raising a bilingual kid

¡Chinelas con estos huercos!

We had Nintento.

Kids today have Vine.

We had VCRs.

They have bluetooth and DVD players.

We had cassette tapes and then CD players.

They have iPods and iPhones.

We had beepers.

They have iPads and tablets.

We had watches with cartoons and superheroes on the wristbands.

They have smartwatches with cameras and touch screens.

Today, Edgar saw me playing with Vine and said “hey, is that Vine?  One of my friends in class is on Vine.  She asked me if I had a Vine too.”

Sigh… they’re in elementary school.

I know.  That’s kind of hypocritical of me considering how much I employ social media and networking sites on a constant basis… and considering the fact that sometimes Edgar is in my pictures and videos too.  But come on!  Elementary school!

I tried to deny it, but he didn’t believe me.

Oh well, he’s still not getting an account.

¡Ya mero!  ¡Nomás lo que me faltaba!  

Funny Random Moments You Probably Might Find Entertaining

Funny Random Moments You Probably Might Find Entertaining

I’ve been busy lately.  My sister and my niece are in town and that’s very exciting.  We’re having a party soon, and well tambiên me ha pegado la hueva a little bit.  But I do want to share some funny moments we’ve had recently that I may or may not blog about again in a later post.  I hope they put a smile on your face too.

Singing Rancheras for the Soul
We’re riding around in the car.  I’m singing one of the rancheras on the radio, cause you know that’s what I listen to most of the time to and from work.  I like the Raúl Brindis y Pepito show and listen to it religiously every morning.  Until recently, I used to listen to Piolin too, pero bueno we all know what happened there.  Sad really.  I especially like the farandula news and in between those segments you eventually start picking up a lot of the lyrics to the songs too.  I have!  What I didn’t realize was that Edgar was doing so too.  All of a sudden I hear him singing the same song in the back seat of the car también.  I don’t say anything, so as to not make him aware, and just smile to myself.

The Fake British Accent 
A couple of weeks ago, this very nice reporter from BBC America and I had agreed to meet at one of the park’s here in the barrio on a Sunday morning.  He had emailed me before coming to Houston and he wanted to talk about the future of Latino culture in the United States, according to me.  I should forewarn you that I don’t know exactly what I blurted out once had had a microphone in front of me…  At least I hope his trip wasn’t a complete waste of time.  Anyway.  The funny thing is, that morning, Edgar decided to come with me, and while I sat down for the interview we had agreed he was going to go play where I could keep an eye on him.  Only that was before we got out of the car and introduced ourselves to the reporter and his companion.  He immediately went towards Edgar and shook his hand, greeting him with a very British accent.  To which Edgar, to everyone’s surprise, especially mine, greeted him back with his own version of a British accent.

None of us could do anything other than laugh.  Afterwards, he and I couldn’t stop laughing at how embarrassing the moment had been and to this day he is still completely in shock at his gut reaction.  I guess our television viewing habits didn’t help him any either.  We’ve been watching Keeping Up Appearances religiously for months now.

Church School for Edgar
Yesterday, Edgar and I again were talking.  It was a very brief conversation this time.  He was asking about one of my conversations that he had overheard.  To throw him off I reminded him that we still need to register him for his first communion classes, to which he replied that he didn’t want to sign up for Catechism classes in Spanish because he doesn’t fully understand the language.  My conversation with the BBC America reporter immediately flooded back.  ¡Ay Dios mio!  Good thing I did make the clarification that we are not the most traditional parents when it comes to bilingualism.  And by the way, that does mean Catechism classes will be in Spanish for Edgar.

For Raising Boys: Is Being a “Drill Sergeant Dad” Required?

For Raising Boys: Is Being a Drill Sergeant Dad Required?

Boys to Men.

My father was not a drill sergeant.  The truth is I didn’t really have one of those growing up.  Except that is if you count the neighbor kids at the Bali Hai apartments, who were always up for torturing each other in the name of “proving who was tougher.”  I very rarely was the toughest one in the bunch, I can tell you that right now.  My methods were more flight than fight, and as a result I became quite good at determining when it was a good time to run and hide.

