There is one thing I have noticed about SpanglishBaby’s (and other parenting blogs’) readership that I don’t like: very few fathers are represented! This is nothing new; moms have historically been the ones attending playdates and talking about the trends in diaper bags. Still, fatherhood has changed considerably and, when it comes to maintaining a home culture and language, the presence of Papi is just as important as that of Mami.
Since my significant other is one of the most admirable fathers I have ever known, I decided to ask him a few questions about how he feels about his role in our multicultural family. Christian is father to two beautiful preteen girls and stepfather to my 4-year-old son.
Why did you decide to raise your kids to be bilingual, and how committed are you to this decision?
Spanish has been an important factor in my life, connecting me to friends and family members I wouldn’t have otherwise known. I am very committed to giving this same advantage and cultural pride to my children. Even though we speak lots of English at home because of homework and daily rituals, I still believe that Spanish is their first language and I never cease to emphasize that.
Who reinforces Spanish the most for your kids?
My parents have been instrumental in keeping up Spanish at home, because they are not comfortable speaking English. From a young age, my daughters became accustomed to speaking only Spanish with their abuelos and it reassures me every time I hear it that they are part of the Spanish-speaking world that I call my own.
Do fathers and mothers play different roles in giving kids bilingual skills?
Fathers should be just as involved as mothers in all aspects of parenting, but especially in maintaining a native heritage and language. Children of both genders look up to fathers differently, and I feel that if I portray a genuine interest in and respect for Spanish, they will emulate that.
What do you wish you had done differently throughout the years regarding Spanish and your children?
I would have spoken more Spanish at home with their mother, but more importantly, I would have spent TIME reading, writing, and discussing life in my native language. As second-generation Americans, my kids are more likely to lose the drive to speak Spanish, and I should have been more conscious of this when they were very young.
What is the best way for fathers to approach school-aged children who are resistant to speaking Spanish?
Consistency is key. It must be an expectation, along with chores and manners, but also must come from a genuine place. Children can feel when we aren’t being true to our own values. Since they do as we do, not as we say, we must also force ourselves to use Spanish every chance we get, or we will lose a bit of that sincerity and our kids will follow suit.
When was the last time you asked your father, brother, uncle, boyfriend, or husband about his commitment to raising truly bilingual kids?
Let’s make a concerted effort to open the conversation to the male voices, and remember that they are more than just backup.