Friday, January 29, 2010

Counseling: Session 1

The pre-marital counseling has begun. With the help of a professional, we have now begun to explore all the secrets of a successful marriage. In my last post here I listed the topics that we felt that we needed to address. In our first session, we focused on the most important aspect of any good relationship - communication.

The ability to talk honestly and openly with another person is the only means to creating and maintaining a trusting and loving relationship with another person. Sharing all those thoughts, dreams, wishes, and fears that for so many remain hidden forever in the darkest corners of the soul is what binds the lives of two people together. I am lucky to have such a relationship with both Weber and the girls. There is no topic that is off limits for discussion, no question that will deliberately go unanswered, no dream that must go unexpressed.

We do, however, have one serious problem relative to communication - what will be our primary second language at home - French or Spanish?

Erin and I speak French. It is not uncommon for us to have conversations about dinner, or clothing, or the weather in French. We can also talk about the people around us because no one else here understands what we are saying. That is definite advantage to French.

Weber and Edgar (Erin's boyfriend) speak Spanish. They too can talk about the people around them (usually Erin) in Spanish. Though Erin had several years of Spanish in elementary school, her Spanish vocabulary was repressed with the memories of a horrid Spanish teacher that she had in school the last year she took Spanish. Once you get past Gracias and taco my ability to comprehend Spanish is almost nonexistent. That is a rather sad state of affairs given that I live in Texas. Though I teach at a school that is in an area with a large Hispanic population, I have very few Spanish speaking students; most of my non-English speaking studenys are Korean. Fortunately all of them are commited to learning English!

So what to do at home . . .

The language line is rather sexist - the girls speak French and the boys speak Spanish. (Even Adidas, the male dog understands Spanish because as a puppy Brooke taught him all those important dog words in Spanish.) With gender as the dividing line it is easy for Erin and I to talk about how sweet the boys are without it going to their heads. On the flip side, I have no idea what the boys are saying. Their conversations are usually quite animated and involve many hand gestures and laughing, undoubtably at our expense. Since we don't underdstand much of what they are saying, its OK. We don't know that they are talking about the fact that we ae lousy cooks or are having a bad hair day.

Perhaps having gender-specific languages is not such a bad idea . . .except for one thing. Erin thinks it is "hot" when Edgar talks to her in Spanish. Remember that no topic around here is off limits . . .She asked me if I thought it was hot when Weber spoke Spanish. I had never really thought about it in quite those terms. Usually when he is talking to me in Spanish it is to relate stories about the "not-so-nice" things that his students have said forgetting that he will indeed understand them .

I was telling this story to a group of friends, one of whom is a single male Latin teacher. Another member of the group, a woman in her sixties, turned to the two bilingual guys and said, "When you are in bed, you should talk to the woman in both languages so that they will feel like they are in bed with two guys!" First we all had to get over the shock that this particular person thought and then said that and then we had a good laugh at the scenario. All I could think was that I would have to learn how to say, "Are either of you awake?" and "Can one of you move the dog out of the middle?" in Spanish.

So how was this settled? We will remain a tri-lingual family. Despite our language differences, we manage to communicate well with one another. The truth of the matter is that the most important things that need to be communicated between people require no words. A smile or a hug is understood universally; they require no translation.

I think we got our money's worth from our counseling session. What a pleasant surprise.

Oops! Make that a tetra-lingual , or should we just go with multi-lingual, family. Brooke is fluent in Russian, a language that none of us understands even a single word, which may be a good thing since her Russian class last quarter focused on Russian bath houses!