Children sometimes manage to burn away our daily stress. They have conquered a magnificent game of momentary attentiveness capable of changing the most difficult of circumstances. It is through their eyes and their ability for language learning that I start this article.
Since my children speak three languages and shift from one to another, it can be the most entertaining thing when they explain how their oldest sibling has taken their favorite toy into the bathtub, without putting a small floating plastic device around it. Can you imagine the frustration they feel? And the difficulty of finding the right words to explain? The moment requires my most serious and devoted attention, because this brings all the issues of the day to an end. Honestly, how can this not be the most beautiful thing ever?
Being so communicative is their best signs of language assimilation, which is by far the strongest signs my own children have shown me that any child can learn more than two languages at a time, one of the most obvious yet enriching qualities of a cross-cultural relationship. We spend as much time as possible clarifying words for them, so that the million and one synopses that happen in their brain, on a daily basis, are at least tinted with some form of objectivity while they form their own image of the world. I read somewhere that “each language reflects the world, as each region of the planet has its own culture”, and so when it comes to helping children paint this diverse canvas, we make sure the oils, acrylics and watercolors mix with a very clear purpose: learning the beauty of language and its diversity.
It is in our day to day Spanish-English-French universe where they feel challenged the most, and seeing our youngest daughter trying so hard to be as precise in her speech as her five-year-old brother, makes all the efforts worthwhile. It is our proudest moment whenever someone speaks to them in any of those three languages and we see in our children’s eyes how they are searching within for a proper response.
Whether your experience in an international relationship has been good or bad, or if you are even contemplating the idea, remember that the outcome that comes from diversity is always greater than the struggle, especially when children are part of such a unit. Besides the trivial arguments you may have with your partner, and those enduring conversations going over language barriers and cultural differences, the moment a child enters in the picture our own individual protagonist shifts, because from that moment on there is a breaking away from our own individuality, to be initiated in a diaper change-late night moonwalking-endless park trips- “take a deep breath and count to four” new life.
And if you are as stubborn and in love and lucky as the lucky ones who fight for their pack, you are bound to see beyond borders and one day as you return from the “rat race” constant absorption, a small voice will greet you and in a sentence, use more languages than you can muster. And that has been in my experience one of the most gratifying aspects of learning to dance salsa with my Cuban man. It is in our children where the possibilities for a broader view explodes itself in one hundredth tiny instances filled with the integration of language.
It may take half an hour to dress our children to go into the harsh winter of Canada and five seconds to get undressed to swim in the clear ocean waters of Cuba. We may play dominoes under a clear sky with mosquitoes dancing around our ears and the sound of the Havana City pregoneros (street salesman) singing old forgotten songs, or we may camp under a cold night sky in Sutton, Quebec, with a three-foot-high bonfire as our outdoors heat source; it doesn’t matter where, if the beauty of the integration of our differences is clearly shown in our children’s communication ability. I may sound repetitive, but it is in that moment, with them, when I see beyond any stress, any arguments that may have created discomfort between my partner and I.
Perhaps it is that magic that children possess that may be, in the future, the greatest therapeutic tool that we as parents may be able to use, and even more so for a cross cultural couple, because it can touch the reality of two societies at a time. Or maybe I am just overly electrified by such joy. Either way, don’t hesitate much, a cross cultural relationship may be what you are looking for to bring deep satisfaction in your life.