Friday, August 31, 2007

On Growing Up Too Fast

Onechan's been saying some things since we moved away from Fukuoka that are really heart-breaking. Here are a few:

  • "I want to be a baby again."
  • "I miss my friends at the yochien."
  • "I miss my friends at Chiba."
  • "I miss my friends at [her old day care place in Fredonia]." [This after realizing that yesterday was her last day there--next Tuesday she starts at the university children's center we're calling her hoikuen to link it to and distinguish it from her yochien.]
  • "I want an onechan. A big girl." [This after playing with an 8-year-old all day yesterday and a 5-going-on-6-year-old half the day today.]

These aren't so bad on their own, but in context, they are. I'm not just talking body language and tone of voice. I'm talking about the kind of reception onechan and the tsuma have been getting when they primarily use Japanese out in public here in western NY. (I guess imoto would be getting it, too, if she used more than two words regularly.) Let's just say that they've already gotten more nasty looks and cold shoulders in just over two weeks here than I got the entire year using English in public anywhere in Japan. It would be bad enough on its own, but onechan is old enough to notice it.

Fortunately, it hasn't been all bad. Reuniting with her friends has been great, if awkward at first. With her best friend, onechan slipped into her Fukuoka friendship mode, chattering away in Japanese almost continuously while role-playing various games. In a larger group of old and new faculty kid friends, she went back to her mode on the first few weeks of yochien--quiet observation, tagging along, imitating what the kids were doing, and eventually loosening up.

And it's not like it's not going to get better quickly. Her Fredonia hoikuen is set up remarkably similarly to her Fukuoka yochien, and she started playing with the kids in her room right away when we visited it last week. She's been speaking English her whole life, unlike Japanese, which she's really only started speaking seriously with people other than her mom since January, so it shouldn't take her long to be able to express herself as well in English as Japanese. Her Buffalo hoikuen every Saturday will at least get her speaking and learning Japanese on a regular basis, not to mention interacting with Japanese and Japanese-American kids. And the tsuma and I are doing everything we can to help her stay bilingual, have lots of play time her friends in Fredonia on Sundays, and learn to deal with the eyes on her when she speaks Japanese in public.

But still, it's a complicated homecoming--and worse, onechan is starting to notice the complications. It had to happen eventually, but a part of me was hoping it would come much much later. Staying up worrying about it isn't going to make it any better, so time to sign off. (But I can't help noticing that the day care costs for both girls going twice a week here in western NY are roughly twice what they were in Fukuoka for onechan to go to yochien every weekday, plus get swimming lessons on Fridays with many of her classmates....)

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