About a year or so ago I received a great piece of advice from a dynamic Army psychiatrist addressing our faculty concerning reintegration issues that our students face as their family members return from war zones. His delivery was laced with humor and anecdotes of normal odd teen behavior, as well as some personal accounts of dealing with his pre-teens. I like him. A lot. One of his points was communication, teen style, and though I'd love to retell the entire anecdote, I'll spare you the details. It's one of those nodding moments of "of course. . . true. . . true," that applies to communication with children of all ages. Essentially, his message: Wait, and wait, and wait some more. Don't try to force them to talk. Wait. They will open when they are ready, and when they are ready -- you be ready & open. Drop all & listen.
This week has been torturous for me as I've waited and waited and waited some more to hear all the details of Young One's first week of Italian elementaty school. She would give up a precious nugget here or there, but the details were not very forthcoming. No way was she responding to the "How was your day?" beyond the short response of "Good" during the car ride home. She also assured us that her teacher was "calm." I was certain that things were going very well as she was excited to leave home each morning, and there were a couple of times that she mentioned that she just loved her new school. During Wednesday evening's swim lesson I was able to a share a few details with another curious mother, but her son is a lot like Young One so much of what she knew came from other mothers. Oh . . . the networks of first grade parents! Give me a break -- we are excited people to see our little offspring move on up to the big leagues!
We have a need to know:
What was your lunch?
What if you have to use the restroom?
Did you learn a prayer?
Did you make friends?
Do you like your PE teacher?
Are your supplies okay?
Why don't you have homework?
Is it hot in your classroom?
What have you learned?
Did you meet the English teacher? Did you speak in English with her?
. . . And much, much more.
I attempted to refrain from asking any question more than once and to remain seemingly unbothered with her refusal to answer. And just as the good doctor promised, she would open a bit here and there and let the details of her days flow at will, when she so decided. We've had some good laughs (silently) over her version of events. According to her, the English teacher taught them to say "Hello." When I asked if she spoke in English with her teacher, her response was, "She's just learning and can't speak English like me. I can't do that yet." When Richard told her that he loved her school, too, she responded: "It's my school. You've had your chance, Dad."
With Friday came the motherload of details in the form of a booklet of work that she had done during the week. We sat in the parking lot in the car for nearly fifteen minutes as she excitedly described each page in great detail. Ahh! Finally. I hung on to every single innocent word that she gave me. Among other things, I learned that the "This is What I Did on My Summer Vacation" is a universal assignment that spans ages and cultures. Young One chose to draw a picture of herself with her Uncle John fishing off of his pier at the beach in Sandbridge, VA. I asked her if many of the kids had drawn pictures of the mare, and her response drew another chuckle: "The beach, the mountains, or Sardegna -- that's what they all drew." If you've ever been to the island of Sardegna, then you know that simply calling it "the beach" just won't do. Interesting that six year olds make the distinction.
Young One and Uncle John Hoping to Catch a Big One
Summer 2010So we enter the weekend this rainy Saturday morning with a feeling of contentment in our household, but we remain keenly aware that it's only week one and six-year-old moods and feelings change quickly. I'm off to tackle the first homework assignment, which is twofold: (1) Share your notebook with your parents and have them sign it and (2) Ricopia 5 Volte, followed by her name printed in capital letters. We know exactly what to do because clear, typed directions are pasted right into her school agenda or diario on Friday's date. Nice.
The sun is not shining this morning in our part of the Veneto, but I can't help but feel a ray of it directly on our little house in the paese.