Mommy, Daddy, YOU are enough…
I wasn’t going to write a blog on this… but it has been weighing too heavy on my heart NOT to…
Every month, every week, every conference, every workshop, every webinar, people ask me about how Baby Loco is doing… They ask how Isla Rose likes being a big sister.. and then their next question is the one I dread… they ask “are you speaking Spanish to him?”
Actually, some don’t ask, some say “you’re speaking lots of Spanish to him, right?”
Or even worse, they anticipate the answer I am going to say and instead of asking the question they grab my arm and with a serious tone say “you know you should be speaking to him only in Spanish, right? to give him the best opportunities, it is so important, you know that, right?”…
The simple answer to this question is no. However, there is SO much more that I need to say, and I am saying it here for the hundreds of others I’ve spoken to who’ve helped validate my feelings so I want to say it out loud, for all of us, here and now….
Before Memphis was born, I was READY. If you ask any of my friends about how I felt about having children of my own, they’ll tell you I was ready at 10 years old. Coming into Isla’s life when she was 8 months old and being a nanny for two boys from a very young age, I felt so eager and ready to have Memphis. I was also positively CERTAIN that I was going to only speak in Spanish to my child. Paul would be the English speaker and I would be the Spanish speaker. Simple as that. I knew it would be challenging, I had even read that he would probably be delayed in speaking because of processing two languages but that when he did start to speak he would be bilingual. I was confident that we would be able to overcome the challenges that would come with Paul and Isla not speaking Spanish.
Then “he” arrived. Baby loco arrived and rocked our world. He was (is) practically perfect in every way. We love every inch of him. We love every squeal, every blabber, every snort, every joyful scream, and I tell him every day….. in ENGLISH…
WHAT!? in ENGLISH!? I know… In English….
I spent the first 4-5 weeks of his life beating myself up pretty bad about how awful I was at staying IN Spanish when talking to my baby. I would start speaking in Spanish and then within a few minutes switch to English without even realizing it…. I didn’t understand why either… I wanted it so bad…
Then over the following 7 months I just “got over it” as best I could and only felt hideously guilty when people brought it up to me…. I felt like I was fighting a battle I couldn’t win with myself because as hard as I tried, I just couldn’t “do it”.
Well, there is a reason it is called our “mother tongue”. I long, ache even, to speak to my baby in the language of my heart. As much as I love Spanish… (a little obsessed even) it is not my mother tongue and it doesn’t feel natural to talk to my baby, my blood, in my second language. I can’t express the same feelings I want to convey… I can’t sing to him the way I want to, I can’t soothe him the way that feels most “real” to me.
and that is OK….
I met a lady named Alyssa in Idaho at IATLC who has raised her children bilingual. Spanish is her second language… She is amazing…There are many like her out there, but more, MANY more, mommies and daddies like me… who are teachers of a language that is NOT their mother tongue, and they either chose to not raise their baby bilingual or beat themselves up about not being “better” about speaking to them more in their second language because after all, they’re a teacher right??? What the heck?!
I fell apart when I met Alyssa, I sobbed. I told her how I felt like I was failing him as a mommy… I told her how angry I was with myself for not trying harder… and how EMBARRASSING it is EVERY time I have to tell people “no” when they say “YOU are speaking to him only in Spanish, RIGHT?!”
She hugged me and told me exactly what I needed to hear…
She said that I am doing EVERYTHING right… that I am a great mommy. I am the mommy that Memphis needs. I am speaking to him with love and from my heart every day… every single day… I am giving him all of me and more and that is ALL he needs.
I am a tired teacher, a tired wife, a tired AtDat (what Isla Rose calls me) and an exhausted mommy… I work full time at a very demanding school. I present on my weekends (sometimes too many of them) to ensure that Paul and I don’t have to have a “second job” that we don’t like. I share my classroom experiences weekly with my LIVE! PD group. I blog and share my student’s experiences on my social media and here. I give and I give, and at the end of the day, when I come home to my family, I just want to speak to my baby and my family from my heart. I don’t want to think about it more… I don’t want to work, I just want to love.
