Tag Archive: language


You’re so Lucky

I’ve been studying Spanish for the last five months or so through online courses and an app on my phone. It’s really cool what we have available today when it comes to learning new languages. When I first learned French I did it in two years at Santa Barbara City College in California. I grabbed hold of French, wrestled it to the ground and wouldn’t let it go.

Ever since I was a child I’ve talked to myself. This comes in handy when you spend so much time on your own. It also came in very handy when I was learning French since it helped me to think in French more and more. It was great living in Santa Barbara where so many people visit from around the world. I was able to talk to lots of people and had great relationships with my professors, so when I was accepted into a study abroad program in Paris, I was already fluent in the language.

When I wasn’t studying in Paris I traveled around Europe, picked up German, Italian and Russian. We didn’t have cell phones back then or MP3 players. Some of the first portable CD players were coming out and I just picked up one of the coolest from Sony. I think I took about 50 compact discs with me to France.

I remember meeting this guy in Prague who was from Sweden who had “forgotten” his French. I couldn’t grasp how he had forgotten the language. When I went back to Santa Barbara I had a hard time switching back to English and the culture shock of the United States was a bit much for me. I withdrew from college and went into working full time.

Russian was the first to go. I could barely read or write it. Enough to get by when I saw Russian signs. It was okay. I was completely fluent in French, one of the languages of my heritage. The German and Italian fled overnight together. The German bothered me a little bit more, but I still had my beloved French.

As the years passed, I would watch French films when I could find them, speak to whomever I could in French and still was very strong in the language. One day, I picked up L’Etranger and I couldn’t read it anymore. I understood some of the languages but my brain didn’t process it like it once did.

I had never understood illiteracy until I was illiterate in French. I still spoke French but I knew my vocabulary had really dropped. It wasn’t until 2015 or so that I accepted that I had forgotten most of French. I had told myself, over and over again, that I would “get it back” when I went back to France. Something I had been telling myself for about 15 years. After all, whenever I traveled to a non-English speaking country I picked up the language quickly, so the French would come back in full force, right?

I recently started studying French on that same app that I have been learning Spanish. What a shock it was to barely remember anything and to have lost my accent. The loss really shook me. However, I’ve continued to study and I’ve started cross studying from French to Spanish, Spanish to French and English to both French and Spanish. I’ve not forgotten as much French as I had thought but that accent. Lord, help me!

Technology has brought the world closer together in so many ways and over half of all web content is in English. How sad. Here we are, with tools that I would have died for years ago. Tools that would have allowed me to keep speaking French, German, Russian and learn all the other languages I wanted to learn at our fingertips, yet here’s English dominating the web.

What’s the point of this lament? Don’t give into English. Learn it, by all means, if you so desire. I believe that language helps us learn more about each other. However, don’t give up the languages you speak. Fight for them. The tools are out there. Perhaps it’s just me, but I love languages, I love words and I love joining them together in sensual harmony.

So, whatever you do though, don’t settle for personal device translators and technological crutches that steal the wonder and joy of language. Sure, you can have a conversation with someone in a language you don’t speak, which is cool. How much better though, if you learned the language and the gifts of the culture behind it?

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a shame that N.A.S.A. discontinued the Space Shuttle program in 2011 and, as far as I know, we don’t have another space program in the works. You see, there have been 23 American astronauts who have gone into outer space, and of those 21 were firstborn children and the other two were only children. As a firstborn child, I had a pretty good chance, if we had a program, of getting into outer space. At least, a better chance than you middle born et al. There’s something about being first that just about beats everything else. It’s like a boost of victory when you’re first. Just ask anyone who has been the first to reply to any sort of forum post or major thread with their victory cry of, “first!” All the hard work, the expectations from parents and other family members, the visits to the therapists, the broken relationships, health problems, and general anxiety of always having to prove to yourself that you’re, “the best” can be seen in every single letter of, “first!” You know that a person’s family couldn’t feel any more pride. Just thinking about how Neil Armstrong felt when he first stepped onto the moon and said, “first!” just sends shivers up and down my spine.

