Bilingual is Better

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Daisy Galvis, a Colombian-American actress living in North Hollywood, CA with her husband and two bilingual children. 

I’m still reeling. My son was not chosen to attend the Immersion Spanish Program in Glendale. I toured Franklin Elementary school, which has an Immersion Language Program, back in 2010 and 2011 . The sight of kids speaking German, Italian, and Spanish just melted my heart on the spot. I knew this was where my son, Jones, would be attending kindergarten. There was no doubt in my mind this was the place for him.

My husband was on board. He knew how important it was for me to have our children speak Spanish. After all, I was raised in a Colombian, Spanish-only household and I’ve always felt so grateful to be able to speak, write and read Spanish….and very well, I might add. I know many people who are Latino, but do not speak the language. It’s perplexing to me. I go to auditions as a Latina and many of my fellow actors at the Hispanic auditions do not speak the language. It’s always interesting when a lady named Dolores Rodriguez does not speak a word of Spanish…kinda like when I first heard an Asian speak fluent Spanish in Miami. Who knew there was an influx of Chinese in Cuba? It reminds us that our way is not the only way. That’s the beauty of culture. And I want a lot of it for my children.

Even before I married my husband, I made sure he knew how important it was for my children to speak Spanish. I married a white guy from Michigan. How a Colombian girl from Miami met a guy from Michigan in Las Vegas is beyond me, but it was kismet. We meet wonderfully in the middle and to see him be the most amazing father brings tears to my eyes. The greatest gift I have ever given my kids is to have chosen such a wonderful man as their father. He tries so hard to understand my sadness at my son not being chosen into this school. It’s not enough for my kids to have Colombian blood. I need for them to speak the language, understand all the nuances and magic of the culture. It’s my culture, it’s their culture and I feel it’s my responsibility to pass it on.

It’s been difficult to verbalize my feelings. I’m realizing it’s not just about my son not getting accepted into a school, but also about the lengths that we will go to and how much we will do for our children. Another jolt of reality that I am a mom, like any other mom who would do anything to give her child every opportunity. I always knew I was tenacious for what I wanted. I was clueless as to the emotions that would surface when I wanted something for my child. It’s a new emotion and it surfaces quickly and cuts into my heart.

I’m back in the Boardroom in Glendale and the moderator tells us that if we are not accepted today — that there is still hope. There is a lot of shuffling and a spot might open up for my son in August or even September .  September? That is 7 months away. Do they not know me or understand the anxiety I am feeling? I even went as far as to ask my sister to join me at the lottery. She has always had strange luck when we go to Vegas and since this is a lottery, maybe she’d bring some luck our way. I had two tarot card readers tell me in January that he would be accepted. And now Glendale is telling me I might have to wait in this anxious hell for 7 more months..and maybe not get in at all. Maybe I can get a refund from the tarot readers? Or is there still hope?

Now, I can understand what people mean when they say parenting is exhausting. It’s not just the physical exhaustion, it’s the emotional weight of it all on our shoulders. The fear, the expectation, the feeling that somehow I failed my son, somehow, because his Spanish wasn’t as fluent as I would have hoped. Rationally, I know better. But, sometimes I slip and feel guilty that I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know where he’ll be starting Kindergarten in 7 months.

Aren’t we as parents supposed to know where our children are heading? Isn’t it our job to lay down the groundwork? My husband comforts me by saying, “We are doing everything we can. No matter what, he will go to a good school.” I believe him. I have no other choice. But, I still hold out hope for my phone to ring, my caller i.d. to read, “Glendale Unified”, and for a sweet voice with a smile to tell me, “a space has opened up for your son in Immersion Spanish” All I have is Hope and Faith. Esperanza y Fe.

{Image by Mr. Conguito}

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