By Alice Lapuerta
Yesterday Dominik’s Kindergarten teacher had a bit of a crisis. She approached me, her face serious. “You know what your son did today?”
Uh-oh. He probably threw a tantrum. He refused to share the Thomas train with another kid. He peed in his pants. He threw the puzzles out of the window. He, he …
“What did he do?”
“Look at this.” She whipped out a piece of paper and showed it to me.
I stared at it.
It looked like any of his gazillion pieces of artworks that he has got littered all over our house.
“Your son,” she takes a big breath, as if she still can’t believe the magnitude of what he did. “Your son – wrote KAZAKHSTAN!”
“Oh,” I reply weakly. Yep, it’s Kazakhstan. Definitely. Unmistakeably Kazakhstan. Impeccable penmanship. Better than my own.
“Awesome, right?“ I say carefully. I mean, this is nothing new for me. He writes Kazakhstan at home all the time. I could wallpaper my whole living room with Kazakhstan. And every time he writes Kazakhstan anew, he approaches me, beaming:
“Mami, look, what does this say?”
“Good JOB! You wrote …..” I crunch up my face, pretend to think for a long time, “you just wrote Ecuador?”
“NOOOOO Mami! This is Kazakhstan!”
“So it is! How stupid of me! But what a GOOD JOB you did writing this!” It is a game we play all the time. In the meantime it’s lost its spark of novelty for me, but Dominik will insist on repeating this ritual, like three thousand and five times a day. Make that six.
Except his Kindergarten teacher can’t know that, can she?
“YOUR son knows how to write Kazakhstan. But he doesn’t color Mandalas! He refuses to do coloring sheets.” She looks confused. I feel sympathetic but also the indefinite need to defend him. It’s not like I am training him at home to write Kazakhstan for God’s sake. Write Kazakhstan correctly, or else (whiplash!)!
(And no, just in case you were wondering, we don’t watch “Borat”, either.)
No. This was how it happened: it occurred to me that in order to make truly global citizens out of my kids, they should play with multicultural toys. For example: puzzles. And instead of that perpetually drooling puppy or doe-eyed kitty puzzle, I decided to buy them a gigantic floor puzzle with the map of the world on it.
I expected them to see through my devious means of trying to convey them a sense of geography, and hate the puzzle immediately.
They adored it. In particular Dominik, who took to it immediately. And for some sort of odd, inexplicable reason, he just adores Kazakhstan. What can I do.
He knows where Kazakhstan lies. He knows what color the country has (purple, his favorite), and since he’s stared at that particular puzzle-piece love struck every day ever since Christmas, when we gave it to him, he, by default, learned how to write the word.
Yes, he taught himself to write on his own. I swear I didn’t do a thing other than buy that puzzle.
As a variety, he also knows how to write Colombia. In the meantime, he’s memorized all countries in Latin America – Latin America only! – Oh, AND Kazakhstan – but that is understood.
“Yeah well, I guess we can practice coloring Mandalas at home,” I tell his kindergarten teacher. Gosh, now we better start Mandala therapy. I wonder secretly how I can get him to color Mandalas when he absolutely refuses to do so. I hope they don’t send us to ergo-therapy because of this. Apparently it’s not good that the kids skip over the drawing stage and go on right to the writing stage. (“And what seems to be the problem with your son?” “He writes Kazakhstan!”)
“Look, Mami,” butts in my son on the conversation with the kindergarten auntie (in English). “Look Mami, what I did in Kindergarten!” He waves even more sheets in front of me, and he’s nearly bursting with pride.
“Oh WOW! It says …. Green-verde. Azul-blue. GOOOOD job!”
“Aaaaand: morado! Morado is purple,” he explains happily. “Verde ist grün, und azul ist blau, auf Spanisch,” he translates for the kindergarten teacher. Who seems kind of dazed. My son doesn’t draw, no. But he can write Kazakhstan, as well as write the colors in all his three languages.
She pins his “paintings” on the bulletin board in the hallway.
“So everyone can see how beautifully you write,” she says with a smile. “In English AND Spanish!”
Yesterday, my son has added a new word to his writing repertoire.
“Look, Mami,” he shows me a gigantic piece of paper. “What does it say?”
I am stunned. For in large, clear letters, Dominik has written his newest favorite word, in Spanish: