I’ve already tackled a similar topic in one of my posts in which I compared multilingual children with very gifted children, which is much more challenging (or difficult) for the parents since they have to find special schools or programmes to accommodate their children’s talents. The same is the case with multilingual children.
This post, however, was born out of a conversation with my parents-in-law, who often express their concern that Klara’s German will not be enough and that they would prefer the children’s father (their own son) to understand all the languages the girls speak. And even though they are now convinced and impressed by Klara’s linguistic aptitude and the level of her German, they are not 100% supportive.
When we came back to speak about this topic, I said that while they worry so much about German, this is not the language to worry about and that I will have to work harder than everybody in the family to make my children speak, read and write Polish. To this, my father-in-law answered: “Parenting is hard. And I mean this in a positive sense, take it as a challenge. I then started wondering whether raising multilingual children is challenging or simply hard and difficult.
Some of you might agree with my father-in-law. After all, if you call something “challenging” rather than “difficult”, you make it sound so much nicer. Even though personally, I don’t agree with this view, there is at least a degree of truth. I guess, like so much in life, it all depends on the definitions.
For me, “challenging” means difficult, but fun at the same time. It is something that keeps your brain working, inspires you and allows you to gain new knowledge and new insights into yourself and life in general. In my case, raising my children, and particularly raising them multilingually, has proven to be just that. It is such a great joy and I can’t even begin to express how lucky I am to have my two clever, funny girls. In fact, I haven’t had so much fun for a long time.
On the other hand, “hard” means “dull”, “boring”, “exhausting” and basically the opposite of fun, but incredibly difficult at the same time. There are things about being a parent that are just that- hard, like dealing with temper tantrums. In this case, what my father-in-law did, was basically the equivalent of saying: “I see your backpack is already full, so let me put some more stones in it, so that it will be a greater challenge for you”. This is what I find the hardest to deal with: I don’t mind people (even family members) voicing their opinions but they can’t expect me to act on them.
The joys and the benefits of raising multilingual children are definitely outweighing the hardships of having to deal with unsupportive family members. But it is also difficult even without that so I totally don’t understand why I have to fight for my right for my children speaking my own language on top of all the responsibilities that come with raising children.
Are your family members supportive? If so, in what ways?