Many of you know through our tweets and our Facebook updates that my daughter and I are currently in El Salvador visiting the family for one whole month. It has been two years since the last time we were here and a trip was long overdue, especially for Camila.
My daughter, who just turned three, has a long-distance relationship with everyone in her family, except for mamá and papá. I always feel guilty that, not only will she be an only child, but she´ll also be deprived from knowing what it is to visit la casa de la abuela for lunch every Saturday; to have wild sleepovers with her primas; or to just have multiple hands on deck to lovingly care for her at a moment´s notice. This trip for us is not only an immersion in language, but an immersion in familia. In this case, one connects to the other.
We arrived to my mother´s house ten days ago and from day one Camila was putting to good use the new words in her vocabulary: Tía, prima, primo, abuelita, abuelito. All words she knew merely as concepts–not concepts I´m sure she could even grasp at her age. She had seen and met them all before–except for her one year old primito–but she was too young to retain the relationships from a distance. To my surprise, as soon as she saw them all again she immediately embraced each one with a joy that can only be bonded through blood. The next morning, the first words out of her mouth were: “¿Donde están mi tía y mis primos?” Just like that, she had a family. And they all speak the same language she speaks at home. The language she associates with warmth, safety and pure love.
This is not to say that English is not an integral part of who she is, it’s undeniable, but until now Spanish continues to be her strongest language and the one she hears coming out of the mouth of her family and caregivers.
I thought my initial post about this trip would be about my decision to enroll Camila in a local preschool during the four weeks we’ll be here. That has been a true experience and one I definitely want to share with you. But the most important aspect of all, so far, for me during this trip is my girl’s immersion into a world of family and seeing her become a prima, a sobrina and a nieta and fully embracing it. I can see her almost mature in preschool years in front of my eyes as she delves into the daily chaos of having so many people around; the back and forth between houses; the loud conversations; the long meals; the car trips to the beach and lake; the constant chatter; the fights with her prima over who’s turn it is to share. It’s all real and she needed it all.
Have you had this type of cultural/family immersion experience yourself or with your child, regardless of the language? What came out of it? What are your best memories of it?