When children reach that chatterbox stage, no opportunity is wasted. Momo gives a running commentary on life as his brain knows it. Tigerlily is his sidekick parrot who repeats the last couple words of everything he says. Together, their conversations make my heart melt.
MM: Mei-mei, do you want to play with Legos?
TL: Play Legos?
MM: Yeah, let’s build something!
TL: Build something?
MM: Okay! I show you how! What do you want to build?
MM: Look I can do it all by myself.
TL: Do it ‘self!
MM: You like it Mei-mei?
They are a great team, despite how much they fight. Over the past couple weeks, I observed how much they look out for each other as well.
There was a Chinese-speaking daycare I came across recently that intrigued me. I have been trying to speak and teach the kids some Chinese, but let’s face it… my Chinese is awful. I am teaching them awful Chinese.
When I checked out the daycare, my heart did a triple somersault. It was exactly what I was looking for. Full immersion in a language within the contex of play and everyday activities. I wasn’t looking for Chinese “school”. I just wanted an opportunity for immersion, and this was perfect. I knew it would be frustratings for my kids at first, coming from our exclusively English-speaking household as well as not having much exposure to a Chinese community in general. But I figured they would adjust with time.
They didn’t. They hated it. They hated it with every ounce of their soul. Each time I tried to bring them, hysterical crying and screaming would ensue. When they were there, they were disruptive. Whenever one cried, the other would cry. It would get all the kids worked up. I was dumbfounded. Could it possibly be that bad? I admit, I was also embarrassed. My normally adaptive kids were now the disruptive ones.
But once you get stuck on an idea, it’s hard to unstick yourself. An idea, good or bad, makes itself a cozy home in the heart. Especially when you’re a mommy. Especially when you think you know what’s good for your kids. Especially when you love your kids. Especially when you’re human.
So I kept trying to make this Chinese immersion work. Maybe just a few more days? Maybe this? Maybe that?
And yet, my kids were obviously trying to tell me something. And I had stopped listening. In focusing on the goal ahead, I forgot to be present.
One day, Momo finally told me he liked his other daycare better. He wanted his other teacher, not the chinese teacher.
“I don’t want to go there.”
I knelt beside him, letting those words of his sink in. He doesn’t want to. He doesn’t like it. My fun-loving boy, who is usually full of life and good-natured mischief, is standing before me with tears. Yet, all I can think of is how much I wanted this to work. For what? For some language that I can’t even speak myself?
It hit me then. I was not listening to him. To both of them. Because Tigerlily, his trusty sidekick parrot, was right beside him echoing his words. Except these weren’t his words. They were hers too… “No want go…. no want go….” When did I stop listening to my kids?
As I stopped to listen and truly take their needs into account, I realized there were many other reasons why this daycare just wasn’t a good fit for them. It wasn’t just the Chinese language or the new faces.
To be perfectly honest, part of me still wishes it had worked out. Part of me still wonders how we could’ve made it work. You see, that’s how hard it is to unstick myself from an idea.
But instead, I am celebrating my kids for who they are. I am rooting for them, believing in them, cherishing every unique nuance of who God has made them to be. My children most likely will not follow and conform to all my premeditated hopes and dreams, but this I know without a doubt… They are more wonderful and precious than I could ever have imagined, just as they are. Just. As. They. Are.
When I forget to listen, I miss out on the treasure that they are.
But when I do listen… When I take the time to stop and see each of them…
What a miracle you are, my loves. I wouldn’t change a thing about you.