So… there you have it…. I’ve said it all in a blog… and I feel better. SO many of you are in similar situations to me and you’ve expressed how hurtful it is when people chastise you (and believe me they do) for not speaking to your child(ren) 100% in your second language. You’ve expressed how you “know you could do better”… so this blog is for YOU as much as it is for me… we are doing it… we are doing all the things…. and we are rocking it…. and our children are happy and healthy (actually Memphis and Isla are BOTH sick right now…LOL)… We are awesome… and we are doing great…
I plan to continue what I am doing. I plan to still read books to Memphis in Spanish, and inject it here and there for fun, but I am not going to continue to pressure myself to meet this expectation that I had no idea would be as challenging as it is…
Mommies and Daddies… You are doing a GREAT job… Now go kiss those babies (fur babies included)…
Until next time,
HAPPY TEACHING, and HAPPY JOYFUL PARENTING….
La Maestra Loca (and co.)
Yes!!!!! Thank you for this post! I feel ya!
Thank you so much for this post. I can relate to every word! My oldest daughter is 16 and people STILL ask me if I speak French with my kids. And I STILL feel twinges if guilt. But each of my daughters had chosen to study French with me in my classroom and I get to connect with them at home in my mother tongue. Thank you so much for giving me the gift of this post. You are a gift to us all and an incredible mama!
OMG You were my voice during this entire blog post. THANK YOU. You put words to my exact feelings! I was sure I’d push through any of the weird and uncomfortable challenges of staying in Spanish with my child but I looked at him as a non verbal infant and felt so not okay saying mi cielo, mi amor. Instead I would babble out out bubba and bub and words that would never have a translation in Spanish and feel right. He’s 2.5 so I’m a little further ahead of you. I sing him nursery rhymes and he loves them and sings them with me now and then with animals in the bath I use Spanish but that’s really it. Sometimes I still feel guilty when I see how fast he can pick it up and use what I give him but then when he says “tortuga” before saying turtle my heart melts and I think, that’s enough! Anyway thank you for writing this non classroom genre of a post. It was beautiful and heartfelt. Hope to meet you someday!
Thank you for this. I carry tremendous guilt for not raising my children more bilingual. My ex-husband and I both spoke Spanishâ€”but to each other! (Gasp). To the children it was 100% English. My first, I did speak Spanish to a LOT but at one point we had to move in with family that wouldnâ€™t allow us to speak Spanish in THEIR home, so we got out of the habit and I have felt guilt SOOOO guilty every day since. I lost the natural Spanish with my kids. Now as teenagers and young adults we all wish I had kept the Spanish up, but we are working on it now.
In other inspiring news, one of my children, who admires my passion for Spanish, has found his own passion…Thai!! He wants to live there and has been teaching himself through online and chat rooms and just lots of writing and practice. SOOO my takeaway is that although I didnâ€™t help him get to fluency is the language I am passionate about, I did inspire him to find his own passion!
Keep being you, the best mommy for both your babies!!!
I love this. I get the same question about my triplets all the time. I tried speaking French to them, mainly out of a sense of obligation, but it never felt comfortable or natural. They were frustrated and I felt awkward. Now they will be 12 in a few days, and they are so excited to learn French from their mommy in my class next year! It all works out, and most importantly, our children feel our love.
Thank you so much for sharing, as usual, everything you share is so incredibly meaningful and powerful… I totally relate and French is MY native language. Yet only one of my three boys speak French decently. I have felt a failure many times, but then, I pick myself up and try to be kind with myself… And How cute is baby loco!!!! too much!!!
I hear you! I speak to my sons in mostly English although there is Spanish thrown in there…and texts are in Spanish….but they’re picking it up!!! We do what we can & are the best moms we can be for our children! ðŸ’œ
I SO needed to hear this today!! Thank you so much for all the amazing things you do every day! â¤ï¸
The best parenting is the one that comes from love. Everything else will fall in place. You’re awesome as you are, and truly do not need to justify your ways.
Well said!! I also did not speak Spanish only to my kids. I did speak and work with them a little at a time and they turned out just fine!
Yes, yes, and yes! There is so much pressure in just being a mom without the added expectations of others. I tell new mommies (and myself) that â€œwhatever decision you make for your child, so long as made in love, itâ€™s the right one for you and your child.â€ Thank you for sharing. You are amazing, and Baby Memphis is adorable!
