I Did Not Screw Up My Child Today.

Many of you have kindly followed me through my language neuroses and in particular, Pea’s ‘will she, won’t she’ speak French. We made the decision to bleed ourselves and send her to the Lycée Français International de Bangkok, or LFIB, for a few reasons: the fact that she wasn’t speaking French (though she understood it), my lack of self-confidence in homeschooling—especially in French—and no other affordable schooling options.

Choosing the LFIB was only the first step as the Lycée now offers a bilingual Franco-English program. Yet another decision I could spend hours debating—am I the only one developing a serious phobia of too many choices? We discussed our language profile with the head of the elementary school and, after hearing my grammatical errors, observing hubby’s near lack of French and being told that Pea was currently in an English/Mandarin nursery in Singapore, he was adamant that she be put in the monolingual section. He also begged us to stick to OPOL (One Parent One Language) as, from his experience, this worked best with consolidating languages for the kids under his care.

After Pea completed her first week, her teacher kindly wrote me an email reassuring me that she seemed to be settling in very well. She also queried Pea’s language skills as she had been told Pea spoke French but none was forthcoming and no matter the situation, Pea insisted on responding in English. Her teacher, like the director, emphasized the importance of my using French around her and ask that I encourage her to speak it.

Nearly three months have passed since Pea’s first day at the French Lycée, and school will be wrapping up shortly. I’ve quietly envied the French parents who will be putting their children in the bilingual section next year as I’ve increasingly come across articles extolling the virtues of bilingual immersion programs. In a way, I’ve enjoyed knowing she was getting so much French as it meant I no longer felt as guilty when I would pull out The Gruffalo or another English language story.

I resigned myself to the situation when an game-changer makes its way into my inbox.

The admission criteria for the application in the bilingual section have been voted in the School Council on 2nd April 2009. According to these criteria, the cycle 1 teacher’s council has announced the admission of your child in bilingual Moyenne Section for the next school year starting on September 3rd. In order to validate this decision, it is necessary to send your answer (before june 14th) to let us know whether you accept your child’s admission in the bilingual section.

I read the mail. I read it again. And one more time for good measure. I think this must be some sort of mistake, probably something they sent out to all parents. I walked away from my computer. I walked back. My stream of consciousness as I sat down in front of the screen:

hmm maybe they really think Pea should be in the bilingual program…who are you kidding, she still reverts to English constantly. Generic email. This is a generic email. They charge more for bilingual program and they just want to increase funds in the coffers. But maybe…maybe I should put her in the bilingual program. I have read all these articles talking about how wonderful immersion programs are for kids. And what if I can’t afford to send her to the Lycée one day? What if I have to put her in an English-speaking school? She would be better off if she’d had some tuition in English…

My head spins

I am ruining her. She won’t ever speak proper French or English because of me. Look at all those cute, sophisticated, snarky and/or surprising quotes everyone’s kids are making. Damn you Facebook for driving home the fact that I suck as a parent and I’ve ruined my kid….I need more warm chocolate cake and chocolate sauce to help me forget what a failure I am.

I gave myself a much-needed figurative smack to jolt me before I spiralled out of control. I told myself I should rule out the bilingual option definitively by checking with the Director directly.  I drop him a quick note confirming the email was sent by mistake and, given her French, could he please confirm that we should be enrolling Pea in the monolingual section.

Yesterday my computer chimes. I’ve got mail. [Remind myself to figure out how to turn off annoying notifications.]

In my inbox was an email from Pea’s teacher. In short she said the following:

  • Pea tested extremely well in her French assessment (54/57), much higher than many kids who would be kept in the monolingual section to help them consolidate their French.
  • Pea has made enormous progress, now speaking in full sentences with a good working vocabulary.
  • We feel Pea has the right profile for the bilingual section and that it would be an optimal environment in which she will flourish.

‘Holy Crap’ I thought to myself. ‘I must not be reading this correctly.’ Then I realized I was, and for a moment, about 19.5 hours to be exact, I felt a joyous combination of pride, excitement, relief and a belief that I wasn’t screwing up my child.