Not even the French strikes could keep us away from our American vacation!
The kids and I had a more or less uneventful trip to the US, except that Suzanne fell asleep at the very end of the flight, had to be carried off by the burliest flight attendant I've ever seen (note that the Air France staff were really great and so very helfpul to me!). Once they got her in the wheel chair at Newark, she woke up slowly and by the time we reached customs, she was ready to walk. For once, the Newark customs agent was friendly. (And they didn't take my maroilles cheese...shhhh!)
In the 2 weeks we were in the US, I managed to see everyone I'd planned on seeing. Needless to say, it was exhausting. I decided not to bog the kids down with too many planned activities.
I brought Suzanne into Manhattan for the morning and lunch three days after our arrival. She was most impressed with the new playground in Union Square. As we walked from 14th Street towards 34th Street, I told her to look up at the buildings and I pointed out The Empire State, that we could up it next time whe she's a litle bigger. She said, 'Mommy, I know when I'm bigger, we can go up. But I'd like to try now." On the list for next time: Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and the Highline (oh and that really cool ferris wheel at the Toys R Us in Times Square).
On Halloween day, we went to the Turtle Back Zoo (which has changed a lot since I had my 6th birthday party there!). It is a great little zoo, the carousel is beautiful, the train is still nice and the animals were awesome. We particualrly liked the bears and the wolves. And then we went trick or treating with my friend's little girl. Once Suzanne got the hang of it, she and H were off and running. But I was surprised about what Suzanne was intersted in. And it wasn't the candy, most of which is still sitting in a bag at home. She wanted to eat pretzels. And the next day, it was as if the candy had never happened! I was wondering if maybe she's so French that she doesn't understand the importance of Halloween loot or if watching Yo Gabba Gabba's song about not eating too much candy.
The kids had 2 weeks of total immersion in English which seemed to do them both good. I noticed after a couple days that even Suzanne's accent seemed to be changing as I know mine does. But what surprised me was that even after 2 weeks of not hearing a word of French, she still used some French words. Towards the end of the trip she had both an emotional and a linguistic meltdown when her father was on the phone. She just wouldn't speak to him, she said because "I don't know what to say." When we tried again the next day, she completely broke down because she missed him so much.
But as soon as we were back on the plane surrounded by a French speaking crew, she jumped right back into français with both pieds.
Max on the other hand, showed us that he was so unfazed by the American immersion that he decided to walk. Like for Suzanne who walked at 19 months, we are more concerned with the language development since we figure he'll walk one day anyway. But the fact that he hit this milestone during our time in the US shows that he's comfortable in an all English environment and reassures me that he will be bilingual like his sister. He came up with quite a few new words every day.
An intersting aspect when coming back after two weeks is seeing how Suzanne (and Max too probably although he can't express it the same way) can switch between languages and cultures. Although she is using a lot more English with her father, she jumped right back into French. On Tuesday at school, she and I proudly presented Halloween to her class. We taught her classmates to say "trick or treat" and scare them with a jack-o-lantern. Boo!
As for me, there are a number of reasons I know my kids are American which is reassuring:
- Suzanne only wanted to eat hamburgers; Max ate anything in sight.
- Both kids love swings which are just non-existent in Lille (and most of France as far as I can tell)
- We all loved the all-access playground at Edgemont Park.
- Suzanne made friends in the park, played with my friends' kids just like any other American kid (although I did hear her taunting in French).
but there are also many reasons I know my kids are French:
- When faced with a choice of 30 flavors of ice cream, Suzanne chose mint chocolate chip just like she would in France (I got cookies and cream at Applegate Farms where I worked as a teenager)
- At the zoo, Suzanne asked if she could walk on the grass.
- Both kids make funny noises with their mouths that just don't exist in English.