Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Copenhagen Beach Baby

Summer Zoe in her new wet suit
Summer is here! The past week has included the worst pre-plane ride experience with Zoe so far (she ran away while in the massive line for checking in luggage and I lost my temper with her, ending up crying with her on the floor of Stockholm airport), a wonderful visit from a friend and her 4 year old daughter, my brother getting married and Zoe bathing in the ocean for the first time. While some experiences were obviously better than others the week has surely been packed with vacation adventures and the next one will hopefully expand my Copenhagen 'staycation' type holiday. Tomorrow I am taking Zoe to my family summerhouse in the country side by the ocean together with my parents and two brothers, and my brother's new wife. Zoe will be spoiled by all of us adults and be able to explore nature, sand and water and sleep her midday nap in a hammock every day. She will be eating at least two ice creams every day and go to sleep at 9 pm when she drops off on the couch and wake up again to bird song and rolling waves next to a mom who hopes she can entertain herself squeezing ants or something equally educating for at least half an hour.

It should not be a surprise that I will be offline until the beginning of August since the sea side of Denmark is fairly internet free.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Runaway baby

It was supposed to be one of those easy trips, a single flight down to Copenhagen to start off our holiday. Zoe was in a happy mood and although I was a bit stressed about leaving for almost a month and making sure I had packed everything, we got out the door just fine. Zoe helped carry her own back pack and I rolled the two suitcases while instructing her to stay close. She did well all the way to the airport and after checking in we just had to wait in line to drop off one of the suitcases. Zoe was her chirpy little self but she must have detected a slight nervousness on my part when I saw the long snaking line going all the way back up to the other part of the terminal. I judged the waiting time to around 30 minutes. This is usually the time where I hope that other people will see the obvious: children between the age of 1 and 3 (4?) are not patient. They do not just stand there in line patiently and wait while their parents push the luggage cart forward. They jump around a bit and walk in and out the railings until they do really naughty things. But people don't see that we need to skip the line, in fact they mainly stare you down and wonder what you are doing in an airport with a toddler. Or at least it feels like that. The large amount of summer travelers were not an exception and the people behind me kept walking so closely to my cart that I couldn't get back in front to continue moving it forward. At one point I got so annoyed that I pushed the woman in my attempt to get to the cart handle. Did they think that if they squeezed up against me the line would move faster? We were two people away from the check-in desk when Zoe had enough. She looked at me with that cheeky smile that says 'Mommy, I'm going to be naughty and run away'. Before I could grab her, she started running, really fast, down alongside the queue. At first I thought she would come back and I yelled at her but I then realized she wasn't. I panicked because by now she was turning a corner. I ran after her and caught up with her about 150 meters down. Again, I was wondering why nobody had stopped her. I was embarrassed that I had the ill-behaved toddler and angry with Zoe. I grabbed her arm and carried her back, yelling at her. My cart was untouched and people had gone around it. Why would anybody push it forward with the queue while I tried to catch my runaway daughter? I mean, what in the world was I doing there anyway? How stupid could a woman be traveling alone with a kid? I got to the counter and threw my suitcase on the tape, got it tagged and left the cart right there. I was so mad at Zoe. When we got out of the crowd I sat her down and yelled at her, I shook her and pinched her little arms, I wanted to hit her. "Don't do that Zoe, don't ever run away from mommy!". She started crying when realizing how mad I was. I started crying myself. Who was I to shake her and scream at her? I sat down on the cold floor, in the middle of the busy airport and hugged her and tried to calm down. There I was, being the crazy mom who loses her temper with her child in public. But like before nobody paid any attention to us other than stare as they walked by.