I’m reminded of when I was nine years old, and we were learning to swim in elementary school. We didn’t have a pool at the school but we were fortunate enough to travel to a nearby University with a pool and the first high diving board I had ever seen. Seriously, I had never even seen a diving board in person. To this very day, I can remember being the first person selected to jump off of that high dive board. I was so excited as hand over hand, I climbed the ladder to the top. I think the only person more excited was the kid behind me. When I reached the top, all I could hear were the cheers of the people below. Since we were at the University pool, there were other classes there as well as adult swimmers. I walked right up to the end of the board and stopped. It was so high, and I suddenly became afraid. Everyone was yelling, “jump!” and I couldn’t. There I was, the kid who wore a motorcycle helmet and thought he was Evel Knievel, standing there afraid. I walked back and the kid behind me jumped to the cheers of those below. I jumped second. Second. There were still cheers but I had been second. Something changed in me on that day.

A part of me would like to tell you that I vowed to never be second again. That’s not what happened. Instead, I heard this thunk sound as another nail had been hammered into the coffin of being second. You see, even though I was first born, I didn’t know how to feel about my role in my tiny world. I felt the burden of firstborn. The one who didn’t live up to parental expectations. Unbeknownst to me, I had experienced early childhood disrupted attachment. 

Before my sister was born, I remember being the only child. I remember walking into the living room on Easter Sunday and finding the entire room filled with streamers, baskets, eggs. It was a cornucopia of all that was “Easter” to a young child. I remember going out on Halloween with my Dad. The family bike rides and our stops at the local 7-Elven to pick up a Slurpee. Feeding donuts to the backyard squirrels, playing with Baby, our dog who was really the firstborn since Mom and Dad got a dog first. I remember my mom freaking out when I would get hurt on my bike, I was Evel Knievel, remember? I remember feeling special. When I was born, you know I shouted, “first!”

My sister was a confounding joy to me. I was her big brother and her protector and she needed one. I remember the last time we went on a family bike ride. My sister was strapped into one of those seats that sit on the back of a ten-speed bike and the seat fell off while we were passing a tall drainage ditch. It was on my Dad’s birthday and she couldn’t have been more than a year or so old. They put a butterfly stitch on her forehead, and we never went riding again. I felt guilty. After all, my parents had been telling me that I had to, “watch over” my sister. It was this mantra my Mom had when we were growing up, “You two are the only two you have in this world, so stop fighting.” I think about how we fought as children and I laugh now. My beloved sister.

I watched over my sister constantly, well, for a six and a half, maybe a seven-year-old child. She had one of those 1970s baby swings and I would wait for her to fall out so I could catch her. Be the hero and save my sister and perhaps, if I were lucky, get my parent’s attention.

Which brings me to Tim and his new sister, Nell. It didn’t take long before Brad and Janet conceived and gave birth to Nell. Tim was five and had blossomed into an outgoing young boy who loved school, reading and playing with other kids. When we last saw Tim his parents saw him as a perfect little boy who:

  1. Spent most of his time alone in his room playing with his toys or in the backyard in the sandbox and making up games to play.
  2. He was conscientious of his behavior, always confirming whether he was “doing it right” or not.
  3. All of his toys were properly organized. He was so cute, he would give them a stern talking-to if he found them out of order.  Sometimes though, he would become upset when he couldn’t find one of his toys and had to have Janet or Brad help him locate it.
  4. He was very smart and would sit quietly reading to himself.
  5. He loved to draw and was very creative. He even picked up after himself gathering the crumbled and torn pages that had mistakes on them.
  6. He was shy around other kids, they knew it was just a phase that he was going through.

Each behavior listed above can be associated with the communication between Tim and his parents. Tim exhibited the following behavioral traits before his sister Nell was born. These are listed below in association with the behavior his parents observed. Duplicates have purposely been included.

  1. Introverted and creative while unable to relate to peers.
  2. Perfectionist, self-conscious, insecure, people pleaser and self-critical.
  3. Perfectionist, “bossy,” emotionally cold and distant. Critical of others.
  4. Anxiety, co-dependent and impatient.
  5. Intelligent and unable to relate to peers.
  6. Creative, self-deprecating, volatile temper with extreme perfectionistic behavior.
  7. Unable to relate to peers.

