January 30, 2013 by empraise
Maybe it’s because we’ve had the flu and bronchitis here this past week. Maybe I am just deliriously tired from being up in the night with my 17 month old sick with fever, coughing. Maybe it’s that all the windows in our apartment are so dirty (inside and out) that I feel like I am living in the playzone at McDonalds. Maybe it’s because there are dry pinto beans buried deep in my shag rug from this morning’s ill-advised “indoor play activity” I found on the internet. Maybe it’s the failed loaf of bread, or the chapped knuckles that are cracking from too much dish water (or air that is too dry). Maybe it’s the pounding headache.
But whatever the reason…I want to share these moments of doubt with you. Lately I have had this desire to speak English to Little M. It’s so strong that I have decided to allow myself the option. Only mixing English into our daily conversation doesn’t seem to be the cure for what ails me. It only makes me more frustrated as I think, “Can he even understand me? Oh no, what have I done…not being able to speak my native tongue with my own child! Am I confusing him more by switching back and forth? Maybe I should just give up all together…is it too late for him to learn English? But will I regret having made it this far and then thrown in the towel?”
I sometimes think I second-guess myself enough when it comes to training and disciplining my child…why would I add another variable into the mix? And as M’s toddler phase moves into full swing, I realize how important it is going to be to communicate with him, sooner rather than later. At this point, I think I’m going to be able to communicate with him in Spanish sooner than in English. But my Spanish is sub-par. I know this. A million times a day I need to look up a word but don’t because I’m driven to complete distraction by this energetic boy who dominates my conscious with his every waking move.
There are no books written by people in our situation. Two parents, two minority languages, neither parent a native speaker…no “reason” for multilingualism like family, heritage, culture. On days like this, I ask myself, “Why?” and today at least, I have no good answer. My only answer today is that it has become such a habit that I can’t NOT speak Spanish to Michael. It’s the language I’ve spoken to him since his birth. Flawed as it may be, even if I speak English to Michael from today forward, I will still incorporate a lot of Spanish. “No toques” is what flies from my mouth when he reaches for something forbidden. “Duerme tranquilo precioso….te amo” how I lay him down to sleep. For better or for worse, español is an integral part of our communication.