Saturday, 27 December 2008

The Bell Curve

For this au pair, the Christmas season has brought with it a new set of unexpected difficulties. It all started a week ago when 7 year old Marta, for the first time, threw a fit when I attempted to help her dress herself. To be fair to her, perhaps I was feeling a little impatient at the time as she was already late for school and would not relent in her daily routine of whistling whilst holding her unused toothbrush in one hand and twirling around her knickers in the other. However, this seemed to be to be the turning point in Marta's overall behaviour, not only with me but with her parents as well.

Every day which we spend together is now plagued by temper tantrums, crying fits, and misunderstandings on Marta's side, and unbearable frustration on mine. Half of these incidents I put down our increasing ability to understand each other's languages. Yes, I know, its strange -- you would think that the more English she understands, the more we should be able to communicate. However, I have realized that mutual understanding does not necessarily develop in an uphill fashion. Rather, it is more comparable to an upside-down bell curve. This is because, at the beginning, both parties make a conscious effort to understand and accommodate to the wishes of the other, just as strangers tend to be very polite on the first meeting. This stage, though, is followed by a time when both understand about 50% of what the other is saying. As a result, while there is much comprehension between the two parties, they is also a wide berth for misunderstandings as well. This, unfortunately, is the stage at which Marta and I find ourselves and it is putting a certain degree of strain on our relationship. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Marta's grimaces in my direction and her tendency to cry or yell hurtful expression my way whenever I say something even slightly displeasing to her are weighing heavy on my soul.

This behaviour has also been extended to her parents. I am hearing fewer and fewer pleases and thank yous, and whenever they try to have a deep conversation with her, they receive empty responses. I only hope that this new behaviour is not the result of bad influences from school. As we all know, you can understand a person fairly well simply by observing the people they spend time with.

I only hope that her behaviour improves after the stress of the holiday season is over. It would be a shame to spend the rest of the year with a girl who cannot stand my presence.

15 comments:

Mamma Mia said...

This phase will pass, I'm sure. She is probably trying to exert her independence and is all a part of growing up. Hang in there.
Hope you had a nice Christmas and that you are enjoying your stay in the mountains.Talk to you soon,
Love Mamma Mia

Amethyst said...

I agree; if she grew into it she will certainly grow out. Perhaps you're someone she is comfortable enough with to vent her frustrations on?

Are the other children going through a similar phase based on their english skills?

heather-in-italia said...

I hope this stage passes as I am starting to lose my patience. I suppose I just have to be a little more explicit in my explanations whenever I speak to her. Thankfully, this problem only occurs with Marta and I put it down partly to her strong will and pride in her English ability. The other two are still too young to assert their opinions, and it is pretty easy to manipulate them into doing things whereas Marta seems to have entered her teenage years 5 years too early :P

Floatin_wind said...

Just ride through it Heather. I remember dealing with some nine year olds who were stubborn and threw fits like that without having a second language come into it. (This was quite a few years ago though) I agree with everyone above that she will grow out of it especially if you have no reaction to it.

Amethyst said...

Heather you haven't posted in your blog in so long! I'm desperately awaiting the next installment of Single Multilingual - don't leave your dear readers hanging!

sababoy said...

It's not true if I say moonlight won't die with its red face when you're not here. But believe it when you're here, the little tiny hole of hope to horizon won't catch the dark disappointment of night.

Steph the WonderWorrier said...

Oh Heather, my love...

Post!

Blend said...

Yeah i am with Amethyst, don't leave your dear readers hanging......

Anonymous said...

Aw man! I'm looking into becoming an Au Pair in Italy and just finished all that you ever wrote! I'm sad you didn't keep it going! Now I have to go scrounge around the internet some more and look for more peoples' experiences.
Update us with a conclusion at least?

Hotel Link exchange said...

Girisadan Guest House, Jaipur - "A Home away from Home" - Is different from the typical heritage hotel jaipur in many ways.

Real Estate Developers said...

Growing children can be weired many times.

Cafe Bruges said...

Watching our children, growing, capable, and being wiser is an incomparable joy...

Health Link Exchange said...

Good to read this.. will come back to see new updates..

Lupita said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences here on your blog --- I enjoyed this post, and I'm looking forward to more.

mikelalice said...

Hi! I love your blog and your exchange experience stories. I'd like to inform you about an intersting project... Could I have your contact?

Blog Archive