His first week at Japanese preschool, when he still called me "Mommy," Sky managed to lock everyone out of his school. It's still not entirely clear to me how he did that, but at just three years old, he was stealth enough to sneak back into the school building, close the sliding door, and apply the lock while everyone else (including all of the teachers and the head nun) was outside enjoying recess. It must have been interesting for a sensory-motivated kid to see so many animated faces mouthing Japanese words to him through the window. Fortunately, he unlocked the door before they had to break the glass.
That's when we realized he might not understand as much Japanese as we thought. During summer break of that year, we spent a lot of time practicing simple greetings: ohayoo gozaimasu, konnichiwa, arigatoo gozaimasu. His teacher thought this was the key to his becoming conversant in Japanese. I'm not sure it was, but Sky did become much more fluent with his friends at school, and soon enough, he was calling me Okaasan.
|Gratuitous "awwww" shot of Sky using his Japanese to woo his preschool "girlfriend."|
On this grey, snowy morning in the Midwestern United States, as we all sit by the fire to warm ourselves in this bitter cold, I listen to Ren building train tracks with the kids, speaking to them patiently in a Japanese that seems foreign to them. And I am reminded of these moments past when I was Okaasan and not Mom. I think of the year or so we lived in Japan and how strange it felt to have my own son speak so fluently in a tongue that wasn't my own. And I am thankful for Ren's persistence as the kids vacillate between resistance and acceptance, incompetence and fluency. Most of all, I'm grateful for his patience as they slowly but gradually figure out how to go from calling him Dad to Otoosan.