If anything, my older brother was the one responsible for “toughening me up.”  He didn’t like me saying no and backing down from anyone.  To him it was always better to go down fighting and the size or reputation of his opponent never really mattered.

Yo en cambio, I would always size up my competition first and scan the room or space for the easiest and closest exits to me.  I don’t like to say that I was a “scary cat,” but the truth is I was.  It wasn’t only about physical fights either.  Because I never really tested my own strength against other kids, my age or bigger, in other aspects of my life it became easier to circumvent the undesirable feeling of not knowing how I could or would measure up to others, physically.

In school, on tests, on reading reports, on anything academic really, I was confident.  I knew my abilities were strong and I would gladly challenge anyone to go up against me.  But back at home, at the Bali Hai, in the parking-lot-basketball-court, in the empty lots of grass where we would play, my sense of how much I was really capable of was pretty much nonexistent.

When we’d wrestle and pretend we were the fighters from the WWE, I always tried to go up against my little brother.  If we were running and all of the sudden everyone would jump over a fence, I would either turn around and run the other way or find a way to pretend I jumped the fence too (even though nobody would actually see me do it).  Eventually, I just started avoiding any situations that might require me to physically compete with others.  I was a “sensitive boy” I guess you could say.

My father never questioned me or pressured me to be any tougher either.  In hindsight, I’m not really sure why.

And lately I’ve been kind of wondering what would have happened if he had?  Would I have been more pelionero?  Would I have been more valiente?  Would I be sitting here now writing out this anecdote and sharing so much about myself so openly?   

I kind of wish he had.  Not because I want to be a tough guy, but because now that Edgar is in my life I find myself wanting to push him harder than anyone ever pushed me.  Not in the sense that I want him to see me as a drill sergeant.  Instead, because knowing now what I didn’t know then, I think that challenging myself at every step of my life would have made more of a confident person sooner.  It wasn’t until I was well into my late teens and early adulthood that I began to really challenge myself and discover my own physical strength.  I understand it now.  I know what I am capable of.

The thing is, whether it’s PC or not, boys do turn into men, and men are expected to be strong, to be physical, and to not back down from challenges.  I want that for him.  And in the process I want him to build his self confidence by not being afraid to challenge himself.  He deserves that, I think.

That’s also the reason why today when the basketball bounced into the neighbor’s yard I made him jump over the fence to go get it.  He was hesitant at first, thinking and telling me that he couldn’t do it.  I sat down and told him he could and that we weren’t going inside until he did.  I encouraged him.  I walked him through the process.  And I even offered him a boost from this side of the fence to the other.  In the end he didn’t need it, and when he jumped back over and ran inside exhausted, I yelled at him “Good job!”

That’s all I would have wanted.

That’s not to say I’m criticizing my father.  He had his reasons and his methods, and while he might not have been a drill sergeant, he has always been a great father.  

The generational differences in Latino families are funny

The generational differences in Latino families are funny

Loaded for vacation by Hans Hansson.

So the other day my sister, her husband and her kids were getting ready to go out of town.  They had packed, loaded up the truck, and we were all just sitting around talking and laughing while they finished getting ready to leave.

My sister has two teenagers, one preteen, and the baby of their family who just recently hit double digits in her birthday celebrations.  They are a loud and rambunctious bunch that I just adore.  And there we were, when all of the sudden my brother in law came out of the room, having just changed from shorts and chanclas to blue jeans, a collared shirt, sneakers, and a cap.

The following conversation ensued and I just couldn’t help but giggling inside (like a school girl):

My eldest niece:  Why is daddy all dressed up?

My youngest nephew:  I don’t know… mommy was putting makeup on earlier?

It was past midnight when all of this conversation took place.

My eldest niece:  What the heck?  Mom was putting on makeup?  “Ma!  Why were you putting on makeup?  Where are we going, to a gala or something?”

My eldest nephew:  I don’t know they’re weird.

Then all four of them, plus Edgar, busted out in laughter.

Two things struck me right then.  One, the generational differences between our generation and theirs are so apparent that they even show up in the minutest of situations, like how we get ready to go out of town.  My nieces and nephews would have been perfectly comfortable traveling in their pajamas!  We, the adults, don’t do that of course!   Not normally anyway.  There’s a sense of personal pride in putting your best foot forward by trying to look presentable in every situation.  ¿Apoco no? 

