iiši-nipwaamiwaaci niniicaanihsaki ‘What my kids have taught me’

You probably noticed that the title of this post is a bit different from the last one! There are many things that have changed since my last blog post (almost a year ago already). The biggest change that’s come our way is ninkwihsa ‘my son’, Moohseensa. He came into the world with a bang on the first day of Eemamwiciki programs in June 2022. We missed out on the fun with our relatives in noošonke siipionki ‘Miami, OK’ but had a lot of fun getting to know our new little person.

Newborn laying in front of a flag that says "niila myaamia"
Moohseensa wearing a onesie from Kayla Becker. Photo by Jonathan M. Fox

Nintaana ‘my daughter’ was formally named in April of 2022! Noonki weenswici ‘now her name is’ Šaapontohseehkwa, so that’s how I’ll refer to her. Since autumn, she has been loving kindergarten. We tell each other nipwaahkaalo ‘be wiseand neeyolaani kati ‘see you later’ before she walks into school every morning. Sometimes, I even get a teepaalilaani ‘I love you’ from her…but she’s also informed me that holding my hand isn’t always cool, so it’s a bit hit or miss. I didn’t think she could have been more excited to be a big sister, but I was wrong. She was even more excited to actually meet ahšiimali ‘her younger sibling’.

Girl laying next to and looking at a newborn
Šaapontohseehkwa with Moohseensa. Photo by Jonathan M. Fox

Starting ninkwihsa on his language learning journey has been very different from nintaana. To begin with, I didn’t make the conscious decision to strictly speak Myaamiaataweenki ‘Miami language’ to him for a particular length of time. There was a lot of vocabulary relating to siblings and interactions between them that I wasn’t familiar with, so I needed time to learn. I started using as much as I could, and added more in as I continued to learn. Moohseensa has been good for practicing new words; he doesn’t mind if I say things wrong or use the wrong word entirely. Amihsali ‘his big sister’, on the other hand, is sharp as a tack and immediately notices mistakes. That has been at times frustrating, but usually very helpful and often quite fun. The first time I called Moohseensa ninwkihsa, Šaapontohseehkwa asked what it meant and if she could call him that, too. I told her that probably wasn’t a good idea, but she could call him nihšiima ‘younger sibling’, or if she was talking to him, call him iihši, the addressing form of younger sibling. She loves that word and will often walk (or more often dance) around the house saying it. It’s also very common for her to enter the room and loudly announce Moohseensa’s various states of being. “Nihšiima fell over again”, or “He’s pulling on pinšiwa ‘the cat’, I told him ‘no, iihši!’ but he’s still doing it.”

Šaapontohseehkwa talking to Moohseensa. Video by Kristina Fox

Nintaana has also become good at using words and phrases that she’s learned from us when talking to Moohseensa. She’s very quick to praise him for his accomplishments. “mayaawi teepi ‘ good job’ iihši, you threw your toy so far!”. She’s not afraid to use bigger words, even if she doesn’t quite know how to say them. I’ve heard her several times trying toohkinansoolo ‘don’t touch that’ when she’s playing with him and he grabs a toy that she doesn’t want him to have. The most heartwarming thing has been hearing her tell him teepaalilaani ‘I love you’. She’s unafraid to tell him that whenever the mood strikes her, and she models that feeling with him all the time by being a great sister.

Moohseensa is learning a lot from Šaapontohseehkwa, but niwiiwa ‘my wife’ and I are doing our part, of course. She has referred to me as koohsa ‘your dad’ almost exclusively to both children since he was born. Lately when Moohseensa hears that word, he’ll look around the room to find me, or turn and smile if he knows where I am. He does the same with iinka, the addressing form of mom, but the most pronounced reaction is when we talk to him about amihsali ‘his sister’. We’ll ask him taanaaha kimihsa ‘where’s your big sister’ and he’ll excitedly flip his arms and legs around while he looks for her or at her.

Baby in a play chair with a sippy cup
Moohseensa drinking from a sippy cup. Photo by Kristina Fox

I find myself using the most Myaamia language when feeding Moohseensa. As part of a language learning class I took, I learned a lot of food and cooking related words which I then use to talk to ninkwihsa. As he’s trying a lot of new foods, I’m always asking wiinkhtamanwi-nko ‘do you like how it tastes’? And since he enjoys playing with food and his eating utensils as much as eating in the first place, I have to ask him things like ‘taanaaha kotaki kikookanimi ‘where’s your other spoon”?

Learning Myaamiaataweenki with two children in our home has been interesting and at times challenging. We’re looking forward to continuing our experiences together, and can’t wait to see where all it will take us.


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