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H.S.L. Mama

Posted by on April 29, 2016

Friends, we are in India with our dear little daughter M. Because we haven’t yet passed court, we can’t post her name or pictures. But let me tell you, there are many, many pictures forthcoming. And some hilarious videos.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to post more detailed updates about the transition from the orphanage to ‘home’ in Delhi. For now, here are the highlights. In early April we traveled to India and met M at her orphanage. We visited daily and 3 weeks ago today we brought her to my in-laws home in Delhi. Technically, we are fostering her until we receive court finalization of our adoption. Next week we will return to her city (via a 14 hour train ride!) for our court date. Prayers appreciated!!!

M napping in her bedroom at the orphanage Photo credit: Vasudha Sagar

M napping in her bedroom at the orphanage
Photo credit: Vasudha Sagar

The transition from orphanage to home was very hard for M, and for us. She had lived there for the majority of her 3 years and experienced love and joy at the orphanage. She has spent the last few weeks grieving bravely, opening up her heart to us and learning the norms and quirks of family life. There is so much more to write, so I’m going to try and tackle this topic by topic. Because a lot of this is still raw (read: hard), I’ve decided to start with an easy topic: learning a foreign language as an adult.

M's handiwork. I have yet to attempt Hindi writing

M’s handiwork. I have yet to attempt Hindi writing

People often ask me how well I speak Hindi. Well, I finally have a clear answer: my toddler speaks better Hindi than I do. I think I can safely say I have the Hindi skills of a 2.75 year old.

It turns out, little M loves to talk. However, she only knows about 20 words in English, 15 of which are from ‘Ba Ba Black Sheep’. As a result, my Hindi has been steadily improving.

Because I have learned Hindi largely by watching Bollywood movies on repeat and unabashedly trying out whatever I think might be right, my Hindi is slightly eclectic. It’s a bit like a room furnished entirely from a thrift store, put together by someone who doesn’t have an eye for design. You know the look; the curtains clash horribly with the 70’s style floral couch, but the room is…functional. My verbs rarely match the gender of my nouns, but my toddler puts her cookies away when I tell her to, so we’re gonna call that success.

The newest additions to my Hindi are from a lesson plan I like to call Life With a Three Year Old. Here are a few words and phrases I’ve learned recently from M:

  • Let go
  • Wear this
  • It’s bed time
  • Sleep
  • Stop talking
  • Lap
  • Hold the swing with two hands
  • I have to pee/poo
  • It’s wet!
  • It will dry
  • Put that away
  • Tickle
  • Slide
  • Pretend
  • By myself!
  • Sparkles

For the most part, M and I can understand each other well. I speak enough Hindi to tell her most things, including ‘Don’t eat that candy the man in the park gave you’ and ‘Your Papa and I love you so, so much!’ . However, sometimes understanding her is a bit of challenge as she has an adorable accent from her home state, and, at 3.5 years old, she’s far ahead of me in Hindi fluency.

The other day, we were laying on the bed playing and M told me something about ‘cuh-lay’. I spun through the rolodex of Hindi Words that Sound like ‘Cuh-lay’, and came up with ‘play’. I asked, Do you want to play? What do you want to play? She repeated herself, louder this time. (As we know from experience with English language learners, speaking louder always improves comprehension.) With a sigh, she changed tactics: ‘When Bua (Aunt Vasudha) was here, she made a flower with it….’ Then I remembered, Bua made a flower with play doh, play doh is ‘clay’! (Clay is English and I speak English.) Womp womp.

Sometimes Hindi is actually English, and that’s confusing too.

Clay flowers

Clay flowers

So here we are, years of giggling at Varun’s linguistic mishaps and I now have a three year old correcting my verb tenses. Thus begins my life as an H.S.L. (Hindi as a second/other language) Mama!

6 Responses to H.S.L. Mama

  1. Jenn

    I am so excited to be reading your journey! Thank you for your willingness to share your life!

  2. Alice

    Love it! God is doing amazing things with you. Hugs for all of you from us.

  3. Celine O Donoghue

    Having adopted our darling daughter Kate in Russia when she was 2 years and 10 months Tim and I can relate to every word you write Amelia God’s Blessing and wonderful Karma to you all
    From your Irish Relatives
    Celine Tim Brid and Kate XXXX

  4. kristin

    yahooooo, can’t wait to hear more!!

  5. Rakshatha Krishnamurthy

    Happy parenting mama 🙂

  6. Corrina


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