Archive for Juni, 2015

First family holiday

There is no better feeling than the last day of work before a holiday. Desk tidied, mail traffic sorted, important jobs handed over and a previously unnoticed weight lifted from the shoulder as you exit the office door.

It’s not quite the same feeling on maternity leave. But all the same.

Almost 3 months in, I still consider looking after a baby a pleasure rather than a chore. However, 2 pairs of hands are a definite bonus when it comes to this job.

And whilst being on holiday doesn’t now automatically equate to lie-ins and carefree sundowners, there are more than a few things I am looking forward to:

Long walks in new surroundings, sharing the baby’s happy morning moments with my husband, sharing the dreaded witching hour with my husband, daily swims with the sun on my shoulders, a week of room service, good pasta, the increasingly curious looks of the baby, a good book (Drohenland by Tom Hillenbrand), an Irish-English-French wedding knees up, fresh French baguette, the daily view of mountains and lakes, and some family time.

A few days in Duesseldorf

I left Duesseldorf with my heels dragging almost exactly one year ago. And as great a city as Munich is, with its wonderful backdrop of mountains and lakes, Duesseldorf will always have a special meaning for me. The time when a foreign city and country started to feel like home.

How lovely it was to spend a weekend in Duesseldorf again. To arrive just in time to enjoy a sunset walk along the Rhine.photoDUS1

To walk familiar streets and notice everything new and old. To feel instantly at home and yet view the city as a guest.

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To discover new sides to the city.

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To be bathed in sunshine.

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And to be reunited with friends. Ah, Duesseldorf.

On Immunity

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A colleague and I have noticed how paediatricians here appear to be ever so latently and subtly anti-vaccinators. They don’t tell you this outright, but it’s the feeling you are left with when the topic of vaccination is brought up.

Sure, doctors are no longer paternalistic, and that’s a good thing. And parents are increasingly well-informed. But an expert opinion and clear illustration of the main facts are always invaluable. I don’t know if it’s time constraints, but my perception was that the approach was heavy on parental choice with a distinct impression of lack of concern if parents decide not to bring their child along for certain jabs. Disappointingly without really spending the time to explain the benefits of vaccination for that disease, both to your child and the community of children it lives in. Or to mention that we are speaking about standard vaccinations that are recommended by paediatric societies in many parts of the world.

On my reading list this week was therefore ‚On Immunity – An Inoculation‘ by Eula Biss. A book tackling the history of inoculation, the scientific world of immunisation and the ethical and social side to vaccination. What I wasn’t expecting was that these hard issues would be told in a creative journey of stories relating to mythology, metaphors and motherhood. And what a beautifully written journey it is – a journey through hard facts, conflicting opinions, the fascinating history of medicine, a personal narrative of the neurosis and anxieties of new motherhood and with just a little bit of philosophizing along the way.

A highly recommended read for anyone really. And certainly for all mothers. All parents.

Raising a bilingual child

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Before Erik came along, I proudly stated that this wouldn’t become a ‚mommy blog‘. Although I meant it, I was a little naive about the fact that being a mum is currently my ‚full-time job‘ and a lot of the things that I do, things I read, people I meet, places I go, conversations I have, somehow relate to my new status as a mother.

Wracking my brains for a non-baby related theme is currently harder than I had imagined or planned. Thus for today I’m giving up, with a note to myself to try to be broader in future.

A topic I am currently occupied with is bilingualism.

Being a Brit living in Germany, it’s important that Erik learns to speak English as well as German.  The plan was therefore for me to speak to him in English and my husband in German.

This is not as easy as I imagined.  I’ve gotten so used to speaking in German one hundred percent of almost every day, that it feels strange to speak to this little person beside me in English. When we are out and about, in the presence of strangers in shops, park benches etc. it feels almost wrong to speak to him in English rather than the language of the community. Perhaps because I don’t want to be seen as a foreigner who doesn’t speak German.

Thus I am reading a book about bilingualism ‚Be bilingual – Practical ideas for multilingual families‘ by Annika Bourgogne and quizzing every other bilingual family I happen to meet on their experiences.

Our tactic of ‚one parent, one language‘ does seems to be the recommended way for us to go. Here are some of the important facts I have learned:

1.Worldwide, the majority of the population is either bilingual or multi-lingual. So it’s really not that special. And most of these parents are presumably raising their kids bilingually quite naturally without giving it too much thought. It’s more that as a Brit, learning a second language is often seen as a nice extra but never a necessity meaning that it does indeed feel like something special.

2. A child needs to be exposed to the ‚minority language‘ for at least 30% of the time. For the first year at least, Erik has the advantage that he pretty much has no choice but to hang out with me. After that however, the ‚majority language‘ of German is what he will increasingly be exposed to and quickly starts to dominate. That is why for example, a bilingual nursery would be a huge advantage. And engaging an english speaking babysitter. And regular video-calls with family.

3. Being brought up bilingually doesn’t hinder speech development as previously thought. Some kids may start to speak later, but this apparently falls into the normal spectrum of language development, just as there are stark differences to be seen between monolingual kids.

4. Expect some resistance from your kid at some point. I consider English my native language. My other native language is Tamil. Despite the fact that my parents spoke to me in Tamil, at some point after our move to England, I just replied in English. Perhaps due to a need to fit in. The result now is that I am a passive bilingual: though I understand Tamil without a problem, I couldn’t string together one sentence on my own. The fact that I possess no literacy skills in Tamil is another factor which contributes to this.

5. A second language is often referred to as a gift. But apparently it also takes a bit of work. Simple things such as books and multimedia in the second language are important. But also contact with kids the same age who speak the minority language. And regular trips to a place speaking that language.

6.Bilingualism has many advantages for later life. It is said to have a protective effect on cognitive decline, slowing for example the onset of dementia. It also supposedly makes it easier to later master another language.

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