Mark in Beijing, October 2014

I’ve been saying that Mark is two years old for a little while now—counting in months is weird after a while—but deep down I still can’t believe he is actually turning two.

This milestone article will be full of platitudes, I can feel it.

Two years ago, Feng and I drove to the Civic Hospital, half-convinced I wasn’t experiencing real contractions and that it was a false alert.

It was not. I couldn’t believe it when I held Mark for the first time, later on that beautiful October 12 morning.

A year ago exactly, Mark took his first steps. We had a lovely warm and sunny Indian summer and we spent a few weeks hanging out outdoors, before the winter, to help him practise the fine art of walking.

This year, the Indian summer is already gone and it’s chilly. Mark is no longer walking, he is running. He is tall too—I’m always surprised to see I can no longer hold him in the traditional “nursing” position for long (not that I’m still breastfeeding, but it was a natural position to hug for both of us). Now I get proper hugs, his tiny arms wrapped around my neck. I get kisses too. Well, if he is in the mood for it.

Mark is at the stage where I know exactly what he is saying but only linguistic PhDs (Jeruen?) can understand what he says. Part of it is because he mixes languages, and part of it is normal toddler’s nonsensical babble. Since the trip to China, Mandarin won the linguistic battle. It’s the easiest language for a kid, shorter than French and English with its one- or two-syllable long words.

But sometimes we need a decoder to make out what he says. Was it “dirty” or “lā jī,” (garbage, waste)? Did he say “why” or “huài” (broken)? Sometimes, he says “merci”, sometimes he says “xièxiè.” We aren’t very consistent either, we switch languages. He can repeat pretty much any word (ahem… need to watch my language!) but only uses a few sentences right, such as “xǐ shǒu” (wash hands), “more,” “bye-bye,” “bateau” (French for boat), “fēi jī” (plane), “dodo” (French for sleep), miàn bāo(“bread”), “chuān xié” (to put shoes on), “shoes”, etc.

Mark is fascinated by washing machines and fans. In China, red ribbons are often tied to air-con units (to show that they are working) and he loved staring at the small piece of fabric dancing in the wind (we had several quiet meals just by sitting close to the air-con). And I’m not sure how and why the washing machine obsession started, but he insists on going to the basement to do a load of laundry every hour or so.

Mark whines, laughs, cries and smiles… and repeats. It’s a bit like living with a Hollywood A-list actor (minus the diet obsession, Mark eats anything any time). He can be extremely annoying when he nags, tests limits, refuses to sit down in the stroller or on a chair, and can’t stay still for more than one second. But he can also be uber-cute, like when he kisses spontaneously, hugs, mimic what we do or just goofs around. The other day, he danced in front of the TV wearing my shoes. I wasn’t happy with the shoes part (shoes stay at the door!) but I couldn’t help laughing. In the subway, in Beijing, he would shake everybody’s hand and say “bye-bye” when we step out of the cart. And I burst with pride whenever he masters a new skill.

Mark is two… and I’m looking forward to seeing him growing up.

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  1. petite yaye October 12, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Happy birthday Mark !!! You are doing such an amazing job with 3 langages at the same time… Waouh ! Very funny : I have exactly the same issue with Michoco and the washing machine, expect our is upstairs… He wants to do laundry 10 times a day ! On pourrait leur proposer d’ouvrir un pressing, ça pourrait nous rapporter gros 😉

    1. Zhu October 14, 2014 at 1:25 pm

      Oh oui, c’est temps de les mettre à travailler, non? 😉

      1. petite yaye October 16, 2014 at 11:31 am

        Moi je n’ai pas attendu ses 2 ans en tout cas !!!

        1. Zhu October 16, 2014 at 10:35 pm


  2. Shannon October 13, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Happy birthday, Mark! It’s so interesting to read about his language acquisition.

    1. Zhu October 14, 2014 at 1:25 pm

      I find it fascinating from a linguistic point of view!

  3. I Say Oui October 13, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    Happy Birthday to Mark!

    1. Zhu October 14, 2014 at 1:25 pm

      Thank you on his behalf!

  4. Holly Nelson October 13, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    N’awww, handsome man – happy second birthday! I love that his is multi-lingual. Apparently language acquisition is often slower, but when it does come they have great comprehension in all languages – definitely the way to go I think!

    1. Zhu October 14, 2014 at 1:26 pm

      Yes, Mark definitely speaks less than other toddlers, it’s been a slow process… but we are getting there.

  5. Christiane October 14, 2014 at 11:38 am

    HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY MARK !!! AWWW he is so cute 🙂

    1. Zhu October 14, 2014 at 1:26 pm

      Thank you!

  6. Martin Penwald October 14, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    Ah, ok, it is not a Mark #2. I was surprised at first, but now, I remember it is not a good idea to read in diagonal when you are tired.

    Noyau Anniversaire !

    1. Zhu October 14, 2014 at 1:27 pm

      Cannot. Do. This. Again.


      Nope, no Mark #2. Gosh no. Not now. (secoue la tête très fort et serre les jambes)

  7. La Madame October 16, 2014 at 5:56 am

    Je suis en retard mais un Bon Anniversaire à ton loulou! 🙂 Gros bisous 🙂

    1. Zhu October 16, 2014 at 10:34 pm



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