Learning What Tomorrow Means (Bilingual Toddler Problems)

Actual representation of what our Molly looks like when she reeeaaalllyyy wants to persuade you over to her side of the argument.

Actual representation of what our Molly looks like when she reeeaaalllyyy wants to persuade you over to her side of the argument.


Molly: (bathed, dressed in pajamas, minutes away from going to bed remembers I introduced her to Silly Putty yesterday) MAMA! Play eggs? Play eggs, please?

Me: Oh, Molly. We were so busy this evening, weren’t we?

Molly: Sim (yes)!

Me: And Akika (prima) came over for dinner.

Molly: Sim (yes), come on. Come on, mama! (reaching for my hand to pull me to where the Silly Putty eggs live in the book shelf)

Me: Amália, we can’t play with the Silly Putty tonight.

Molly: (starting to cry) Mama? Eggs! (pointing to the book shelf)

Me: I am so sorry, MaGoo.

Molly: (disappointed, fat tears streaming down her cherub cheeks)

Me: Tonight is a no, but tomorrow we shall play with the Silly Putty as long as you like.

Molly: (uplifted) Sim (yes)!

Me: (dubious) You’re happy about playing tomorrow?

Molly: SIM (YES)! Play! (giggling with tears still stuck to her face)

Me: Do you know what tomorrow means, Amália?

Molly: (nodding, doe eyed, shoulders lifted, tears frozen to her cheeks, the epitome of adorable, like that scene from Shrek 2)

Me: Tomorrow means not today.

Molly: (dreams shattered, tips head back, tears resume) Play!

Me: Tomorrow means amanhã.

Molly: NO, mama! (shaking her head and the tears from her face) No amanhã (tomorrow)! Play. (collapsing in my arms)

Me: I am so sorry, lovie. It feels terrible to be disappointed.

Hank: But you can have some milk.

Molly: Sim (yes), quero (I want) milk.

Me: And we can read a story.

Molly: Quero (I want) story(in the depths of despair) e (and) EGGS!!!

Me: (hugging her)

Hank: (rubbing her back)


Epilogue: Molly was fast asleep not ten minutes after this conversation


O Meu Não é Teu! (It’s Mine Not Yours!)

Playing Librarian

Playing Librarian


(walking through the front door at the end of the day)

Pai: Hello!

Molly: Hel-lo!

Hank: They’re home!

Me: Hurrah!

Hank: I missed you, mana (sister).

Molly: Mano! Brincar nas escadas (play on the stairs)? Come on! Come on, Mano.

Hank: (looking to me asking if it is a good idea to “play” in the hallway with his eyebrows)

Me: Go on, a few minutes. She just wants to sit on our four steps. Don’t let her near the large staircase.

Hank: (jumping into action) I’m coming, Mana (sister).

Pai: Hello you. (coming over to the sofa where I have draped my weary bones)

Me: It’s you! My favorite person. How was your day?

Pai: Ordinary, buuuuuuuut Adriana’s (Molly’s Nanny) wasn’t.

Me: Spill.

Pai: Apparently, the girls got into an actual fist fight.

Me: Actual fisticuffs? Seriously?

Pai: Adriana said that she turned her back on them for one second while they were playing and when she looked back their little toddler hands were balled into fists and they were fighting over something.

Me: Over what?

Pai: She didn’t say.

Me: What did Adriana do?

Pai: She walked away. She let them have it out and then she scolded them with an appropriate amount of Portuguese guilt centered around love and loyalty.

Me: Well played.

Pai: She asked that we talk to her about it, too.

Me: Word.

Molly: (trotting inside, curls bouncing, happy as a clam)

Me: MaGoo?

Molly: Sim (yes)?

Me: Did you and Ariana (her colleague at her Nanny’s house) have a fight?

Molly: (puzzled)

Me: What made you angry today at Tia’s house? Faz zangado (made you mad)?

Hank: (sitting on the step leading down to our sunken living room)

Molly: (hands folded behind her back) uh, uh, uh, uh, uh… A MINHA! (It [was] MINE)

Me: Oh, I see. And Amália faz zangado (got mad) at Ariana.

Molly: Sim.

Me: And did you (dramatically make hands into fists and grimace face)?

Molly: (eyes wide) Sim. uh. uh. uh. uh. Ariana… A MINHA! (It [was] mine!)

Me: Amália Sofia, when we are mad we don’t hit. We don’t talk with our hands. We use words. We say our feelings we don’t act our feelings. Diz (say)…

Molly: (puzzled)

Me: (yell) O meu não é teu! (It’s mine not yours!)

Molly: (a bit shocked)

Me: And if your words are not enough you ask for help. You don’t use your fists (show her my fists). You use your words. You ask for help! From your Tia (nanny) or from me…

Pai: Or from me.

Hank: Or from me.

Me: You use your words not your hands. Okay?

Molly: Okay.

