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Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Head above the parapet

I'm just now starting to get my head above the parapet recovering from life's onslaught this April. I was so sleep deprived at one point that meeting the twin challenges of getting through the basic daily routine and staying civil was just not feasible. My poor family. I just hope that none of the children has inherited my pathetic but vicious irritability in the face of lack of sleep. Thomas' genes are much more environment-friendly in that respect, he just slows down and focuses. Whereas I lash out. (I should perhaps add, to reassure anybody who might risk meeting me in person, that this terrible trait seems to apply only to close family members, poor things. In fact, the best way to neutralise my bad mood in such cases is to put me in a room full of friends (or colleagues, or strangers in fact), and all of a sudden an incredibly powerful English-bred social veneer plasters over all the cracks of nervous irritability.)

So what provoked this break-down of human civilisation? Dealing with four weeks' worth of 24/7 caring for sick children, that's what. A lot of the caring took place between 24 and 7 (in the morning) too. And it was relentless - no sooner was one on the antibiotics and starting to feel better than the next one hit 39.5 plus, and instead of being able to look up and start taking in the world around me again, my focus just switched from one sickbed to another. 

Then once we'd got the last one more or less recovered from her latest malady (pneumonia in this case, following hard on the heels of chicken pox, strep throat, sinusitus, tummy bugs, as well as assorted coughs and colds), Easter was upon us. Which was great, it meant visits by grandparents and even a short trip away. But did they sleep well with all that excitement? No, of course they didn't. By the time it got to early evening on Easter Sunday, I half-collapsed in a state of near exhaustion otherwise only experienced by victims of particularly sadistic torture regimes and had to be bodily carried to my bed from which I did not emerge for about 24 hours.

So it's only now, after the occasional uninterrupted night (because although the illnesses seem to have cleared up, their nightmares continue to wake both them  and then me in a cold sweat) that I find I have the energy and breadth of vision to take up the blog again.

Now, you're wondering, what's the multilingual take on sick children and exhausted mothers? Well, I'm proud to say I'm not going to give you one (though I probably could if pushed, erm let me see now, how about "so, what languages did the children prefer to speak at 38, 39 and 40 degrees of fever and did it make a difference what they were suffering from at the time") No. I don't think so. Not every experience has to be shoe-horned into the theme of this blog. However, I did promise myself when I started writing not to turn it into a general "this is what my cute kids do" bleurgh, so consider the above an excuse for my absence of over a month, and then consider the following:

Do you think multilingual children have a preference for developing friendships in a particular language? I ask because Annabelle, who is usually quite shy about playing with children she has only just met, became best buddies with another three year old girl in the space of about three hours last weekend. Of course not everything is down to language, but this girl happened to be a bilingual English and Italian speaker where English is her stronger language. And it occurred to me that Annabelle's other best friends are also anglophone. Even though she mostly socialises with them in her French-speaking creche, they now often speak in English together there (see my earlier post Daring to speak the other language). 

So is English becoming her language of friendship? I find this intriguing, because she has no problems understanding or speaking both French and German, so it's not a communication issue. Is it related to the fact that she talks to her brother, whom I would say is her best best friend at the moment, in English? This in itself is something of an anomaly, as most siblings tend to use their school language (in our case French) amongst themselves, even if they continue to use other languages with their parents. To be continued, I think. But I'd love to know if you have any similar experiences or other thoughts on this topic. Assuming I don't get shot down below the family parapet by unremitting child illness again - anybody have a spare helmet?
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