So – one of the things people have been asking since Rhett was born is whether it’s a lot different to take care of two kids than it is to take care of one. Those who already have more than one child already know the answer to this … but for those who don’t, I can only think of one analogy to accurately describe it. It was the semester I decided to study in Austria [despite the fact that I suck (like - SUCK) at German.] That day-to-day struggle of processing all of my thoughts into another language feels strikingly similar to juggling one more kid than I am used to …
Right. So when I decided to study in Austria, I did so knowing that all of my classes would be in German. Sadly for me, as mentioned above, I sucked at German. I had taken most of my German language courses as independent study, and I had even completely skipped a semester so that I could obtain the “two years” of credits required for the exchange program. What that meant is that when I arrived in Austria, I had virtually no idea what anyone was saying.
Just as bad, no one knew what I was saying either. My German teacher himself told me my voice was like a dog-whistle … as in, it probably didn’t even register in most people’s ears. It was frustrating to say the least, especially for a girl who felt passionately about my German heritage and wanting to make the most of my exchange experience.
In class, I’d sit for the entire period squinting my eyes in desperate concentration trying to catch words that sounded somewhat familiar. I’d write down phrases I thought I was hearing, only to get back to the dorm and look them up in my dictionary … and realize I must have mis-heard. It was the difference between simply being able to attend a class (like I’d done at home) and having to struggle through every single moment of a class (which I was doing overseas.) Nothing is as humbling to a perfectionist as struggling through things that usually come super easy.
What I mean to say is, to me, having two kids is like studying in Austria – at least at the moment. Most days require 100 percent attention and focus. There’s not a lot of opportunity to relax or think about “extra” things – let alone excel like I want to. I’m sort of just fumbling along – trying to figure out how to feed one kid while playing blocks with another … how to get one baby to sleep while soothing a toddler who’s suddenly convinced there are spiders and sharks living under his bed … how to get one baby out of the car seat while keeping one from running in front of a car at the same time … how to give 100 percent of myself to two different people. That’s one I haven’t quite learned the math for, but I’m trying.
I don’t think the feeling of overwhelm will last forever. After all, most people’s language skills do actually improve after studying in a foreign country for a period of time. (Mine didn’t, but that’s another story.) I’m just hoping that throughout my learning curve, none of my love is getting lost in translation. The challenge for me (as always) is being patient throughout the learning process.