SS: Mama, I want to be a Chinese girl when I grow up.
Me: Sweetie, you ARE a Chinese girl; it’s how you were born, and what you will always be.
SS: No Mama, speaking Chinese, I want to be a girl speaking Chinese.
Me: So you are sure you want to learn Chinese AND Spanish?
SS: Yes Mama, I also want to wear a Chinese dress.
P was a few steps ahead, his back to us, but I knew he was doing a happy dance in his head. A few days earlier P sent me a link to something he has wanted to do since SS came home. P found a Chinese language school. There is no way that would have happened where we lived previously. Chinese school takes place on Saturdays. The school is about 22 miles from our home, but it is worth the sacrifice. Classes are 1-4 p.m. with the first two hours dedicated to language classes (oral and written, pin yin). The third hour is for enrichment programs in Chinese culture, such as Chinese cuisine, arts and crafts, children’s poetry, games, folk songs, dancing, martial arts etc.
P’s immediate reaction was let’s sign her up right now. It seems the school follows a regular school calendar year. The price is reasonable, $390 for the first child, and the kids get to do so many things. But more important, SS will be around other Chinese kids and learn about her culture. It's something we had been worried about not being able to provide for her. I disagreed with P about the timing. SS is the midst of learning a second language with a demanding curriculum. I also began to learn a second language fully (oral, written, reading) at SS’s age, but the curriculum was not as demanding. Also, I had not spent the first sixteen months of my life in a SWI, hearing a completely different third language. I still wonder how SS will be doing at the end of her first school year. It seemed to me that adding a third language might be too much. The girl is only five years old (OK the language acquisition window begins to close at age 7). But SS opened that door without any prodding from P. She has obviously been thinking about this, and does feel the need to connect with her birth culture. I do not feel comfortable denying her the opportunity to do something we ourselves wanted for her. I will be calling the school to find out if SS can join in April.
I told P that attending Chinese school meant that SS would no longer be able to play soccer. Soccer games are on Saturdays. P quickly replied that SS will do both. Excuse me???????????? P said, in the most annoyingly calm manner, that SS can play soccer Saturday mornings, and then go to Chinese school Saturday afternoons. OK, so SS does Karate on Wednesdays, in P’s utopia soccer practice on Thursdays, soccer games Saturday morning, Chinese school Saturday afternoon. Did I mention that SS is only five years old? The man has lot the plot; he was certainly not serious, just messing with me. Nope, as unbelievable as that is, P was and remains dead serious. Anyone surprised why SS does not have a younger sibling?
Never mind the fact that the majority of SS’s soccer games took place twenty miles south of our home. In P’s rose colored world I would drive SS to her games early in the morning, come home for a shower and clothes change, and then drive twenty miles north for school. I will be clocking about 80 miles on Saturdays. Me, as in just me, because P works Saturdays. Then there’s those three hours where I can’t really leave, no way will I drive home and return. Bless P’s heart he already had a solution for me; he happily stated that they have adult Chinese classes as well. Wow, that husband of mine is one generous dude. P said that it is good for SS to be occupied. That lazy good for nothing daughter of ours needs to get off her tiny butt and do something. Is not like she was thrown overnight in a Spanish immersion program. Is not like she spent three months in karate and soccer, and is taking karate again. Is not like SS is doing homework almost every night. What is our lazy child doing with all that free time? Playing? Let's not forget Dragon Boat season, when we drive to Long Beach (70 miles one way) on Sundays. Good times ahead. Smart a$$ remarks aside, there is a great likelihood that SS will be starting Chinese school in the near future. It is also equally likely that I will be trying to learn Mandarin once SS is settled in her class. Wish me luck.
SS rocking her yellow belt, ready for class.