Wednesday, December 15, 2010

First thoughts on fatherhood - bilingualism

Last night was the first time that either my wife or I had ever actually seen part of our son.  He pushed his little hands up through her stomach so that his little palm could be seen ever so faintly.  His tiny fingers were there too, though even less visible.  We both took turns placing our fingertips in the center of his palm and pushing as lightly as we could to let him know we were there.  It was an unbelievably magical moment, and one of our first real interactions with our son.  I'm so incredibly excited for him to come out so we can start giving him serious love!

All the baby websites say that while in the womb, your baby is immediately a social being, longing for interaction with you.  About a month ago, before we were going to sleep, i was rubbing her tummy with my hand and noticed that he was following me around, pushing back at my hand whenever i would tap on her belly.

I was immediately in love with him.

I try as much as i can to chat with him - whatever is on my mind at the time.  i know he can't understand anything yet, but it makes me feel better that he's getting used to the sound of my voice.

But my wife is shy.  She knows that Russian will be the minority language not only in the house, but outside as well, and she doesn't like to talk to him in Russian in front of me.  Nevermind the fact that she will blabber for hours with her parents and sister without thinking twice about it.  I wish for her that she gains the confidence to speak only Russian with him, like we're planning, even if it means alienating me to a degree.

Our nephew - her sister's son - is six now.  He was born in America soon after they came to the states.  For the first four years, he didn't speak a word of English, and it was difficult for me to communicate with him, despite the fact that I've picked up a significant amount of Russian.  But now that he's six, he will almost exclusively speak to me in English, and tends to shy away from the rest of the family, because they will only speak in Russian.  They're also having a hard time getting him to speak Russian at home.  They say that within a year, he won't speak a word of Russian.  I've thought about speaking Russian to him, but I speak in broken - probably more accurately described as crippled - Russian, and I would worry about our ability to be together suffering.

This is the fear that my wife has about our son. I've been trying to study so that the majority language can be Russian at home, but i know that it's going to be more difficult that I can imagine to speak solely in a foreign language at home in a country dominated by my own majority tongue.  Maybe that's the solution?  If i was worried about my relationship with my nephew, I would certainly be worried about my relationship with my son.

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