Reflections on first year raising trilingual child

{Photo by: basykes}

This past year I have experienced a transformation many of the SpanglishBaby readers are all too familiar with; I became a mother. Sure, it starts while pregnant, but the real transformation, in my opinion, occurs during the first year of motherhood. There are parts of myself I had to let go of and other parts I had to reinvent.

I had to let go of the way I was used to traveling and I was forced to reinvent my ideals about teaching my daughter three languages. I had to be realistic and sensitive to the people involved in my journey of motherhood, which obviously included both my daughter and husband. In many ways, it has been a difficult, yet rewarding journey because these two things, traveling and languages, are ones that I hold dear to my heart. Quite frankly, they are solid parts of my identity.

As I was making my way down the streets of such interesting cities like Miami and Quito this past summer, with baby and all the required gear, I took for granted how easily we switched from Spanish to English, vice versa. There was a sense of ease in being bilingual in these metropolitan cities. This got me thinking about what it means to be bilingual or striving to raise a trilingual child, for that matter, in a conservative state like Texas. I also thought about the work I am doing as a doctoral student in a dual language classroom and how being bilingual seems to be a highly valued commodity in a school community where bilingualism is the goal. Then it hit me: the CONTEXT where the languages are spoken is key! In other words, how much buy-in we have by the individuals in a society about learning multiple languages shapes the willingness of those around us to accept the need to be multi-lingual!

When I spoke in Spanish in Miami or Quito this past summer with my little bebita it came so easily. I was merely blending in with the background. When I speak in Spanish to her in central Texas, well, let’s just say that my comfort level and the insecurity of feeling like we are trying to display who we are, depends on whether I am on the east or the west side of town.

So, as I enter my second year of being a mother, I know that I will have to continue to reinvent and let go of certain parts that shape my identity. In fact, in a few days I leave to, what I am calling a “boob freedom” trip (a.k.a just-finished-weaning-my-14-month-old-from-nursing-trip) with some girlfriends. I can only imagine how that trip, my first time away from baby, will contribute to my ongoing transformation as a travel seeking, Latina, and bilingual mother.

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