Tim’s behavior is a result of the persuasive negative reinforcement that his parents used when disciplining him. These observations of his behavioral traits and the associated behaviors could either be reinforced through time and communication or not. We’re looking at a snapshot in time of how one could interpret Tim’s behavior.

The introduction of another sibling, however, changes the communication between Tim and his parents. Isn’t that logical, you might be saying to yourself? Yes, it is logical. As adults, we can, hopefully, adapt to changes in our environment because we have previously experienced changes in our environments. There is a reason for people not liking change though. Where does that stem from, I wonder?

For our purposes here, we are examining the role of speaking life and death into a person. A child is a person. Brad and Janet consistently promoted two basic forms of communication to Tim before Nell was born. He was either “right” and thusly, “good” in his behavior or he was “wrong” and therefore, “bad” in his behavior. While Brad and Janet thought that they were focusing on the behavior and communicating this to Tim they were, in fact, communicating to Tim that he, the individual, was either “good” or “bad.” Let’s review the perfect little boy and his behavior as viewed by Brad and Janet with Nell at age two (Tim is now six years old).

  1. Tim spends too much time on his own when he’s at home. He needs to spend more time with his sister. He’s selfish and self-absorbed. He’s too rough with her with the games that he makes up to play. Doesn’t he know that she’s too little?
  2. He’s a big kid now and needs to stop acting like a baby always trying to seek attention by asking about every little thing. He needs to start acting his age.
  3. He’s selfish and mean. He doesn’t want to share any of his toys with Nell even though most of them are older toys that he had when he was a baby. He needs to grow up and be nice. Yelling at his baby sister for playing with his toys (and leaving them on the floor) is inexcusable selfish behavior. Where did he get this from? What does it matter if he can’t find all of the toys? He has so many already and he needs to share with his sister. These temper tantrums and outbursts need to stop.
  4. He used to love to read. Now, we can’t even get him to read to his sister. He’s so selfish. When he does read to her, he becomes mean and starts telling her that she’s bad when she doesn’t pay attention. Doesn’t he know that she’s just a baby?
  5. He used to draw such lovely pictures and was always patient and loving. Now, if Nell even comes near him, he pushes her away. If she tries him help, which is so cute, he behaves like an enraged animal, tears up his paper and stomps off to his room.
  6. Every chance he gets, he wants to go out and play with the other kids. He hardly wants to spend any time at home and when he does, there are all of these other kids running around screaming and making noise. Don’t these kids have their own homes to play in?

We’re really at loss as to how to handle Tim. Where did we go wrong? He used to be so sweet and loving.  He doesn’t even listen to us anymore. The only thing that seems to get his attention is when he thinks he’s going to get a good spanking.

This is how Brad and Janet communicate with Tim now. He is still “right” or “wrong” and “bad” or “good.” He’s also, selfish, mean, a “baby” and a brat. He’s a terrible role model for his little sister and their best hope now is that she doesn’t become like him.

For the last two years, Tim has tried to live up to his parent’s standards of behavior that they deeply instilled in him. He still tries to do the “right” thing but the “right” thing isn’t the same anymore. Now, the “right” thing is the “wrong” thing and no matter what he tries to do to please his parents they still get mad him. He’s so afraid to do the wrong things that he spends as much time away from home as he can, playing with his friends. At least his friends listen to him. Well, most of the time. There’s this one new kid who doesn’t always listen, but when they call him names and threaten not to be his friend, he does what they want.

In the next part of this series, we’re going to review how Brad and Janet’s communication with Nell starts and then changes by the time she is two years old. Although I briefly introduced early childhood disrupted attachment in this part, we’ll look into it further and discuss how speaking life into a disruptive child can bring healing and health. If there’s time, we’ll take another look at bullying and cyberbullying, the impact on Millennials and what we can do, as a society to stop the violence and hate that surrounds all of us each day. In the meantime, speak life, speak love, hold the door open for a stranger and, instead of judging other people, think about how you would like to be judged.

 

We’ve been discussing the power of our words. The power of words to bring life and death into a person’s life. I wasn’t expecting to write on this topic nor did it occur to me that it would be an issue that I face and have been facing, for a while. All of us have had promises made to us that have been broken for one reason or another. Some were made by parental figures, those we love, our friends and people we just met. One would think that the promises of a stranger, would mean little, in contrast to the impact that these empty words have upon our psyche and subsequent behavior. In the series, Precious Hope, we discussed why hope and faith appear to fail. The failure of words, the reliance upon humans and the things that we promise to one another, can cause our faith to “fail.”