Me: No more. No more hitting. Não bate. Nunca. Não mais bater. Nada, ok? Nunca mais. Falar. Dizer… (Don’t hit. Never. No more hitting. Never, Okay? Never more. Speak. Say…)

Molly: Ah… ah… O meu não é teu! (it’s mine not yours!)

Pai: Boa (good)!

Me: We don’t hit in this family.

Hank: No, we don’t.

Me: Did you say you were sorry? Desculpa (sorry)?

Molly: (ashamed) Desculpa. Sim. Desculpa, Ariana. (Sorry. Yes. Sorry, Ariana)

Me: That is a good friend. Good friends say sorry when there is a mistake. Mistakes are how we learn. Okay? What did we learn today?

Hank: (shaking a finger at no one in particular) No more fighting! Use your words.

Molly: Tá bem! (Okay!) Mano, come on. Make a salad. Come on. Make a salad with me?

Hank: Sure, mana (sister).

Pai: (after they go into the kitchen to make the dinner salad together) Ten bucks says she comes home tomorrow with a black eye.

Me: Oh, for sure.


A Typical Molly Tantrum

Molly's Teeny Tiny General Store

Molly’s Teeny Tiny General Store


Me: (sitting at the dinning room table ignoring Molly)

Molly: MAMA! (sobbing incoherently) Pllllaaaaaaayyyyyyyy! (pointing miserably to her tiny doll house general store)

Leslie: (sitting down with toast) What is she mad about?

Me: I told her she had to play with the teeny tiny toys she already had in her play store and she would have no more until tonight.

Leslie: Oh, I see.

Me: There is not enough coffee for me to chase the miniature ginger bread cookies she will drop that camouflage into my floors this morning.


Me: Yes, Molly. Go forth and seek out your papa for surely he will have the answer you seek.

Molly: (pout trotting into the kitchen, held tilted back and wailing) PAAAAAPAAAAA!

Pai: (from the kitchen) Whatever you mother said is also my answer.

Molly: (sniffle) Noooooo, PAPAAAAAAA!

Pai: The answer is no, Amália!

Molly: (a banshee of disappointment)

Me: (deep sigh)

Molly: (wailing, pacing the halls)

Pai: (coming to the table) What does she want?

Me: Yet more small things (which we keep in a locked tackle box) to outfit her store. I said she had to wait until she came home from her Ama’s (Nanny’s) house.

Pai: Wise.

Molly: (Merely crying now, approaches the table, questionably coherent, asking for something else)

Leslie: What now?

Me: Potatoes?

Pai: She wants potatoes?

Me: She’s asked for far more bazaar things.

Molly: (indignant, practically spitting angry, tiny hands balled into fists, foot stomp) LEGOS!

Pai: But you have your Legos (Duplo) here in the living room.

Molly: No Molly Lego!! (practically hyperventilating) Mano (brother) LEGO!

Me: I liked this more when it was about potatoes.

Pai: (swooping his tyrannical toddler in his loving arms) No, Amália. No tiny Legos this morning.

Molly: (sobbing, red faced, infuriated, boneless in his arms)

Pai: Come with me and show me your store. You worked so hard on your store last night. Show me your store. May I go shopping?

Leslie: (exits to gather her things for her last day in Portugal)

Hank: (walks over with his backpack) Mama, can you fix my straps?

Me: Would you like them tight or moderately tight?


Me: (cough, cough)


Me: Hello, earth to Hank?

Hank: What?

Me: Tight or moderately tight?

Hank: Moderately. (eyes fixed on his little sister) Mama, so, this is what I was like when I was little?

Me: Oh no, you were far worse. See what is happening over there.

Molly: (now pink cheeked but calm, tears frozen to her face in mid fall, taking tiny items from her store one by one and showing her papa before putting them back and selecting the next) FISH!

Pai: Yes, what a nice fish for sale.

Molly: Caranguejo (crab)!

Pai: Crab is your mother’s favorite.

Molly: Vinho (wine)!

Pai: Also your mother’s favorite.

Me: Your sister has the ability to calm down after only a few minutes of a tantrum. You tantrumed like that but for hours.

Hank: Hours? No… Really?

Me: At least once a day if not twice you held me hostage raging for hours until you ran out of energy or threw up, which ever came first from the age of two until you were five.

Molly: Pão (bread)!

Pai: Yum, my favorite.

Molly: Teapot! (opening the teeny tiny lid) No dragon. No dragon, papa.

Pai: I won’t buy it then. I only buy teapots with dragons inside.

Hank: Thank you, mama.

Me: (handing back his backpack) You’re welcome.

Hank: Not for my backpack but for being my best mama.

Me: Oh, well thank you for being my best boy.

Hank: (putting on his backpack) Kids are hard.

Me: Growing up is hard. Communication is hard. Big feelings are hard. (side smile) Kids, are a lot of work in the beginning, but as you have proven, they’re well worth the investment.