We got on our plane and Zoe slept on my lap the whole way to Copenhagen.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Endings and new beginnings

Today was Zoe's last day in the daycare where she started when we arrived in Stockholm last year. Since we lived in one particular area for the first 3 months (in temporary accommodation) the central daycare coordination could only assign us daycare in that area despite us being 100% sure we were moving to a different area in January. Since then, we have therefore commuted 45 minutes each way with two different subways with Zoe in the stroller, often with stressful experiences. We finally got a new public, Swedish daycare offered back in May but after a bit of legwork (i.e. calling, emailing) I got Zoe into a trilingual daycare very close by, which means the language transition will be gentle (her old one was English only) and that she will keep speaking English in her daily life. The last language is French and my sentiment has been, well, she is already surrounded by three languages, why not a fourth?

I picked her up already at 4pm so we had time to say goodbye and pick up all her things. She was in a great mood and I think she understood that this was her last time there. I had bought two presents for her teachers but they were already on holiday so we left them in the office. Zoe was excited to leave (perhaps because I had told her we were going for pizza with daddy) but as we were half way down the path leading to the subway she paused and turned around. "Bye bye, daycare" she said and looked at me for confirmation. Yes, this was bye bye. I felt a bit sentimental myself because this reminds me what we do to our children all the time: give them friends and take them away again. I am still a bit heart broken over our wonderful nanny that we left in California.

She was easy on the subway despite us having to take three different trains due to closure of one of the lines until October (yet another reason I am thrilled not to have this commute anymore) and we got home early enough to have an ice-cream at the big tree-lined square before meeting Mark at the pizza place. Tomorrow morning we fly down to Copenhagen to spend three and a half weeks with my family. It will be really nice for me to have the vacation I need from work, but it will also be intense times, having Zoe around all the time. I look forward to spending a lot of time with her but hope my family will babysit on occasion.

Friday, July 6, 2012

A polite baby

With Zoe having three language around her, she is a bit behind in actually talking. I was aware that was often the case with bi/trilingual children but then I had also read that this is a myth: Children differ widely when it comes to language development and the presence of more than one language is not always affecting it. However, when I'm around children close to Zoe in age, I am realizing that she is indeed quite behind. Other children already talks in sentences and use a wide vocabulary where Zoe mainly says one word at a time and adds her own babbling. Her pronunciation is quite bad, she says 'tom' instead of 'come' although when I ask her what it is called, she will correct herself. One upside is that she is extremely good in understanding what is being said to her, not only does she listen attentively but she has continuously surprised me with how she understands complex issues. For example she remembers if I promise her something after a specific activity and she has a large (understanding) vocabulary of things and directions (i.e. "Zoe can you get the purple pillow that is under the desk in your room?" means that she will run in and get the purple pillow that I had ended up storing alongside a blanket under the desk in her room).

Most recently though the one thing I have noticed is how modeling works. I have never told Zoe to say thank you, please or anything of that kind. Yet, she has picked up the most hilarious politeness in many daily situations. The first one I noticed was one she must have learned in daycare. At first I was puzzled by her saying "happy-peas" repeatedly. She seemed to say it if she couldn't open a door or open a box by herself. Then I listened and realized that she says "help me please", skipping the l's. The second politeness is simply saying thanks when ever she is handed something. It was not until I realized that  we tend to do that when she hands us something that I understood how she picked it up. But it is very nice to hear her say it, particularly when she is given something by others. And I have never even asked her to say thank you in these cases. Finally, a politeness she has picked up the last few days is to say "no thanks" when she refuses something. It is often hilarious to listen to and it is impossible to argue with a kid who says, in the most mild tone, "no thanks" when you offer her a healthy snack.

Interestingly though, and this is where the three languages and the polite baby are not always smoothly interacting, she will mix the languages even within one sentence. For example since she can't say 'thanks' yet, she uses the Danish and Swedish 'tak'. "No tak" and "mor, happy peas!" are common expressions. She is picking up the fact that there are different languages that is used with different people though and consistency is paying off. If I repeat what she said (in English) to me in Danish, she switches smoothly. Mark tells me the same thing happens when he is in charge but since he doesn't speak Danish, he has to guess more often than not what she actually means. This results in extreme miscommunication such as her telling him she wants to go out with the stroller and him thinking she wants to eat lunch. Perhaps that will be a motivation for her to start talking more clearly very soon.