Tag Archives: parenting challenges

Nina and Her Saga For THE Shoes Part 3/新菜とハイヒール 第三戦

A few months later, Mila was actually doing so much of the chores she got her own chore chart as well.  Sometimes they were full on, and other times, not so much.  It was working out pretty well though, they learned to budget.  Clearly, Nina was the saver and Mila was the spender.  It was amusing to watch the girls debate what they should buy.  Nina’s first ever purchase was a box of milo and she sheepishly asked me if she would need to share with Mila.  I said no, she bought with her own hard earned money, she doesn’t have to share.  I could tell she felt guilty, and from that day on, when she bought a milo for herself, she usually bought one for her sister.

Though sometimes, she’d get mad at Mila for not returning the favor, I shrugged it off.  I had at this point, totally forgot about Nina’s initial reason to want her own money.

And the day came.  Now, December one year later, Nina, out of the blue (well, for me anyways) came up to me and said.

“Mommy, how much do I need for those shoes.  I’m going to buy those shoes”

“Huh? What shoes?”

“The high heel shoes, you know, the ones at the store.  The shiny pink shoes”

“I have my own money now.  I’m going to buy them”

“Uh….well…really? I explained to you those aren’t very good for you right?”

“Yes, I know, they hurt your ankle and your back, and you would have to set up rules on where to use them, but I still want them.  I worked hard.”


As I looked around for some lame excuse on why she shouldn’t buy them.  I searched online for better shoes.  Showed her various pairs I saw online.  She looked at me and said,

“They’re nice, but that’s not what I want”

Crap….I totally forgot about this.  And she’s super SERIOUS.

“OK, well, we can get those if that’s what you REALLY want, but that’s a big chunk of your piggy bank, can we at least look at the other options, see what else you CAN get, and if you still are into those shoes, then you can buy them.”

Nina, after few moments of silence said, “OK, I’m still getting those shoes, but maybe we can find nicer shoes. So we can go shopping”

After that, I started to text my friends with daughters trying to see if there’s any other options out there.  Hell, I wasn’t even sure if the original pair she wanted was still at the shop.  It was a  year ago.  The next day, we went everywhere, hit up every kids shop/toy shop and nope, no matter how I pitched for “better” “prettier” options, she didn’t budge.  She earned her just money and she wanted to use them.

At the end of the day, she looked at me with tears in her eyes.  “Why won’t you let me buy those shoes, I worked so hard!!”

Game Over.  I had to let her have them.  I promised to pick her up from daycare early the next day and to take her to the shop.  I had to warn her that it has been an year and those shops tend to turn over fast, but otherwise, she had every right to those shoes.

So she got them. And she’s super happy about them. The store shockingly still had them in stock and though they didn’t have the color she wanted, she’s very happy with her blue shoes.  Nina, your diligence, memory and your strong will power amaze me.

So if you see a young girl, in Singapore, wearing these wedges and being happy, don’t judge.  She bloody well worked hard for them.  Yes, I still have rules on where and how she can wear them, but I want to believe that her super strong will power and ability to work hard for what she wants is something very precious that as parent, I need to respect and help grow.

Nina, I love and respect that powerful heart of yours.


Nina paying for her shoes. Shiny!











それから一日見て歩きましたよ。何か所も。子供の服、靴のあるところはすべて、それにおもちゃ屋さんも。Cotton Onならワンピース、キラキラ靴とおもちゃ買ってもおつり来るよ~、みたいな事言ってみたり、女の子のいる友達に聞いてみたり。でもおめがねに適うものはなく。歩き回って、最終的には涙目で、「何で買わせてくれないの、がんばったのに。」







Japanese, but a British mommy? (Part 2) 母としての言語はどちら?(Part 2)

What’s the Magic Word?

Several posts ago,(Here) I mentioned a friend (initial M) who was conflicted with her own linguistic ability as a mother.  She is Japanese and her dominant language is Japanese, but she is struggling with the use of Japanese with her daughter.  Well, I noted the other day that, even though she is trying to use Japanese more constantly with her daughter, she is still using English when she scolds, provides direction, or dictates for her daughter. When I asked her about it, she said that she is still conflicted when it comes to giving direction to her child.  She is looking for ways to translate how she speaks to her child in English into Japanese and running into some issues.

M and I have a fairly similar way of parenting. We both try to respect our children where we can, but at times, we scold (pretty harshly even).  The basics of Western (gross generalization here based on what we know of American and British parenting) style is to teach our children to say “please” by using it ourselves.  “Speak to a child as you would want to be spoken to”, is a golden rule. We repeat, “Please put your shoes on”, “Please finish that last broccoli on your plate”, “Please come sit next to mommy.” And we usually respond to most of what they say with “…and? where’s my please?” M, being more of a British mommy, does exactly that in English. Every action of her child starts with “Please”.

Here’s the trouble. The Japanese counterpart of Please is お願い or o-ne-ga-i. Simple enough you think.  So in Japanese, “Please come eat your dinner” would be, 「お願い、こっちに来て晩御飯食べようね」(Onegai, kocchi ni kite bangohan tabeyoune).  Now, if you are Japanese, this sentence sounds a bit off to you.  お願い in Japanese is not just a word that is similar in meaning to “Please”.  It also is the verb “to wish”, or “to request”, and that meaning is probably stronger when used in a Japanese context.

