When Mr. T was still quite small his vovo took him out to sit in the front seat of his car and pretend to drive it. We didn’t think anything of it at the time, and to be honest we were glad of a bit of peace and quiet as we had been at a family get-together at a restaurant and Mr. T was beginning to get a bit cranky. Little did we know the consequences that this small act would have.
An Obsession Grows
The immediate result was for Mr. T to develop an obsession with cars. At first he wanted to be able to sit in the driver’s seat in our car, his vovó’s car, vovo’s car and just about any car that he ver saw. This meant that friends and relatives bought him toy cars and clothes with cars on them, which in turn fuelled his obsession.
When we went to the UK for the first time my brother put Mr. T on his lap and sat in the driver’s seat of his white van, and so started a new path: naming cars. A van of any description is a ‘Noel car’, a 4×4 is a vovó car, a silver Sandero is usually a ‘mamãe car’, but sometimes a ‘daddy car’. When he sees a bus on the street he shouts ‘tchau tchau Mimi car’, or he enthusiastically waves at every ‘tru’ or truck.
We thought that was going to be about it. The next couple of years would be filled with playing with cars and watching Lightning McQueen over and over again. But then we realised that this obsession was actually leading to him learning all manner of other things.
As soon as he learned the word ‘bee’ for ‘big’ he used it to describe trucks. Whenever he sees a blue tractor he shouts out ‘blue tractor’ and if a car is anything but spotlessly clean he will tell anyone who can hear that it is ‘dirty’ with such a disappointed voice that I almost want to go and clean it myself.
He has developed a fine motor skills by trying to ‘park’ his cars in just the right place. He has developed metaphors by saying that the car is ‘doi‘ (hurt) when he has crashed it into a toy bus.
He has developed concepts such as ‘on’, ‘in’, ‘under’, ‘too big’ and ‘too small’ by playing with his cars and experimenting with different positions.
His obsession has also fuelled his imagination. For a long time he has asked us to draw cars or planes or the odd bus. One day I drew a driver and asked him who was driving and then I said it was Mr. T. Ever since that day if we don’t draw a driver he attempts to draw one and then he tells us who is driving. If the windows are empty on the bus he will get a crayon and make a mark to represent passengers and then tell us who each of the passengers is; mamãe, vovó, daddy…
One of the first ways I got him to say ‘please‘ was when he wanted me to make a model of a car from play dough. Now, whenever he wants anything, he is sure to say please.
A Lesson Learned
What started out as a simple way to get a few minutes to chat with friends without a moody baby first turned into a tiresome obsession but has since become a gateway to learning so much about the world. Not only has our son learned a lot, but I also learned to encourage his interests, no matter what they might be, because there is always something that can be learned from and through them.
Car Song by Woodie Guthrie
This post was written for the July edition of the Raising Multilingual Kids Blog Carnival, which I was privileged to host and will be published on July 29th. The theme for July was ‘Hidden Opportunities.’
For more information about this carnival, including how to become a part of the next one, please go to The Piri-Piri Lexicon . You can find past editions of the carnival here:
All Done Monkey – Travel and Multilingualism
The Piri-Piri Lexicon – General Theme
Multilingual Mama – Looking Back