There are many good things about raising bilingual children. In my case, with my kids now 10 and 8, these include…
- Communicating with my children in my mother tongue and sharing the joys of this language with them
- Seeing them communicate with family members and others who don’t speak our majority language
- Giving them the gift of two languages, an ability that can positively impact their lives in so many ways
These are tremendous benefits, and we’ve been blessed to achieve them. At the same time, I’ve become more mindful of a benefit that isn’t often considered, but should be, because, when all is said and done, it might just be the greatest benefit of all.
Revel in the early years
The other day I gave a presentation in Hiroshima about raising bilingual kids. Naturally, there were a number of parents who have small children and one couple brought their little girl, just 14 months. After my talk was over, I chatted briefly with this couple. As I stroked the little girl’s silky brown hair, I urged these parents to revel in their daughter’s early years because this time will blink by so quickly.
I was thinking of my own daughter, who had the same silky brown hair as a baby.
And now suddenly she’s 10.
Giving more of myself
To be honest, I don’t think I’d wish for my kids to be small again, even if I could. I mean, I loved those years, but it’s best to keep plodding ahead.
Still, in that moment, I couldn’t help feeling wistful.
I said goodbye and left the building, and as I opened my umbrella in the rain, it hit me keenly: Because I’ve been so committed to nurturing our minority language since the day my kids were born, I bet I’ve spent substantially more time with them than I would have otherwise, if maintaining this daily language exposure wasn’t the same necessity. In other words, as a direct result of my bilingual quest, I think I’ve ended up giving more of myself to them during their childhood. And this has no doubt deepened our bond.
It’s not possible, of course, to say if my interaction, and relationship, with them would really have turned out much differently without the bilingual goal. Nevertheless, I can tell you that I’m deeply grateful for the fact that this aim has encouraged me to make spending time with my children, and consciously using that time as best I can, one of my highest priorities.
Among the many other benefits of the bilingual journey, this quiet, underlying advantage might be the very best thing of all.