16 May 2011

"Your Children Will Never Learn Polish" (Post Retrieved)

I went today to a different library than my own.  Partly to maybe meet other moms, partly to see if this other library would suit my needs better for story times, books I would read, a play area for the children to come to.

I met another mother who invited me to come to a playgroup she was a member of which met once a week.  She was very pleasant and understanding that I was having problems finding social things to do around town for my children. 

After I finished talking to her, I went to the resource desk to see whether they had any books for children or some other resources for teaching them Polish.  They had none but I was told to go online and could get any I found transferred to my local branch without problems.

Then, the woman told me, "We have a woman here who is Polish."  She started standing up and walking toward another area.  "Would you like to meet her?"

She was already walking away so I agreed to since there was no way around it now.

Then, I stood there with my toddler thinking.  What was I going to say to this woman?  Hi, I'm Polish, your Polish, can we be friends?  High on the lame factor there.  I suddenly wanted to run away but it was too late, the Polish woman was pushing a cart of books toward me, led by the first lady.

She looked at the first lady with a look I understood.  We are both Polish, so what?

She smiled at me but I knew that she didn't want to be there talking to me.  I introduced myself and shook her hand.  The first lady told me the Polish woman's name, the Polish woman did not tell me it.

I told her where I was from and that we had just moved here.  She nodded her head.


She then began talking with me about how long was I here.  I apologized that I was speaking strange since I had just had two wisdom teeth removed two days prior and my tongue was still partly numb.

She gave me a look and told me that it explained my extremely strange accent.  I told her I had an American accent but also the teeth were causing an issue with my accent.

While I listen to her talk, I think that she doesn't sound Polish, she sounds Ukrainian or Eastern Polish or something.  Not Silesian Polish or even Warsawian Polish or the Polish I once heard on a trip to Poland's Baltic coast.  And she keeps turning her head slightly from me and losing eye contact while talking.

Then, I told her my daughter's name.  American first name, Polish middle name.  She gave me another strange look.  I explained that I had married an American.

She looks me dead in the eyes.

"Your children will never learn Polish."

I wanted to fall through the floor.  I told her I wanted to put them in Polish school but I was from Maryland and there had not been any Polish schools around me growing up.  She told me about how she had driven her children the roughly hour drive to Chicago every week for Polish school when they were children and that she had married a Polish man so they spoke Polish at home so it was natural for her children.

And that it wouldn't be natural for my children since they had no foundation.

A couple of pleasantries were exchanged and she excused herself that she needed to go back to work.

I left the library.

And remembered what I had told the mother earlier who had invited me to a playgroup.  "Yes, there are Polish people at the Polish store.  But what am I going to say to them?  Hi, I see you and I are both buying kielbasa, perhaps we could have a play date?" and we had laughed at how ridiculous that would be to do.

And thought, "You are right, you are more Polish than me.  I'm sorry I didn't meet your standards.  I'm sorry an American woman thought that perhaps two Polish people might like to meet each other."

Maybe my children will never learn Polish.  Perhaps I should give that up now.  After all, a complete stranger who doesn't affect my life or know me seems to think so.

Let's BEE Friends

You might also enjoy "Teaching My Children Polish"
Note:  Blogger had gone through some updates which ended up losing posts for several people, mine inclulded.  While I have been waiting for this post to be retrieved, it was pointed out to me by Smells of Borscht that it was still in Google Reader, so I have republished this post.  Perhaps the original post will eventually be retrieved but I wanted to share this in the meantime. Thank you for your patience, those of you who wanted to read this but couldn't...


Alita said...

Don't listen to her. Your children have their foundation IN YOU. My father (Mexican) moved here when he was 19. Because he was discriminated against(he thought due to his accent?)he did want us to learn Spanish. We never learned in our home- so it is up to you. It is YOUR choice, and her opinion does NOT matter.

So Don't give up. :)


Anonymous said...

I'd written a LONG comment about Polish community, but at the last moment I've decided not to use it. I just want to say that you're not loosing anything not knowing Polish people around you... . And YES, most of them won't think you're Polish, and what ever you would be doing to teach our kids Polish they would say: "it's not enough", "it's wrong", "they will never speak Polish". It just really weird how immigrants act, think, and keep very close relationship between immigrants... More likely old gererations. Younger people are more open, but... there is always But... so... don't worry... just do what you think is the best for you and for your kids.
If you need Polish books, just google: "polish books" and it will take to some online stores that sell polish books, even from Poland. It's great!
Have a great day,
Hugs from my corner!

