While Griffin seems to understand and speak French and English fairly equally, he has a definite preference for songs in English. One of his favorite activities is to grab a songbook in English, climb into Daddy's lap, and say "More week! More week!" ("Week" is his rendering of "musique," pronounced "moo-seek" in French.)
Daddy, who makes up in enthusiasm what he lacks in vocal chops, then valiantly attempts to sing folk songs ("Polly Wolly Doodle"), children's songs ("Old McDonald"), Sunday school songs ("He's Got the Whole World"), and so forth to his adoring son. However, he often has to make up the tune, as these are songs that he doesn't remember or never heard as a child (and certainly not as an adult).
This situation, by the way, can lead to some very amusing performances, like when Daddy's "Little Red Caboose" sounds a lot like Prince's "Little Red Corvette."
I'm torn: I know a lot of these songs by heart and have happy childhood memories of singing them in the car, playing them on the piano, enduring my mother invent her own lyrics for existing tunes (I still cringe at the memory of "Camp Pretty Pond/Camp Pretty Pond/Hiking to the far beyond/At Camp Pretty Pond/See the leaders/See the girls/See the skeeters/See the squirrels/At Camp Pretty Pond/Camp Pretty Pond....").
So when I heard my husband struggling through "Oh Susannah," I yearned to join in and pluck the imaginary banjo on my knee too. But for months I held back, reminding myself that I was only going to speak French with Griffin. Seulement francais. Only. French.
For months, when Griffin brought me his songbooks, I would page through them, describing the pictures to him and telling him in French what each English song was about. He'd sit and listen, not protesting at the lack of "week," but not bouncing up and down and crying "yay!" and "more!" like he did with Daddy.
For months, I taught myself more children's songs in French. I realized that I had built up a substantial repertoire when during an hour-long drive, I sang to Griffin the whole way without repeating a song once. (Keep in mind that children's songs tend to be quite short!)
And finally, I decided to relax my rules: I don't have to feel like a bad bilingual mother if I let an English word or song slip in now and then. I like calling Griffin "darlin'." I like singing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" in a round with my hubby. I like teaching songs dear to my heart to both my boys. And I loved attending baby storytime--in English, of course--at the library!
Besides, thinking back to my childhood, I never felt confused that my mom sang an occasional song in another language to me. Griffin isn't going to object to Daddy joining in on "Alouette" or "Frere Jacques" (which begs to be sung as a round), so why would it be wrong for me to "Twinkle Twinkle" too?
While I still hardly ever sing an entire song in English to Griffin by myself, I no longer have a problem singing in English with other people around him. And now I too get the "yay!"s and the "more week!"s from him, every time. I have also Frenchified the lyrics to folk songs like "Clementine" and "Sweetly Sings the Donkey" and "The Wheels on the Bus" so that I can sing them to Griffin with abandon!