Bilingual is Better

Having kids is a lot of work, as a mom of a 2-year-old, I’ll be the first to admit that it makes me a little crazy at times. There are so many situations to handle, so many decisions to make, so many daily tasks and hardly ever a break. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and then, being a bicultural mom, go ahead and pile language and cultural lessons right on top of that list. Sheesh! How do we do it all!??? No, I mean, really, I haven’t figured it out yet! Lol!

Well, despite the fact that I’m not a perfect parent, I’ve still managed to do a lot right for my daughter and one of those “right things” is raising her bilingual, which is no slice of cake, if you know what I mean. I speak to her in Spanish as often as I can for a non-fluent speaker and I try to make it a regular part of our day by including discussions about Mexican foods and culture. We attend every cultural event from here to Omaha, which isn’t easy when you live in the Midwest.  There’s a stigma about Spanish, a shortage of speakers, and a distance from the culture that we crave as part of our daily lives.

So, how do you make it a part of your life without going crazy? Well, for our family, making it fun is the answer. Trust me, you can’t make a toddler do anything that she doesn’t want to do! I’ve tried!  But one day, I was trying to get her to brush her teeth and she was nervous, didn’t like the taste, didn’t like the feel of the bristles…she didn’t like any part of it! Can you guess what I did? I went shopping! Lol!  She picked her own Dora electric toothbrush, “My Little Pony” bubble gum toothpaste, and a special princess crown. Now she runs to brush her teeth and actually asks for her turn. We have a special ritual every night where she brushes on her own first (like a “big girl”) and then mommy gets the spots that she missed. When we’re all done, she spits, smiles and shouts, “Ding!  Princess teeth!” Yes, mija…tiene los dientes como una hermosa princesa! She loves to be a princess every night when she brushes her teeth and while she may not do a perfect job, I always tell her that she is such an awesome brusher and that I love her beautiful “princess teeth”.

With this kind of approach, it’s not only fun, but memory making. I can remember similar experiences with my own mother, when she would take the time to do things my way; it made me feel so special and loved. I think that as moms we have a unique insight into our child’s thoughts and the opportunity to make strong impressions upon them about what things in life are valuable!  As bicultural and bilingual parents, we can use these opportunities to impress our heritage and language upon them and pass those important traditions on through love. Maybe my daughter won’t get it perfect. Her Spanish may not be 100% spot on, or she may not know the most authentic recipe for mole, but you can sure bet that she’s going to look back on that time spent with her mama and want to give those same experiences to her children.

Chantilly Patiño lives in the Midwest and loves to write, travel and take photographs. She writes on her personal blog (BiculturalMom.com) about multiculturalism, discrimination, parenting, relationships and other important topics that are relevant to moms raising a ‘bicultural’ family.

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