Unknown said...

momphotographer, thank you so much. I think I know exactly what you are saying. In much more detail, my father told me the same thing after that happened. In the end, I am going to use it, as Smells of Borscht told me on twitter today, a sort of dare for me to try harder. ;)

Thank you for being such a supportive person. Hugs!

Kasia said...

This s unbelievable :( What the heck?! We live in 21st century, we have internet, we have state approved schools teaching Polish, and other Poland related topics online, for FREE: libratus.edu.pl

If you want to train your kids with early Polish, games, educational puzzles and and and, then I recommend visiting the "Dla dzieci" part of my blog: czarykuchenne.blogspot.com/p/dla-dzieci. I gather all good Polish educational or just well made fun pages for children, I mean only the real virus free, kid friendly stuff. They can learn man many basic Polish words, in a very well made kid friendly way, for example here: benc.pl/gry/literowki.

Poland is not on Mars! We are not separated anymore! Poland is only 2 clicks away! That woman is probably still having her brain trapped decades ago, BEFORE the internet revolution happened :( The times they are a-changin

Plus, not all children of Polish people must speak perfect Polish, if it is not spoken all time at home etc etc. Siiiigh... I know such awkward meetings. The discrimination, and misconceptions about Polish people, accumulate, when we are suddenly supposed to socialize with complete strangers :( Like some sort of... Like people watching apes in a Zoo "oh look, they play so funny together" or something like that. Poland is one of the major and biggest countries in Europe (the 4th biggest to be exact), the last Pope was Polish, the recent president of the entire European Union was Polish, we are not some weird tribe from Timbuktu :( Whatever...

Cheer up, there is always a way, especially now since Poland is democratic, so many things change at such an incredible pace, and we have everything online :) And order Polish books for your children, and read regularly with them. Those training games I mentioned above all have Polish sound by the way, so the children not only see and play, but also listen and learn spoken words :)

Kasia said...

And: being multilingual is a clear advantage in life :)

Anonymous said...

I am facing the same crytical issue with my daughter and my family. My husband is west indian, we are both from NY and moved down south. He is very close with my family and he loves our culture, I am trying to teach them both polish (My Daughter is 16 months) and hopefully I will succeed or at least get them to understand what I am saying lol. But I get criticized by my friends, and Im sure my family in Poland feels like this is hypocritical to some extent (its a tricky situation). Mind you we have been together 8 years and he is Catholic so on that aspect not much they can complain about. And like Kasia said multilingual is a beautful thing. And being exposed to culture is also beautiful. I say trust your instincts, and hopefully you can meet more Polish (open-minded) mama's that you can bond with and your children can play with. Wish I lived closer =).Im in the same boat.

Bees With Honey said...

Don't be silly. Where there is a will, there is a way! That one just one silly ol' Polish lady who wasn't very nice. It doesn't mean there aren't others out there. If you really want to pass on the Polish language and traditions to your children, you will find a way. Believe in it.

Ali - My Suitcase Full of Tricks said...

Your children will learn the important lessons you instill in them. Whether it's a language, customs or just plain values, they'll remember the time you spent teaching them. Don't give up on teaching them Polish there have to be wonderful resources out there.

Anonymous said...

I am in COMPLETE agreement with you. I wish I could teach my children Polish, but my husband is American and we don't live by parents or anywhere that would have a Polish school. But I feel the exact same desire to approach people and say, "Hey we're both Polish, lets be friends!"

Anonymous said...

I sympathize with you. I was born in Poland but grew up here and I've had some Polish people tell me that 'Oh you're not Polish' but many others are impressed by the fact that I can still speak and write the language. It is because my mother taught me to read and write in it and to this day I speak to my parents in Polish and read books in Polish too. You can do the same for your child and forget what everyone else thinks. I love being multilingual. I have an 18 month old right now and although he is surrounded by English speakers I stubbornly speak to him in the language I was first taught him in hopes he picks something up too. Good luck!

Anonymous said...