self-conscious about Russian salads, for instance, referring to boiled and chopped root vegetables loaded with mayonnaise, not microgreens. Traditional Russian recipes use just one kind of cheese, called cheese. Growing up as an immigrant kid in the United States, it’s awkward having to always explain that sour cream really does make everything better, that Herring under a Fur Coat isn’t furry, that the jiggly meat jelly is no weirder than the processed American chicken tender.
Turns out my kid’s preschool has rules. Not just your usual “Refrain from biting others, bringing allergens in your lunchbox and showing up with infectious diseases.”
It’s dress code rules.
Disney and fantasy characters are prohibited, since the preschool is based on the principles of Maria Montessori, a physician and educator, who believed children until the age of six have an absorbent mind, unable to discern between concrete and abstract (not to be confused with creativity or imagination). Jewelry and flashing lights on shoes are not permitted, to avoid distractions.
Learning this sounded familiar and Soviet. As in, “Eww, Soviet,” not “Yay, Yuri Gagarin, first man in space!” Soviet.