The other day I was having dinner and watching An Pan Man with my two daughters, who we are raising bilingually. (An Pan Man is an anthropomorphized pastry hero who helps out his other pastry related characters in their struggles against their “nemesis” Vaikin-man. — Yeah, that’s all part of the charm of Japanese characters.) As I was watching my daughters watching the television, I was starting to get stressed out by the fact that I wasn’t understanding a lot of the Japanese. After all of these years, shouldn’t I understand what my daughters already understand? (Though I was making a big assumption that they understood everything.) “Shouldn’t I already be there?” I thought.
For a minute I channeled Steve Chandler, who has written, “Stay out of your future.” The past is done. The future hasn’t happened yet. The only moment that you can be in is the moment you are in now. The trick is to stay awake in that moment. It’s the only moment we have. When I remembered that, I decided to just listen to the cartoon calmly rather than listen to my self-talk about not being worthy or accomplished. If I could string more moments like that together, I would be a lot more fluent. (Check out what AJATT has to say on surfing the line between patience and impatience.) Each present moment helps create a little archipelago where life, idea, and skills can flourish.
In real-life I can be a hot mess, but on this blog I get to be the wise samurai man. Put this in your pipeline and surf it:
- Stay present. Breathe.
- When you aren’t “present” don’t beat yourself up. Are you going to waste a present moment by beating yourself up for not staying in the present?
- Don’t flagellate yourself for not practicing, just practice. Be aware. Practice badly, but just practice. You will refine your practice when you stop beating yourself up.
- Don’t try to create a whole continent of being present. Be pleased with your little islands of present moments until you’ve made your ever expanding Hawaii of skill, fun, and contribution.
Surf the present moments. Fall. Get up again. Look at the waves. Look at the sun. Every day is a new day. Hang ten. (Whatever that means.) 🙂
My son's a few months away from being three years old but he already says things (in Vietnamese) that I don't understand.
Anyway, that's just to say I definitely know where you're coming from in this post.
One way I like to think about discovering gaps in my Vietnamese skills, however, is to ask if I even need to be concerned with them.
For example, I'm going to miss a bunch of words in a conversation between girls about going to the hair salon. I could sort of guess at some terms, like "perm" or something, but I'm not going to have a clear understanding of most of 'em.
And, to get to the point, I'm more than happy with that. Not wasting my time and mental energy on something I'm not going to use is in my opinion smart. It also provides something very valuable: an easy way out of conversations on topics that I find boring.
It's kind of like choosing to suck at some things, those unimportant to you, so that you can excel at other things, those that you find particularly interesting or meaningful.
Bringing this back to your post, then, I find this approach also makes it easier to do the things you advised–to stay present, for example, and to not beat myself up about things that aren't really that important to me.
Good point and maybe the reason children "learn faster" is because they are more in the present moment.