Bilingual is Better

bookmarks

A few weeks into their third year of Spanish school, the day I knew would be coming sooner or later finally arrives. My son has figured out that going to school on Saturday is for the birds. Several Saturdays in a row, I listen to his litany of complaints. It’s like having six weekdays! I’m cutting into his weekend! The complaints wear me down — or rather, countering them wears me down. I trot out some of my usual selling points for Spanish. How wonderful it is to speak a second language. How not everyone does. How he can go to school in Costa Rica someday if he wants to. I appeal to his highly developed mathematical side — he gets 32.5 hours of schooling in English every week, but only 3 hours of Spanish.

The complaints subside and I drop the boys off at school without incident. I have no business complaining about the logistics of Spanish school — it is close to home, cheap, I get three hours to myself. But Spanish school often comes at the expense of other activities — swimming lessons, soccer leagues and birthday parties often seem to be scheduled Saturday mornings, so they’re not an option.

This morning, the whining gets me down and I am tired and grumbly. It doesn’t help my mood that on this particular Saturday, Spanish school conflicts with an event my other son — who has not complained once about Spanish school — desperately wants to attend, because his teachers have been talking about it in class. There is a story festival in our town where there will be a raffle, book readings, signings and the like, but it is a morning event that ends exactly one hour after Spanish school does. We rush to the festival, but by then the raffle is over and the authors are starting to pack up their books. I had noticed earlier, though, that the last activity of the day would be in Spanish, so we locate that room and step inside.

I forget about our struggles over Spanish school. From the flier, I had understood that the activity would be a reading of stories by children’s author Lulú Delacre. I had not understood that she would be there to lead the activity herself. As I sink into a chair in the back of the room, she leads the children in a round of Arroz con leche. Then she reads from “How Far Do You Love Me,” and my boys are mesmerized.  She has them guess what places the pictures in the book might represent, and my geography-loving children cannot stay quiet. They eagerly shout out the names of countries and continents, and I smile, shake my head, and briefly flash back to their full-time special education days, when talking was so difficult and their teachers used creative techniques like snacks and swings.

We are given a copy of the book and the author chats with us warmly as she signs it, and compliments the boys on their participation.  We talk briefly about raising bilingual kids. It blows my boys’ minds that their book was signed by the actual author. I can’t believe that in only half an hour, my lousy mood is gone and I’m feeling happy and inspired again. After the book reading, the children made bookmarks saying “how far” they loved a loved one. My boys wrote theirs in Spanish and presented them to me.

I know inspiration won’t always be there when I need it. But that day, incredibly it was. And on days it isn’t, well, I plan on laminating those bookmarks and keeping them where I can look at them.

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