Despite having anticipated their arrival for almost two years, I had absolutely NO IDEA how challenging it would be parent a three year old fluent in Haitian Creole who didn’t speak English. I know, I know. DUH. Double DUH. I naively thought “he’ll just understand me and I’ll figure him out.” La di da da da.
In my defense, that is eventually what happened… after about two months of stress, crying, stress, and exhaustion. Did I mention stress?
The truth of the matter is that all five of us took a crash-course-language-immersion-pull-your-boot-straps-on and figured it out. It wasn’t pretty.
There was one afternoon when we sat down for a late lunch when Young Sir just lost it. He was so tired, and frustrated, and upset, screaming and crying and absolutely furious. At the top of his lungs he was yelling
GAAA! BAAAA! CAAA!!!!!
GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! BAAAAAAAAAAAAA! CAAAAAAAAAA!
I was frantically thumbing through my Creole cheat sheets, checking Google Translate, installing Apps on my phone, and calling Creole speaking friends desperate to figure out what he was saying.
Please, please, please tell me what does GaaaBaaaChaaa mean? Anyone? Anyone? BEULLER?!
The emergency passed, naps were taken, bribes (in the form of lollipops) were offered and consumed, and life moved on. We cleared many hurdles in those first few months; the paralyzing fear of our dog subsided, parental bond grew stronger, and ketchup was no longer the only “food”consumed for breakfast. English words started popping out of Young Sir’s mouth with amazing regularity, while Big Brother mastered lots of new Creole phrases (Boundah being a favorite). I found my self saying Oui instead of Yes to the check out clerk at our grocery store. Our two language family became normal, even delightful.
A few weeks later I was cleaning up after lunch and I handed Our Boy a paper towel to dry his hands. He wiped them up, looked up at me with his beautiful brown eyes and stated clear as day “GaaBaaCaaa.” Then walked right over to the garbage can to throw the towel away.
All that time I was trying to figure out what he was saying in Creole while he was speaking ENGLISH. I can only imagine what must have been going through his young mind, but I suspect it was something like “This new white lady is just a little bit slooooow.”
Good News: Young Sir is now fluent with English but has retained just enough of an accent to keep me on my toes. I can figure it out 99% of the time. I posted a video on Facebook on the remaining one percent. Might give you a chuckle, or at the very least you can check out some beautiful, brown eyes.