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Adoption Blog: Straight to Bunk Beds

Lost Languages
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My husband and I spent seven weeks in country when we went to Poland to meet and bring our son home. We consider ourselves very lucky—we were traveling with another family who adopted their daughter at the same time. We made fast friends with this family and the two kids played together every chance they got. 

Our friends had rented an apartment in Poland a few flights up the stairs from us (arranged by our facilitator). This made it easy to rotate Movie Night from one family to the next. We could have our son shower and put on his pajamas after dinner, then make the trek upstairs for Movie Night (or vice versa).

After a great night of watching A Series of Unfortunate Incidents (in Polish with English subtitles), we parents sat back to finish a glass of wine while the kids played in the living room. They chattered about the movie and about their plans for tomorrow. We parents listened and tried to interpret with our very basic knowledge of the Polish language.

“Won’t it be great when these two have these same conversations in English!” one of us wondered aloud.

“I can’t wait!” we all agreed.

It all seemed so impossible at the time that it would ever even happen. From all of the research we had read, our heads told us that they would learn English quicker than we would ever expect. But these two? Talking to each other in English? No way! Our hearts told us that they would probably always speak to each other in Polish since they share this unique life experience with each other.

When we got back to the States, the kids would occasionally Skype each other and touch base about what was going on in their new homes. Each got a virtual tour of the other’s home by walking around our houses with laptops in hand. Respective furry creatures were met by placing them as close as possible to the screen. While the kids chatted online in Polish, we would chat with the parents on the phone to see how things were going from their perspective. Our son would talk quickly and list off all the things he had done since they last spoke. It was incredibly cute.

Then our friends came for a visit this past summer from across the country. We all went out for dinner together their first night in town. As the two kids settled into their seats at the restaurant, you could hear their chatter instantly.

Him: How’s it going?
Her: Great.
Him: What you want supper?
Her: Pizza. What you want?
Him: Maybe cheeseburger.
Us:  .....???.....

There wasn’t any Polish spoken that whole weekend between the kids. It was over so soon - we had only been home for 4-5 months at the time. That moment in Poland wishing for the English to come fast and the Polish to cease so we could understand the two chattering seemed so insignificant all of a sudden. Instead, I felt something else entirely—mostly sadness mixed with disbelief. And also happiness that they were so comfortable in their English—although, honestly, their conversations could have had so much more depth if they had used Polish. I want for him to be able to have both languages—to not have to choose one or the other, but to have both.

It has taken me a lot of time to process all of this—and, honestly, I still am trying. I had heard about kids who lost their native languages, but I never really thought that it would happen to us. It is my heart that has had (and still is trying) to adjust to its own expectations and hopes.

Now we are left trying to find ways for him to continue to use his Polish, while still continuing to learn English. We are certainly a work in progress…

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