Bringing up ‘Kerala Kutty’
“Amma, Ghadikaram evide?” (“Amma, where is the clock?”)
I almost fell off my chair this morning as Adu asked me that.
‘Ghadikaram’!? Seriously? (I don’t think even my grandmother uses such ‘pure’ language. Heh!)
And then it struck me. A few weeks ago I had taken the four year old through a book which had the Malayalam alphabets, illustrated with pictures for ease of understanding.
And now he is actually making an effort. WHOA! Is this for real?
*quick victory dance*
OK, Let me give you some context.
Flashback to when I was child free. I would observe older cousins and their families each time they came visiting from overseas. The children were born and brought up far from the motherland, and naturally most conversations between the child and the parent would be in English. And every time I would heard them speak, there would be this distinct voice in my head ‘isn’t mother tongue the most important part of your culture that you ought to pass on to your child?
The funny thing is you are an expert in parenting till you become one!
Now that I am one, I regret the judgement. Truly and deeply. Because, I AM that parent now. Sigh.
When you bring up a child in a place where several nationalities thrive (read English being the dominant language) to get him to listen and converse (often) in your mother tongue is quite an uphill task. If you are an expat parent / parent to multicultural kids reading this, I assume you are nodding your head.
It used to bother me a LOT, till I decided I need to cut him some slack.
Majority of the people my toddler interacts with and looks up to speak to him in English. His favourite teacher, peers at school, playmates in the park, his babysitter, his swimming coach, you get the drift. Almost all our close family friends here speak to him in English.
But somehow I am not ready to throw in the towel, not just yet. We have been at it again, and this time around just baby steps, and only what sparks his interest. Music, film songs, cartoons, etc.
This mother sure hopes that someday her son will ask a fellow Malayalee “Naatil Evideya?” (Where are you from?)
THEN, ladies and gentlemen, we would have arrived.