Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Emmigration Fears: Playgrounds

One of the problems our new 2 + epsilon body problem faces is the fact that I do not speak the language in my new academic home, while my partner does in his. This is not a problem for the actual job part of my new situation, since all academic (and most bureaucratic) business at University F is conducted in English, or at least bilingually. This will pose a problem in terms of my going out and meeting people. (This is fine, since I'm dead set against forming any social life or growing any emotional attachment to my new city.)

My lack of linguistic compatibility was one of the driving factors to have Epsilon live with his father. And over the past 4 months, since we've made that decision, the following conversation has been very common:
"How well do you speak City Language (CL)?"
"Not at all."
"How are you planning to learn CL?"
"I'm not."
"But surely, you'll pick it up from Epsilon."
"Epsilon's not going to live with me."
"Why ever not?"
"I don't particularly feel like single parenting where I don't speak the language."
Insert variation on how hard can it be.
The last two weeks, my partner and I have attended conferences at countries where we do not speak the language. While one parent attends talks, the other visits interesting parks and beaches. In general, it's been a very nice experience.

There's a but. Otherwise, why the setup?

How do you tell a 5 year old not to throw sand in your son's eyes when you don't know the word for sand, or son, or child, or eye. How do you tell a kid to share if you don't know the word for share. How do you have small talk with the other parents at the playground (because really, watching your kid go "wheee" down a slide is only interesting the first 5 times he does it) when you don't know much beyond hello, thank you, please, and excuse me. Playgrounds for these last two weeks have been an extremely isolating, disempowering and humiliating experience.

There are many linguistic difficulties with single parenting. I think I believe that for most of the really essential ones,  (the doctor, the pharmacist, the day care providers) I can get by with English. But there is so much more to parenting than that. I've been citing playground interactions as an example of why single parenting in a foreign tongue may be a challenge. At this point I can sadly declare that my fears were correct, spitefully tell my nay sayers to go fuck someone until they have a kid and do it themselves, and confindently know that I've made the right decision for everyone who matters.


  1. Not knowing the language can be tiring and very difficult.

  2. Some people don't realize that there is a difference between living and surviving. In many places English is enough to survive, but not to live. The situations you discuss are examples of that.