Editor’s note: In celebration of Mother’s Day next week, we are honoring all mothers who do everything they can to give their children the awesome gift of bilingualism and biculturalism. We’ve invited several amazing mamás who are doing just that to tell us all about it in our Week of SpanglishBaby Moms. Each one of them brings a completely different look at bilingualism. All the moms are bloggers too and if you didn’t know about them before, I’m sure you’ll want to follow them afterward.
We’ve also got a giveaway meant to pamper the sexy and romantic woman in you: a set of Victoria’s Secret Dream Angels™ beauty collection.
Sometimes I feel like I was raised by a stranger. And sometimes I feel like my daughters are being raised by a stranger, too. My mom, who I love dearly and am grateful beyond words for, has always been somewhat of a mystery to me. And I wonder, as my daughters prepare to turn two and four, if I will be a mystery to them.
In my home, we use the OPOL method; since birth, I have spoken to my daughters solely in Spanish. Immersing them in my native language has been like learning it all over again for me. It is beautiful and fascinating and challenging and surprising everyday. However, Spanish is not the language in which I think, dream, hope or feel.
My parents, who only speak Spanish, gave me values and character and shared their way of being with me. They gave me roots. That experience can never be replaced but also required few words on their part. I learned and absorbed through their generous, loving and dedicated example.
I dug those roots deeper and wider more by the lessons I’ve learned in English than those I learned in Spanish.
Every defining experience and emotional discovery has been made in English. First crush, first kiss, high school graduation, my best friendships, the best late night talks, journaling, death, falling in love, marriage, deciding to have children, birth – English.
My identity has been created in English.
What does all that have to do with a stranger raising my kids?
For my daughters, they’ve only ever had a relationship with me in Spanish. They’ve only ever had a relationship with a small part of my identity. There’s a whole other side to their mami they haven’t even met. I struggle with it because I want them to know ME, all of me. I want them to know the stories, the memories that make up this person I am – where I’ve come from, what drives me, what lights me on fire, what makes my heart soar. The language thing doesn’t prevent me from telling them my stories but when I recount them, they sound foreign and not like the stories I tell myself. So I’m left wondering: if the stories I’m telling feel foreign to me, are my daughters hearing the right story?
It makes me laugh that my mother and I seem so much alike now in our stranger-ness to the children in our lives. This Mother’s Day I’m realizing for the first time I’m very much in her shoes. My mom couldn’t share all of herself with me and vice versa because we didn’t (don’t) “speak” each other’s languages. Sure we shared Spanish but there was a thread of understanding missing.
My daughters and I, we’ve got all the pieces – shared language and the missing thread. I’ve just got to figure out when and how to introduce them to their mami. Do you know the answer? When do I start using English? When can I read them my favorite childhood book? Is four too young? Too young for language or too late for our relationship?
I didn’t think about this feeling of being perdida in translation when I chose to raise my daughters bilingual. It’s just a side effect, a delayed reaction like when I remember a random word like “fututo” or when I get teary eyed at a canción de cuna I’d forgotten. It’s a big price but it’s a giant cause, right?