It’s Not What You Say…
Children are a great barometer of a person’s likability, especially with something like a language barrier.
We recently had the pleasure of spending some time with my sister-in-law’s mother, Paw Paw- I think it means grandmother in Manduran-, who happens to be right off the
boat plane from Hong Kong and only speaks un poco English. Just about my entire life has been spent in a predominantly English speaking setting, a week in Puerto Vallarta being the only exception, so this would be a new experience for me.
The initial introduction went as well as can be expected; she smiled, my wife and I smiled, and the kids hid behind us. Then, I think I might have said something like welcome, nice to meet you, or would you like some cheese. I don’t remember what exactly, but I’m sure it was just gibberish to the nice woman.
The kids avoidance of this woman lasted less than ten minutes and then they were all over her. It seemed like our soon-to-be four-year-old understood that her new found friend couldn’t speak English because she and her little brother decided to use the photographs as flash cards. The woman was inundated with “Daddy”s, “Mommy”s, “Papa”s,”Grammie”s, and “Fred Willard“s. I’m not sure why my wife had all those pictures of Mr. Willard; I thought she was more of a Martin Mull fan.
The most amazing and amusing thing I witnessed during this experience was something my little boy did. We decided to read both kids a bedtime story downstairs where everyone was instead of upstairs with just our nuclear family like we do at home, minus the dog, and it kind of blew up in our faces. All the extra activity helped the usually captive audience lose interest in the story quickly. First, our daughter drifted away toward her Aunt and then our son followed his big sister’s lead and wrestled his way off of my lap. Because our listeners abandoned us, we stopped reading Good Night Pillow Fight half way through. That’s when my two-year-old little boy grabbed the book out of my hands and brought it over to Paw Paw and wanted her to read it to him. She looked stunned. I’m sure she must have been thinking what do you want me to do with this nonsense. The best part was that he kept returning the book back on her lap after she would set it aside. It was his way of “insisting” that she read to him. I didn’t know how to break it to him that there was no way for him to win this time. Fortunately he eventually gave up on his own and we all shook our heads and laughed.
The boy obviously didn’t take the book snub personally, because he spent a lot more time “conversing” with the nice woman that only speaks a little English. Our daughter enjoyed her time spent with Paw Paw just as much and never once seemed to care that the adult couldn’t speak her language. It’s probably very similar to when she hangs out with her brother who just started speaking somewhat recently and she always seems to know what he said. Because of this we learned that the boy is generous to a fault, because through her interpretations he always tells us to give his toys or cookies to his sister. I guess we’re just fortunate that she’s around to help.