How many times do you have to be promised that someone will do or not do something before you lose faith in that person? How many times do you hear other people make promises that never see the light of day before you start to lose faith in people? Cynicism and a jaded attitude can flourish when watered so often through the lies that people tell. The “good” intentions. The platitudes of promises never meant to be kept.

“Guard your heart, you’re too sensitive, don’t take it personally” may sound familiar to you like words of encouragement in the face of a broken promise. Perhaps, you’re like me, and you take most of what people promise and consider it, like smoke rising, forming and dissipating with the quickened wind? I’d rather have a discerning attitude filled with grace than the aforementioned viewpoint.

However you treat the broken promises in your life; I have these thoughts on the issues. Don’t be a promise maker. When I first met my two boys, I told them, “I won’t make very many promises to you. I know that there are too many things that happen that I can’t control.” Instead, be a promise keeper. Make the promise, to yourself. If you’re going to do something for a person then do it. Now, I know what you might be thinking. How I can help someone out by picking them up at the airport and not tell them? That’s really not what I’m addressing here. Although, I will quickly amend the previous statement and say that those promises, not kept, hurt as well. Therefore, if you find yourself unable to keep promises then don’t make them. If you promise to pick someone up from the airport and you forget and just leave them hanging then you shouldn’t be making promises. Perhaps, though, you don’t know how to follow through? Most people have their own personal devices to receive calls and texts. Use them to communicate any difficulties in fulfilling your promise (traffic, forced to work late, whatever).  If you cannot fulfill your promise then do the best you can to make sure it can be fulfilled. Picking someone up and can’t make it? Get them another ride through Uber, a taxi or another reliable source (don’t call your serial killer friend and have him pick them up).  If you make a promise to pick someone up, meet someone at a specific time or have someone somewhere, waiting on you then use your smartphone (calendar, reminders, etc). Tie a string around your finger. Put notes all-around your house. Do everything that you can, if you find yourself to be forgetful, to remind yourself that you made a promise. When I think more about it, a lot of promises keep someone hanging somehow. An anniversary, a call that’s never made, dry cleaning not picked up, the list goes on and on. If you’re going to make the promise then make the effort to make sure that you don’t forget the promise. When you find yourself a promise-breaker then stop making promises.

As the one who’s the recipient of broken promises, know this, it’s not you. I know it’s very hard. I know that it’s even harder to not harden your heart toward people when they make promises to you and sometimes, it is you. If your friend Karen makes promises to you and breaks them most of the time then perhaps you need to stop relying upon Karen’s promises and either call her out or thank her and move on. Don’t be passive-aggressive or take Karen’s problem and cast it out onto all people. Whatever you do, don’t become cynical and jaded. Don’t start thinking that everything that people say is a lie. Even if most of the time it might appear to be so.

This was brought to my attention because I am a Christian and I realized that I believe in a God that I cannot see and that most of my faith comes from the Bible. It comes from the Word of God. As a Christian, we know that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17 NKJV)

These are still words. I’ve found myself, to my surprise, to be more of a John 10:38 person who believes through the works that prove the words that have been spoken. However, that’s not faith. Not really. However, I have to remember that God is not a human being. God doesn’t lie. He has never failed me. I look to Bible, and I am reassured by the Word of God;  Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:29, and Hebrews 6:18. I remember that Jesus didn’t trust people because he knew our hearts. (John 2:24)

I didn’t realize until this week how much of a struggle it is for me, sometimes, especially in hard times with people, to rely upon God’s Word and walk in Faith believing that which is unseen as seen.

I want to encourage you today, as I try and receive encouragement in my faith, to not harden your hearts to people. Don’t label them as liars and hypocrites. All of us make mistakes. All of us have broken promises. We’re all human. Let’s try and do the best that we can to speak life to people and, though it be a cliché; if you can’t say something nice then don’t say anything at all.

