The four of us have had a roller coaster ride as a little family unit.
We lived for the first few years of family life in St Albans, a leafy UK market town full of middle-class contentment. While that was the sort of lifestyle we aspired to at the time, as my wife is from Russia (we’ve been married for 14 years now), we had always planned to go back to live in St Petersburg for a couple of years and when the kids were 2 and 4 we moved over there. Both kids picked up Russian quickly and were immersed into the culture. We realized that the subsequent move back to the UK would be hardest on my youngest in terms of language, but we believed that he would be strong enough to handle it…..
We moved back in February 2014, and both the kids (now 5 and 7) went straight into an English school. My daughter took to it immediately, slipping back into English like a duck to water. I have always pushed her academically, and she has thankfully risen towards the top of the class pretty quickly. For my little boy, it has been a different story.
His problem initially was that he understood everything that was being said to him, but couldn’t communicate what he wanted to say. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must have been that this effervescent chatterbox (in Russian) had been reduced overnight to a monosyllabic shadow of his former self. Those first few weeks were the hardest. He never cried, he never complained, but every sentence was a struggle.
We made a decision to let him learn at his own pace – to follow rather than to lead. If he wanted to read, then the books were there, waiting for him. If he wanted to practice some writing with his sister, then he could. No pressure.
Then, one day, his elder sister got an academic award at school. We, of course, lavished her with praise (something I really believe in), and I threw a glance his way. I saw something click within him…. if she can do it, so can I.
From that day on, bless him, it has been a whirlwind of learning and it has been the best experience of my life. I have always been close to him, but to have the opportunity to help him grow so quickly has been absolutely unique in my life. He has gone from writing “d as b” to writing beautiful little poems in 6 months. Every day begins with a lovely little note from him (he is an early riser) and ends with him reading me a bedtime story. In the early months, he was lucky to get 5/10 on a spelling test. Recently, however, he has moved onto the hardest spelling level in his class, and on Friday he got 10/10….. I was so proud, and yes, I cried a little tear of joy as he showed me that precious little bit of paper.
Here are five lessons that this little fighter has taught me:
Find a person to inspire you. If you are at a tough place in life, even if it seems that you are at level 0, inspiration is always there if you look for it. My daughter was doing well, why shouldn’t he?
Starting afresh is part of life. It may seem that you will never reach the heights that you previously reached, but just remember, the only limits that exist are the ones that you place upon yourself – get out there and make it happen.
Concentrate on your path. It doesn’t matter what other people achieve. Have your own plan and do everything in your power to get where you want to be. He is now reading the comics that he used to beg me to read to him.
Being frustrated is ok. It is even to be expected, as no one gets to their goal without a struggle. The most important thing is not to be overwhelmed by your frustrations. Be open to change, be flexible in your approach and frustrations will disappear.
Lean on people you love. I was there for him, and I could see how much it meant to him. I was in his corner when he fought back against the school bully who was picking on him for speaking strangely, I patiently sat with him as he made spelling mistake after spelling mistake. He knows that he can always lean on me. Find some people whom you can lean on, no matter what.
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