I spent much of this past summer watching my friend’s three-year-old girl, Mia, as my friend prepared for the birth of her son. I’d met Mia last year in Boston before her family had all moved back home to Beijing. Now, Mia was in Minnesota, living in an old Saint Paul house where she could watch birds and bunnies from the porch.
The first time I visited, Mia yelled at me and her mom because we were speaking English and she couldn’t understand us. So we agreed that Mia would teach me Chinese and I’d teach her English. We drew sea creatures together and learned their names. When I said something in English that Mia found odd, she yelled the Chinese version of it back to me, putting the long diphthongal vowels of the upper Midwest into the word and then collapsing in giggles.
I don’t understand children very well and am a little scared of them. When Mia moved to the US, I thought of her as something helpless to be carried along by her mom, as if the new culture and the buzz of a befuddling language wouldn’t bother her at all. [Read more…]