It’s definitely not a topic we’ve ever shied away from, but it is one we’ve given a lot of thought to. Especially as parents of a bilingualish teenager. See what I did there? It’s a play off of the hit TV show Blackish, in case you’re wondering. What I’m talking about is Raising a Bilingual Kid.
Y’all know I’ve written at length about that topic over the years, haha! So how does one follow up so many blog posts about the same topic? With a video, of course!
That’s what we’re talking about in our latest video from YouTube (we have a channel there, by the way… in case you want to subscribe – we’d greatly appreciate it). Take a look and let us know what your best tips are for raising a fully bilingual or bilingualish child.
My parents made the choice to raise us here. Here in a country that was not their own. In a place where for many years they were forced to live their lives hiding in plain sight. In the land of opportunity. The land where nothing seemed impossible if you were willing to work hard enough.
And so they did.
So much so that we never had to go without. So much so that we never had to endure the harshness of their own childhood experiences. So much so that we had the privilege of having so much more then they had.
So much so that in doing so they gave us more than we probably needed.
We were not well off, however. My family did struggle to make ends meet. We did rely on the kindness of others to help us through. We did make do with what little we had, but comparatively to the way my parents grew up, we might as well have been born with a silver spoon in our mouths.
I think to a lot of people in their hometown we pretty much were.
That didn’t make sense to me at all for a very long time, but it does now.
You see, our parents loved us so much and gave so much of themselves to make sure we never struggled the way they did, that when we became parents ourselves we did the exact same thing for our children. We’ve done our best to give them everything we didn’t have so that they would never have to experience the hardships we had to face.
In our case, we are the first generation of parents who have been able to provide much more than the bare essentials for our children. We have made it a priority, as have many parents, to ensure that our kids feel just as deserving as any other person in this country. In doing so, in many cases, we have showered them with material possessions, forgetting at times that some of the most valuable lessons in life don’t require any material possessions at all.
That’s not entirely a bad thing.
However, in doing so we have created a new generation of much more privileged children than we were.
It’s hard to quantify that in general terms because every experience is bound to be different, but the truth is just like we will always be unable to fully comprehend our own parents experiences, so will our children. They are once removed from our hardships, twice removed from the hardships of our parents, and one can’t help but to wonder what a difference this could make in their lives and the lives of their own children one day.
I guess for me that’s part of the reason why something like Hispanic Heritage Month begins to gain more value. Beyond the recognition of a universal Latino culture, beyond the marketing machine of saluting an entire population of people in one neatly packaged month, there also exists the opportunity to empower and educate our own children about the significance of their own personal heritage and ancestry.
Whether this is something we do solely during this time of year or at any given moment, the importance of imparting our own stories to the next generations is invaluable.
Those stories belong to us and they belong to them.
The hope would be that one day they belong to our grandchildren and great grandchildren too.
Texas Latino Bloggers Hispanic Heritage Month Blog Hop
This post is a part of the #TXLatinoBlog Hispanic Heritage Month Blog Hop. Visit the bloggers listed below as we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month together/juntos! Follow the hashtag #TXLatinoBlog on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, too.
Power to Prevail – Body Shame in Latino Culture – Monday, 10/3 Teatrolatinegro – Latin@ Theatre Show in Houston – Tuesday, 10/4 Candypo – Being a Latino Military Spouse – Wednesday, 10/5 Coppelia Marie – Am I a Bad Latina Mom? – Thursday, 10/6
The Restaurant Fanatic – Cocina Latina – Friday, 10/7
Haute in Texas – Mothering Latinas When You’re Not a Latina – Monday, 10/10
My niece said something this weekend that made me laugh.
Then it made me think.
And now, it’s making me contemplate life.
She’s under five years old and we were flying a kite together this weekend.
She was a natural at it, but that wasn’t really the big surprise.
When we were getting ready to go back inside to eat my mother’s pozole I offered to help her put up the kite since the string holding it had been unwound a good couple of feet. She refused and proceeded to tell me how she didn’t need help because she could do it all by herself.
In that very moment it was as if my sister (her mother) was talking to me herself.
It was uncanny.
I chuckled at first in surprise, and then thought to myself, yeah that’s really her baby!
It’s funny how the most unexpected characteristics are seemingly hereditary as well.
In just the blink of an eye he’s gone from uttering a word here and there, to thinking on his own and rationalizing the world around him, a su manera.
Honestly, I can’t put into words the feelings that come pouring into my heart when I look at this picture and think of all the moments we’ve shared. It’s gut wrenching almost because as parents we never really stop to think how precious every moment really is. We don’t understand that before we know it babies are adults. Living their own lives. Being independent. As they should be. Yet somehow growing up too soon.
We worry about the roof over their heads. The food on the table. The clothes on their back. The homework they need to do. The ways they should and should not act. The friends they keep. The travesuras they get into. The things they want and don’t really need. The list goes on and on. And we seldom stop to take in the sweetness that is the relationship between child and parent.
There’s love there, yes. But also trust, faith, compassion, hope, respect, and above all else gratitude. Gratitude for the opportunity life gives us to grow up and old together.
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’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.
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.
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.”