Today I woke up with my daughter as her papi was leaving for an appointment. After he left, she came up to me and asked if I would teach her more Spanish. Then she recounted a story to me that made me feel so bad. She told me about how she went to the play center with daddy while I was working and that she couldn’t speak Spanish with the little girl she was playing with. “I only know ‘gracias’ and ‘de nada’ mom!”
She told me that daddy was speaking Spanish without us and that she wanted to speak Spanish as a family. She didn’t like it that her daddy could speak Spanish and she couldn’t.
This hurt so bad. I learned Spanish in college, specifically to teach my daughter and make sure she was fluent, a benefit my husband didn’t have as a child because his father feared that Spanish would hold his children back. We wanted to do things differently with our daughter, but now I feel like a failure. Not only have I lost a ton of my Spanish-speaking abilities since we’ve been in the Midwest, but I’ve also failed to pass it down to my daughter in a way that allows her to communicate with her Spanish-speaking friends.
I think more and more about moving to south Texas. My daughter will be closer to her roots and her language. She’ll have all her primos and the benefits of immersion. Maybe we should just go, and not worry about the ‘what ifs’. Even when we were in Muskegon, we had tons of face time with our Spanish-speaking familia and friends. Here, we don’t really have that. At least not as a regular part of our lives.
For now we’re not moving though. We’re working on saving for our move and putting careers in order, but hopefully this year. But we really can’t wait any longer to take action. Our daughter is four years old and while we do speak Spanglish at home, it’s obviously not the same as speaking 100% Spanish. Our family doesn’t know how to communicate in 100% Spanish.
The only solution I can come up with is Spanish-Only. I’m going to have to start enforcing Spanish-Only hours in our house for myself, my husband and our daughter. That means Spanish-Only TV, music, speaking, reading, etc. I’ve done this before and was very successful, but that was before we moved so far from home and when Spanish was a daily part of our lives. Over here, it will be much harder.
We’re going to try what I did in college to learn Spanish. We’re going to interact with each other and digest media ONLY in Spanish for half of each day. In college I had post-it notes on the walls, Spanish channels with all the classic novelas and a Spanish dictionary on every shelf. I have to get back to this.
I’ve promised Lily…”Mommy will teach you Spanish”. I have to keep that promise.
Have you struggled to raise bilingual kids? How have you learned or re-learned Spanish for your little ones?