“Please” in English is a manner word.  You invite a few of your friends over for dinner, when dinner is ready, you call them over and say, “Dinner is ready, please come have dinner.” You’re not really requesting or wishing that they would come to the table, they came with the intent to have dinner and you invited them to your house for that purpose.  Therefore, in Japanese, the use of お願い in this scenario would not make literal sense. Even in English, you don’t need the word “please” to make sense, it just sounds nicer.

So as M is making the transition from her English to Japanese parenting, she doesn’t know what to do with her “please”. She feels like something is missing if she doesn’t say it, but in Japanese, it makes no sense.  In Japanese, manners are communicated by changing the whole sentence to the proper form.  For example, “Dinner is ready, please come have dinner” can take on the following forms:

With a very small (very) close group of friends, it would be,「準備出来たから食べましょう」(junbi dekita kara tabemashou)

With co-workers, 「準備出来ました、召し上がってください」(Junbi dekimashita, te-buru no hou-e irashitekudasai)

And so on.

The tone and the words used are very different.  And I’m making a lot of effort to keep the sentences similar.  In an actual proper situation, I would have an extra sentence or two apologizing for the wait, etc. and I would probably stop using the word table and instead use the term for individual seat. Even more complicated, in English, “please” is “please” whomever you use it with, in whatever situation.  In Japanese, it’s not so.

These are casual forms that sound like you’re just asking:

  • お願いね~  Onegaine~
  • お願いよ   Onegaiyo
  • お願い    Onegai

These are the more proper forms:

  • お願いします                        Onegaishimasu
  • お願いできますでしょうか    Onegaidekimasudeshouka
  • お願いいたします                 Onegaiitashimasu

There are many more, but I figured six would be enough to make my point. None of them really fit in with how a mother talks to a toddler, but they all translate to “Please”. The casual forms may become more appropriate when a child grows older, going to school on her own, and if you are asking them to pick up some sugar on the way home.

“Can you please pick up some sugar on the way home from school?”


Gakkou no kaeri ni satou kattekitekurenai? Onegaine.

That sounds much more natural in a mother daughter conversation.  Can’t wait to be able to have these conversations, but with toddlers, not there yet.  The very simple use of “please” in one language is very difficult in another.  So how do we address this?  How should a Japanese child request for things? ….That’s another topic for another time.


Mさんも私も子供を出来るだけ尊重しようとは普段から思ってるんですが、叱るとこはしっかり叱る、きつく言う、という子育てスタイルです。英語でそれをやる場合、Pleaseを頻繁に使います。“Please put your shoes on.” “Please finish that last piece of broccoli on your plate.” “Please come sit next to mommy.”みたいな感じにね。ま、最初はそこから始まって、だんだん時間が経つにつれ、崩れていくわけですが…

が、問題は日本語にPleaseに匹敵する言葉がないんです。ほとんどの辞書や学校で習うのは ’お願い‘ ではないでしょうか。でも、それが、実際に日本語にするとおかしいんです。 “Please come eat your dinner” が「お願い、こっちに来て晩御飯食べようね。」になると、おかしいですよね。お願い、には’Please’より、もとの熟語としての意味、つまり ’to wish’ または、’to request’ の意味合いが強いと思うんです。母親が小さい子供に晩御飯食べてってお願いするのはおかしいですよね。食べなきゃ後でお腹空くのは子供だし。(何故さっさと食べてくれな~い!?心の叫び)

考えてみたらPlease は英語ではマナーを伝えるために使う言葉と使われる事の方が本来の”お願い“の意味で使われる場合より多いんではないでしょうか。 例えば、前述の”Please come have dinner”も、友達が晩御飯を食べに来たとしても、普通に使いますが、別にお願いしてるわけでもないですよね、だって晩御飯に招いたわけだし、相手も晩御飯を頂くつもりで来たわけで、別にPleaseを着ける必要は特にない。でも、つけた方が優しい感じがするから一応つけます。そんな感じで使われてるPleaseの様な言葉をMさんは日本語で子供と話す時にどうしたら良いか分からなくなってしまっているわけで。英語での子育てで、いちばん大事にされているPleaseがない、となると日本語でどう子供に話しかければいいのかをまだ試行錯誤中。という話をして、私もそうだ!と気づいたんです。私もすぐに英語を交えちゃうのはそこなんだ!

日本語では、話しかける相手によって、話し方自体を変えて考えますよね。例えば、晩御飯の例で言えば、「OXちゃん、こっちに来てご飯食べようね」とも言えるし、「こっちに来て早く食べなさい」とも言えるし、それは日本人として母親をやっている人はきっととても自然に選べる言葉な筈なのに、Mさんや私みたいに中途半端になっちゃうと、どちらのトーンを普段使っているのかが分からなくなっちゃう。で、どちらもしっくりこない。英語では、Please come have dinnerの許容範囲が変に広い。子供じゃなくて、友人にも、会社の同僚相手でも、使えてしまうわけで。日本語では相手によって、「OXちゃん、こっちに来てご飯食べようね」とも、「準備出来たから食べよう」 とも、「準備出来ました、召し上がってください」と当然違う言い回しを使うんですが、英語では、”Please come have dinner” で全てオーケー。その手加減がとっても難しいんですわ~。(泣)