Bilingual is Better

There are two public dual language immersion elementary schools in my county, and there’s one school that offers everyday foreign language lessons, though it’s not an immersive setting. We applied for two of the three total options for next school year, when my son starts kindergarten, and just received word that he was not selected for either. We could choose to stay on the waiting list and wait for several months to have an official answer about that, but that doesn’t make it too easy to plan where we will send my stepdaughters to school (they are also at the mercy of magnet program decisions and the location of their siblings’ schools).

Of late, I have admitted to feeling that I’m slacking in the bilingual parenting arena because my son gets most of his Spanish input at his father’s house. I was hoping to at least be able to provide more support for his bilingualism by sending him to a school that emphasizes its importance, but it looks like he will have the standard school experience, at least for now.

Honestly, I’m perfectly fine with that, and even a little relieved. The more I step back from my attachment to my son, I see him as a boy that will grow into a capable man who, like all other adults, will ultimately choose if or how he wants Spanish to factor into his life. There is not necessarily a cause-effect relationship between going to a dual language school, or living in a bilingual family for that matter, and becoming a truly bilingual adult. Sure, there is a correlation, but none of us knows if our decisions directly make our kids into who they are.

I look at all my friends who were raised by parents that adamantly focused on one value or endeavor, such as a religion or a culturally derived belief. Those are the same friends who have deviated the most from the way they were raised. The more fanatical the parents were, the more curious the kids became about other ways to live. Granted, I haven’t done any formal experiments, but I have a hunch that this association is not imagined.

While I believe in bilingualism as one of the greatest gifts we can give our children, I think this same relationship may apply. We can promote the second language, model cultural acceptance, and fill their bookshelves with Spanish libros, but we certainly cannot guarantee the outcome. Some of us will be excited to see our kids gladly using Spanish every day in the future, while others may be a bit disappointed if they choose to steer away from it. Our efforts are not in vain, but those efforts need to have limits. For me, the limit is the waiting list.

There is a clear difference between exposing our kids to the things that are important to us and completely hooking our identity to their achievements. As hard as it is, I’m going to give up the fight for now and see where this random school decision will take our family. I need to follow my own instincts and not try to force Spanish into my son’s school life if it will create more stress for everyone. I’d rather stick to our regular goofing off in Spanish and letting his stepsisters read him Spanish stories for now. I never want to lose sight of my favorite parts of bilingualism – like being able to find humor in flawed translations. Little treasures like that are more valuable than any Spanish homework will ever be.

Photo from news.com.au

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