Kids are sponges, they say. They adapt easily, they say. Can be very resilient, they say. No inhibitions, they say.
They are bloody monkeys too, I say. I know so. I know 2 of them. Personally. One is going to be 7, the other just turned 5 and they both live in our house.
Both monkeys were born in an English-speaking household and apart from their smattering Thai and somewhat non-existent Dutch (then), they knew none other languages as well as English.
Then they were held captive in the land of the Dutch Men and Dutch Ladies. Enamoured by their new-found discovery of wide, open spaces, playgrounds as well as being surrounded by the likes of their own, their monkeying streaks became ever so apparent.
Not only did they pick up more monkeying, they also picked up Dutch quite quickly in their new environment. It’s amazing how quick these monkeys became so fluent in the language in no time at all. Almost no concerted effort needed.
Isn’t it great to be monkeys kids?
My kids, my monkeys.
The little human monsters who at such a young age are now fluently writing, reading and stringing paragraphs in fluent Dutch. They are both so fluent that they are more comfortable speaking in Dutch almost exclusively to each other and almost forgetting their English.
As a mother, I should be proud.
Well, I’d say hell yeah(!) I’ve been impressed by their quick progress. BUT! if you have read my recent Sometime This Time Last Year post, I voiced out my annoyance on the fact that:
I cannot keep up with their progress
I feel left-out
I cannot understand my own kids
Suddenly Dutch is now their first language. Reminding them to speak English or to translate each time they speak Dutch has been quite an uphill task. There’s been a huge frustration mostly on my part to be able to keep up.
And recently, a switch in my head flicked – that them speaking Dutch all the time worries me for a different reason.
One reason that opened up my eyes that I can no longer get by with the smattering Dutch that I know was my oblivion to the type of words they spout out of their mouths. There was an incident:
Silver Bullet was in the bathroom, I was hanging out on the couch and the kids were somehow playing together right in front of the bathroom door. They were giggling, laughing and were in high spirits. Kids being kids, they were being noisy and I let them be. To me, they were acting “normal” just like they always do.
Then Silver Bullet came out of the bathroom. FUMING. He raised his voice, reprimanded them and gave them a time out. I didn’t and couldn’t understand why. I thought he was over-reacting.
According to him they were insulting each other, insulting him (while he was doing his business) and spouting out rude slang words in Dutch that should not come out of any kids’ mouth.
At the same time, he was wondering why I didn’t do anything about it.
The reason was simple: I didn’t know any better.
There was no way in hell I could detect, let alone understood the specific nuances in slang words or foul languages hurled in a language that’s not been in my DNA nor have a full grasp on.
The enlightenment was chilling; that realisation killed me.
It’s not something I would ever thought about since we don’t use colourful languages in front of the kids, especially not in Dutch at home. Obviously they picked it up somewhere else and obviously they must have heard it plenty of times from the kids they hang about with either in school or daycare.
There can be no other places; not at home and not at their grams.
Then it hit me again: I wonder how many other times in the last year where those words, phrases, insults were spoken right in front of my nose and I was just completely oblivious to it? And how many other times have we gone out in public places where the kids may have just done that and I haven’t got a clue as to what they were saying, letting other parents wonder what kind of a mother am I (?!!!).
It makes me feel utterly defeated. The battle lost even before it was even fought due to my sheer ignorance and incompetency in the language.
It bugs me. Big time.
It bugs me even more thinking of the kind of languages these Dutch kids have been exposed to at such a young age and that for some, swearing at the age of 5 is completely acceptable. It’s not just a monkey talk there!
How is this happening? And how is the use of such profanities by little humans not frowned upon? Excuse me?
While I am fully aware that kids would eventually pick up such languages when they get to a certain age (I know, I did!), I still don’t and cannot condone it as an every day language used in every other words spoken. Not for a 5 or a 7 year old. Or any kids below a certain age.
That said, all we can do as parents is to continue to teach our kids what’s acceptable and what’s not. The learning curve of how to handle such situation without getting mad and the on-going explanation to them on the whys behind the whats when the monkeys talk become ever so important.
Because as of now, the kids just don’t know any better. That’s why parents should be their guiding light. One day they will understand.
The urgency to speed up my Dutch to a native level has gone several notches up. Urrrgghh! This is not just about “only English” at home. It’s a parenting beast; literally in a different language.