We had tears in the CBRbound household the other night. For the past year, Mini-CBRbound has been asking when we can visit Denmark again as a family. He particularly misses his old football team and the team’s trainers, with whom he built up a close camaraderie over four years of junior football.
I’ve always had the vague notion that, since the boys grew up in Denmark and were fluent in Danish, that in the long term, it might offer them an alternative path in life; that, in time, they might decide to return to where they grew up – perhaps to study, to travel or just to reconnect with the place that was once home.
To preserve that option, about six months ago, I signed up Maxi-CBRbound for long-distance Danish tuition via the internet. A few weeks ago, realising we’d already passed our first anniversary in Canberra, I signed up Mini-CBRbound too.
So, there he was, looking at the assessment paper which would determine which class he would be admitted to, wrestling with basic phrases in a language that had been his primary language just fourteen months ago.
Mini is a resilient one. He recognised his difficulty and took to translating every word of the questions, one at a time, by looking them up in a Danish-English dictionary. Then, to formulate his answers, he repeated the process in reverse.
But by halfway through, he was inconsolable. He’d lost his first language and, with it, a sense of his own identity. We stopped him there and a good night’s sleep and a full day of school cleared his head enough for him to complete the assessment the following night.
The process was tough to watch as a parent, and aside from a schoolyard scuffle, is probably the only time that Mini has crumbled in the face of our new life here. And the experience was salutary, because it offered an insight to the turmoil that often lurks beneath the surface of everyday life.
It’s easy to see those perfect Facebook photos or those cheery catch-up phone calls as evidence of a life made perfect by the move to Canberra. But for all the experience has given us, there are things that we have lost too – easy access to friends, numerous shared family moments and, for our boys more than us, a sense of belonging in the only place you have ever known.
Mini’s resilience will see him through. He didn’t do as badly as he feared in the assessment and is signed up for the equivalent of Year 1 in Danish school. While he waits for his text books to arrive, he’s watching streams of Danish TV and trying to ensure that the little boy he was is not lost, rather, that he adds his new experiences on top of the old and uses both to shape who he will become.