And two, that we are all old enough to not fully understand what it really means to “just be chilling.”

Pero you know what?  I think I’m okay with that.

Bilingual Living: Why Language and Culture Matter when Parenting

hola! by Salil Wadhavkar juanofwords

hola! by Salil Wadhavkar

It’s no secret that I’m not the most structured when it comes to teaching bilingualism.  We’ve talked about it before, in past blog posts.  It’s not that fluency in English and Spanish for Edgar is not important to me.  It is.  For more reasons than I can explain, pero desde luego not the least of which is his own personal benefit in the future.  I’ve read a lot of the statistics.  I’ve heard and discussed the meticulous methods one can ensure a child becomes bilingual.  They are great, believe me.  But I wish I could be that disciplined and good about sticking to a plan.

The reality is I’m not.  And the more time I’ve had to think about it the more I’ve come to the realization that I don’t want to be.  The thing is the more we’ve stopped pushing and instead have let Edgar discover and learn Spanish on his own, as well as understand his own culture and identity, the more he seems to have embraced all of it.  Of course, we do have the added benefit that a large part of our families only communicate with him in Spanish.  And that certainly cannot be discounted as anything less than a HUGE HELP!

Still, whatever your method, I honestly believe there are not any right or wrong answers when it comes to teaching bilingualism and culture to our children.  The important thing is to do it and to do it because it will help them out more than anyone else in their futures.

And speaking of that, here are some pretty cool statistics from Univision that I’ve been aching to find a reason to share for quite some time now:

  • 62% of Hispanics between the ages of 18-34 have a high to medium cultural connection
  • 66% self-identify as Hispanic
  • 29% of the total Hispanic population are defined as Millennials (18-34)
  • 1 out of every 5 Millennials today is Hispanic
  • By 2020 that number will be closer to 1 in 4

This was also the main subject of discussion at last month’s Austin AdFed Hispanic Marketing Symposium, which I had the pleasure of attending and speaking in.

Their study carries a lot of other cool data, but the message that resonated the most with me was this one: That language and culture are less about defining what it means to be Latino and more about connecting and communicating with each other in authentic ways.

Who knows what that will mean for Edgar’s generation in the years ahead?

No, I was not compensated by Univision or anyone else.  I’m just kind of a dork when it comes to statistics and data about Latino culture and identity. 

Raising A Bilingual Kid: And Learning Right Alongside Him Every Step Of The Way!

raising a bilingual kid learning alongside them every step of the way capirotada enchiladas language juanofwords

This past weekend we went to Dallas for a few days.  We were there for the Blissdom 2013 national conference, and while it was everything we had expected and a lot more (there were mixed drinks at some of the tabletop booths so ya se imaginan…), what really made the trip extra special was something Edgar said at Anjelica’s aunts’ home.  We were staying with them while we were in Dallas.  One, to not pay for a hotel.  And two, because you already know in Mexican families if you don’t stay with family that’s just as bad as turning your back on us.

So there we were.  It was late on Saturday evening.  We had already come back from the conference and we were exhausted.  One of Anjelica’s aunts was making capirotada – if you’re not familiar it’s very similar to bread pudding – and we were all sitting around the table talking.  Then Edgar started asking questions.

Edgar:  What is that?

Anjelica’s Aunt:  Capirotada.

Edgar:  No, what is that?  What is that ma?

Everyone:  Capirotada. Capirotada mijo.  It’s capirotada.

Edgar:  But how do you say it in English?

Anjelica’s Aunt:  Capirotada.

Edgar:  Yeah, but in English… what is the word for that in English?

Anjelica’s Aunt:  How do you say enchiladas in English?

Edgar:  En-chee-la-ttas.

Anjelica’s Aunt:  Pos hay está, in English you say ca-pee-ro-ta-dah.

I haven’t been able to stop laughing at that exchange.  It reminded me so much about some of the many language barriers of my own that I’ve had over the years.  For the longest I called one of my parent’s friends everything else but her real name of Calletana.  It was such a tender moment that I had to recreate it in the videos below:

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