Never Do Nothing
If you are a parent, I am confident that you can empathize with the fact that there are some days that you are just running on fumes. These are the days where you feel like you deserve a trophy for putting on pants and making sure your kid(s) didn’t die. I battle with severe anxiety, something that I struggle to typically discuss in a public forum, but it is relevant because it amplifies this phenomenon exponentially. On top of struggling with energy, I frequently struggle with motivation and keeping my inner dialogue positive. It is a pretty bloody battle sometimes.
On top of that, they don’t tell you when you giddily jump into the bottomless lake of language learning that you will be toujours fatigué(e), which translates to always tired. It takes brain power, which takes energy. It takes constant encouragement (whether from yourself or others.) It takes patience and the ability to have reasonable expectations. Really, it takes many of the same traits as the job you already have: parenting. And much like birthing a child or, for that matter, just being a parent, it is a labor of love. You have to have a driving catalyst for your passion or you will give up the first time you are introduced to verb tenses (if not much sooner.) You will constantly let it fall to the back burner and keep telling yourself and your children: “Tomorrow, we will make time.” No, you won’t. If it isn’t a priority to you, you will wait for some sort of mysterious absolution that will never come.
Some days just suck. Some days are packed with a hundred errands. Some days sap the life force right out of you. Some days, you just aren’t going to be able to put 100% into your language. And that is okay! But just because you can’t do everything does not mean that you should not do the something that you can do. If you are just beginning, commit that you will do something for 15 minutes every single day with your child in the target language. This could be a game, a few sessions on Memrise while dinner is cooking, listening to a disc while driving to a dentist appointment, watching a cartoon over breakfast, learning a song together on YouTube, making vocabulary notes and sticking them around the house. Trust me, you can always crunch in 15 minutes if you are creative enough and committed enough. If you can throw in more, awesome. After a month or two, increase the daily goal to thirty minutes, than forty-five, eventually getting to an hour. My friend has a star chart for herself, for her child and for them as a unit and it works out marvelously for her family. This is also great because it is a visual motivator.
I have a seven year old, a slew of charity projects, a job and a husband and I am on a 361 day streak on Duolingo (and it would have been much longer had I not had an unfortunate emergency last year that made accessing technology impossible.) Because I don’t make excuses. Sometimes I do it while waiting for my kid at school, other times before bed or even while I eat. There are some days where my apps are the only French that I get, but I refuse to go a day without something, even if I do that something from bed, sick as hell between sessions of throwing up or while getting my hair done before I walk down the aisle at my wedding. I made it a habit.
This is the most important thing because children need consistency anyway. It makes them feel secure, it lets them know what you expect of them. When it comes to language learning, it is an absolute necessity. You can’t expect to do an app once a week and make any progress. You will forget everything, the language will continue sounding foreign for you and your child and you will both feel like failures when you are still sitting there dreaming of ordering that croissant in a French café or singing your night time song together in French (video of this coming soon!)
Right now, Bryston knows that car time with me is French time with me. Does he fight it? Yup. Does this mean that we have to say everything en français? Nope. This means that we practice new words, watch videos, listen to our disc, or maybe I just ask questions in French and help him figure out how to answer me. Right now, I hear a lot of “Comment dit on (insert word) en français?” Right now, I translate a lot of his sentences if I can. If not, oh well, we will get there.
Bottom line: Keep it fun. Don’t stress. Find innovative ways to get that time in every single day. But if you do miss a day, don’t stress about that either. Jump back on the next day!