To those of you are Believers in God. Trust in Him. Remember, He won’t lie to you. His ways are not our ways and his timing is perfect. Remember what He has done in your life so far. Remember the impossible that has been made possible. Count your blessings and above all. Bring your doubt, your fears and concerns to Him who is faithful, because He loves everyone.

 

Do you like routine, order and knowing your place in the Universe? You know what I mean. Whether or not we realize it, most of us desire some semblance of order in our lives. Even those of us who say that we embrace chaos and live “crazy” unpredictable lives don’t like it when our world view forcibly changes. Imagine being six years old, an only child and your parents have another child. The very least that they could have done was to consult you. Did they? Oh, maybe they said something to you about have a little brother or sister but you didn’t know how that would forcibly change your world view. A new brother or sister? Great, you liked the new puppy so it’s probably going to be like that. Mom and Dad are happy and you get all excited until the Day it comes. I remember very clearly when my Mom’s water broke. I was taking a bath and I heard her yell to my Dad something about the water being broken. The water looked fine to me. I should have known, at that time, that this would be the first of many new changes to my world view.

While more couples are deciding to only have one child (11% in 1976 versus 22% in 2015) the family unit is also growing smaller with the number of families of four or more children declining from 40% to 14% as well (from 1976 to 2015). The age gap between children has also increased with the change in family units where both parents are working from one parent staying at home. An age gap of 4+ years appears to be an ideal time for working parents to have a second child. What I found most remarkable in my research regarding age gaps between child was the focus was primarily on the impact on the parents. The parental view is one in which the parents will be able to focus more on one child than the other “knowing” that the older child will “understand”, the self-sufficiency of the older child, etc. The basic idea is that an older child who has had the benefit of years of parental attention will be more able to handle the intrusion of a second child.

In reading the numerous reasons from one source after another I couldn’t help but remember old black and white media where the children didn’t behave like children but were dressed and acted like little adults.

How does a child in the early stages of childhood development (between 3 – 8 years of age) become this independent, self-sufficient, confident, logical, well-organized, mature, paragon of adulthood? No, that’s childhood, right? Does this confuse you? It confuses me that people would expect this from a child who’s just started childhood. The aforementioned qualities are hard to find in many adults. If this weren’t the case then why do so many job advertisements ask for many of these qualities in their search for an employee?

Let’s continue with this idea in mind and consider the types of communication required to form this perfect child. Let’s re-visit Brad, Janet, and Tim who is now four years old. As you may recall from Part Two Brad and Janet decided that they would raise Tim and discipline him through their words.

Unbeknownst to Tim, he was not always going to be an only child and so, from birth, his parents were overprotective, strict disciplinarians, who put a lot of pressure on Tim to be the best that he could be. Tim needed to be a “good” boy who did everything his parents wanted him to do in the way that his parents wanted it to be done. Tim was either “good” or “bad” and what he did was either “good” or “bad” or “right” or “wrong.” Brad and Janet kept their promise to not exercise corporal punishment in disciplining Tim. Instead, they thought that gently and logically explaining to him how he was “wrong” when he wanted to eat cereal with a fork, or how it was “bad” for him to knock over the card house before Janet saw it, were better than spanking him like when they were kids. Brad and Janet focused primarily on persuasive negative reinforcement to change Tim’s behavior.

When Brad and Janet decided to have another child they were confident that Tim could handle it without any problem. Afterall:

  • Tim spent most of his time alone in his room playing with his toys or in the backyard in the sandbox and making up games to play.
  • He was conscientious of his behavior, always confirming whether he was “doing it right” or not.
  • All of his toys were properly organized. He was so cute, he would give them a stern talking-to if he found them out of order.
  • Sometimes though, he would become upset when he couldn’t find one of his toys and had to have Janet or Brad help him locate it.
  • He was very smart and would sit quietly reading to himself.
  • He loved to draw and was very creative. He even picked up after himself gathering the crumbled and torn pages that had mistakes on them.

Overall, Brad and Janet were quite pleased with Tim. Although he was shy around other kids, they knew it was just a phase that he was going through. A little brother or sister would be just the company that he needed. They excitedly started to try for another child. Hopefully, they thought, another one just like Tim!

In the next part of this series, we will review Tim’s “perfect” behavior, introduce childhood disruption, and the conflict of communication that arises when changing from an only child world view to that of a firstborn world view.