Sunday, April 20, 2008

Stop Calling Me That!

My children have developed a bilingual habit which is starting to drive me crazy!

At the beginning, when my children first started speaking, they called me "Mama." I identified myself to them as Mama and so they followed suit. This all came very naturally and easily and I gave it very little thought.

Me=Mama and their father=Papa.

That was until I started noticing that my children were saying "Corey" much of the time. I noticed it most when they were speaking to one another (vs. speaking to me) and figured it was just a cute way for them to identify me by my given name. Little did I realize that it was going to start driving me crazy with frustration.

It wasn't until recently that I noticed that they were saying Corey when in conversation with one another in English. And that they were even calling out to me saying Corey rather than Mama! For example, if they were playing in the living room in English and wanted to get my attention, they'd call out, "Corey!" And if an English-speaking person was around with whom they were speaking, they would use the name Corey when talking about me to them!

Everyone we know thinks it is absolutely adorable. "How cute that they call you Corey!" they say.

And what about me? What do I think about it? It is making me want to sit those little bilinguals down and give them a long lesson in linguistics.

Instead, I started by asking them (calmly) why they call me Corey instead of Mama. They clearly identified the situation by stating matter-of-factly that when they speak English they say Corey and when they speak German they say Mama. "Mama is German, Corey is English," they tell me full of conviction. As if they were teaching me the translation of my name in each language!

After a while I started bugging them about it. "I wish you'd just call me Mama all of the time. I am still your Mama whether you are speaking English or German." They looked at me with a questionable look and said, "We'll think about it."

Ah, so, is that where things have progressed? They get to decide what they want to call me after a joint bilingual sibling consultation? Am I to have no say in the matter? I'm their Mama for goodness sakes!

As of today, they still call me Corey in English and Mama in German. They have not been convinced by my explanations and pleading in the least.

But little do they know that I have raised the stakes (or lowered my pride) and I now shamelessly complain to them in nothing less than a childish manner. "It makes me so sad when you call me Corey. Don't call me that anymore, ok? Just call me Mama all of the time!" I am delighted to say that I did stop short of bribery: "If you only call me Mama from now on I'll give you some candy!"

In the end, I realize that I have little say in the matter. My 6, 4 and 3 year olds are bilinguals destined to make language choices based on nothing but what makes most sense to them. That is their right to use language as they see fit, isn't it?

I can go blue in the face complaining, begging and insisting but I fear that when push comes to shove, I'll forever be half Mama and half Corey in the eyes of my little bilinguals. I guess there are worse things to worry about! At least they are still speaking German with me.

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