Maman And Loulou

Encouragement for parents who want to give their child a gift of another language

“They are just off having mini conversations in his room and I have no clue what they are saying!”

This is part of what I overheard my husband saying to his mom. Mind you, this is the same husband that I have literally begged to learn French with us. My first reaction, of course, was pride. It felt like my son and I were part of some exclusive, posh club. Having always been an outcast, that has never been a natural feeling for me.

Then, the guilt kicked in. This was clearly bothering him, making him feel exiled in his own home. I certainly didn’t want that, because then I became one of them. But it’s not like I had locked myself and my son away, deleted web history and had a steamy love affair with the language. I had tried to listen to the beginner’s CD around him and encourage him, label stuff specifically for him, write him lists of common phrases that we use around the house, push him to sign up for Duolingo and Memrise, suggest resources for him…okay, why in the heck was I feeling guilty again?

The truth was, I had put forth a great deal of energy trying to keep him motivated and pushing him because he had expressed interest. Yet, he didn’t want to reciprocate that. He didn’t want to do the apps on his break at work, practice with me, listen to the CD in his car, or really do anything beyond a sporadic session maybe once a week with Memrise. If I got pushy, then I got accused of being a nag but if I awaited him to approach me when he needed help, then I wasn’t including him. And they say women are complicated!

Every time I tried to correct his pronunciation, he insisted with irritation that he was doing it just like the person on the disc. He never reviewed the list that I helped him with at his request. He never used the labels that we had made for him. Quite frankly, his attitude was causing me to become bitter toward him and the language. I found myself doubting my own abilities and resenting him for not holding himself accountable. At that point, I began reclusing the studies with my son more and more, only further banishing my husband from our world.

I stewed about it. A lot, in fact. Until I realized that he was at the exact place I had started! He wanted to learn, but he had unrealistic expectations on what that looked like. For whatever reason, his relationship with me was like the one I had with my mom that I mentioned in the previous blog entry. I could hold his hand and explain this stuff until we died of old age, but without his own personal drive, I was just one of those douchebags squealing their tires to try to look cool, but not actually getting anywhere.

He wasn’t thrilled when I told him that I was not equipped to teach him in the manner that he was searching for (whatever that is) and that, while I would be happy to answer any questions that he has, that until he shows initiative and dedication on his own merit, I do not have the energy to try to force feed him French. Maybe he will, maybe he won’t, but I can’t let that affect the efforts of me and mon Loulou.

Never feel guilty because of an accomplishment that you have worked your tail off for. As the late Heath Ledger said in 10 Things I Hate About You: “Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you don’t deserve what you want.” If my husband wants to learn French, he will, and I will be his number one cheerleader, but I will not be responsible for his successes or failures.

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