My previous post on September 1 marked exactly 10 years since my very first post at Bilingual Monkeys. Honestly, I find it hard to believe two contradictory things about this decade: that 10 years have blinked by so quickly, and also that this blog has somehow managed to endure for so long.
Looking back, let me now share some of the best, and worst, of my experience blogging about bilingual kids for the past 10 years. In fact, the contradictions will continue because sometimes these things are simultaneously best and worst.
1. Empowering Effective Actions
When we write extensively about anything, we think more deeply about that subject and we gradually gain more expertise. By blogging on the subject of raising bilingual children for 10 years, and personally producing 457 articles (there are also 39 great guest posts), I’ve been able to continuously stretch my background knowledge and practical ideas. Although I’ve been working with bilingual and multilingual kids for 30 years, as a teacher and then as a parent, the practice of sharing my experiences and thoughts, through frequent blogging, helped fuel my ongoing growth in this field to much greater heights. And practically speaking (my work has always emphasized the practical, real-world experience of raising bilingual kids), writing about this has empowered my efforts: I’ve become more effective in my actions with my students and my own kids while also helping parents out in the world be more effective in their actions, too.
2. Connecting with Kindred Spirits
To me, one of the most remarkable things about this field is that people raising bilingual and multilingual kids are all so different—from all parts of the world and all walks of life—and yet we share a common core that connects us deeply: this aim is profoundly important to us. In fact, because we hold this aspiration at the heart of our lives, we can often connect more closely with people who are far away compared to those nearby who don’t have the same soulful aim. I’ve experienced this keenly over the past decade through my interactions with parents—thousands of parents all over the world—with whom I’ve felt immediate and meaningful bonds based on our shared goal alone. Connecting with kindred spirits in this special way, while also being a positive force for helping them realize their cherished aim, has been tremendously gratifying to me. When all is said and done, this opportunity to make a difference in the lives of families worldwide, perhaps even for generations to come, has been among the most fulfilling passages in the fleeting life I’ve led.
3. Blogging Is Very Demanding
When I first began blogging, I had no grand ambitions. I simply wanted to share my experiences and my ideas as a teacher and parent. At the time my kids were 8 and 5, and because I was immersed in my efforts to advance my bilingual aim for them, there was so much to write about. Still, the act of blogging regularly is very demanding—the writing, the images, the formatting, the technical surprises that need to be solved—and it eventually came to feel both energizing and enervating at the same time. I often described it as being like a mouse running on a mouse wheel! Then, as the years passed and my kids got older, our bilingual goal was basically achieved. The day-to-day experiences which had driven my earlier blogging were now drying up, leaving me with less to write about. Even when your enthusiasm for blogging is high, it’s a challenging thing to do. It naturally becomes all the more challenging when your life evolves and that original drive declines.
4. Engaging with My Kids
One of the very best things about raising bilingual children is the fact that it compels you to spend as much time with your kids as you can in order to provide ample exposure to the minority language. This is especially true when the circumstances are working against your bilingual goal—as they were in my case—because you simply must prioritize time with your kids or you may have trouble attaining your aim. But the beauty of spending this time with your children, when they’re younger, is not only about stronger language development; it’s also about the deeper, richer bonds this time together will produce for your enduring relationship as parent and child. The plain fact is, we will inevitably have less opportunity for time, and influence, as our kids grow into busy teens. Although the time I’m able to spend with my kids is now only a fraction of what it once was, I’m very glad and grateful that I consciously engaged with them through those younger years. And blogging, with its need for continuous content, was a motivating factor in projects like the creative videos we made together.
Movie Project with My Kids: “Purple Monster in the Woods”
April 12, 2016
VIDEO: With Bilingual Kids, There’s a Madness to My Method
January 20, 2015
VIDEO: Wacky Interview with My Bilingual Daughter
April 28, 2015
5. Growing Through Criticism
Over the years the way I convey certain ideas has evolved. For instance, if you compared my writing on the same topic in 2012 and 2022, you’d probably notice (I hope) that I’m able to express my thoughts more keenly but also more “diplomatically” in terms of the language I use. In other words, while I naturally want my messages to be forceful, I think I’ve also become more sensitive to the reader’s perspective and the kinds of reactions my writing might stir. The truth is, like anyone who shares their thoughts publicly, I’ve been criticized at various times, sometimes pretty harshly. On one hand, I can certainly say that these incidents are among the “worst” of my experience as a writer. In fact, there were several sleepless nights where the criticism turned over and over in my mind as I groped in the dark for a well-worded response. Yet on the other hand, I now also know that these uncomfortable moments have been among the “best” of my blogging experience in that they forced me to become a more mature writer by thinking more deeply about the topic and about how I was expressing my message. So, at the end of the day, I really must thank my critics for helping me grow more effective and empathetic in my work.