I started momming in 1997… way before the internet made it a contest to see who could mom the hardest! My daughter Aly didnâ€™t even want to sing songs and play games in Spanish, so we didnâ€™t! Fast forward- she fell in love with Spanish in high school just like I did and is a fluent speaker and graduating with a Spanish major! My son is a freshman in Spanish 1 and is addicted to music in Spanish. He will acquire as he is ready and I donâ€™t feel guilty at all! Iâ€™m so glad youâ€™re shaking off all the mommy guilt the social media puts on young moms now!!!
We donâ€™t quiz math teachers to ask if theyâ€™re teaching quadratic equations to their kids at home, why do we get quizzed if we speak L2 (or 3 or 4) at home? Our good night sleep tight I love you so much bedtime routine has always been in French… otherwise I was also too dang tired!! Both my kids took/are taking French with me, though I kind of hoped theyâ€™d study Spanish (duh- because Iâ€™d have blasted all the senor wooly with them!!) and I love every minute of having them in school with me and all their friends!
Â¡Gracias! This is the first time I’m replying to one of your blogs, but trust me I am a huge fan and have participated in your Brain Break workshops at the CI Mitten conference 2 years in a row! You never get old ;). This blog just resonated with me and I appreciate knowing I’m not alone. Haces mÃ¡s que tÃº piensas… (emoji prayer hands of thanks)!
Oh madre! No hay porque dar explicaciones. Usted estÃ¡ haciÃ©ndolo perfectamente bien. Al que no le guste… pues que trabaje con eso. Siga haciendo lo que su corazÃ³n y su alma le dicte. Memphis es hermoso y tu familia es bella. Bendiciones infinitas para usted y su hermosa familia. Â¡Que viva nuestra lengua materna, cualquiera que sea! :o)
YES! What an important blog post! My sister and I grew up with a mom who spoke to us in her native language. That was her gift to us and I am very thankful for that. It did come at a price to her who felt guilty because she assumed we didn’t talk to her as teens because of the language barrier. ( I didn’t find this out until later, but really we were teens. I don’t think it had much to do with a language barrier 😉 ) I didn’t speak to my children in English, but I surrounded them with picture books and read to them as long as they would let me. I celebrated American holidays and added bits and pieces of American cultures. Both eventually made their choice to study English in college. I admit I have had that question asked of me and had my share of guilt but your post just said all my thoughts eloquently. Thank you like always for your honesty and words from your heart. You being you is a gift to those around you!!!!
Awwww this is totally how I feel! I wish I had the energy to speak to my kids more in Spanish, but I know they’ll get it one day! Thank you for putting in words what so many of us feel. 🙂
This is so beautifully expressed. I also have felt guilty for not trying harder or doing this and a few years ago I met another Spanish teacher who said, “Why would I talk to my baby not in my heart language? OF course I’m going to talk to my baby in the language I know best.” It made me feel so much better and this does too.
My “heart” language. ðŸ˜
I was once told by a very wise bilingual person. “You always count and pray in your 1st language.” I felt the same as you when people asked if I spoke Spanish to my children. When my baby is sick, sad or super excited, I don’t want to think about how I should say it to him. I just want to be there with no barriers. There are times in your life when you see something that would be great to do, but in your gut, you know that you have to choose not to or to wait. Most people I encounter who ask this are not bilingual so they have a distorted view of how 2 languages and 1 brain works. I find that bilingual people who bring it up are quicker to understand and support my decision.
I’m right there with ya. And, you know what? My son LOVED Spanish classes and is a total natural. We speak in Spanish quite a bit when he’s home (just moved to college). It’s way more fun for me because it’s something we both choose, and it wasn’t forced. You know I love you 🙂 YOU ARE ENOUGH. xo
Good for you!! And thank you! 20 years ago as a new mom, I planned and tried to speak Spanish everyday to my babies, building in “tub time” as “Spanish-only time”… it was fun, and it was cute, but it felt quite forced and unnatural, especially since my husband doesn’t speak it. I felt so guilty when I stopped, especially when asked if I was teaching it to them. It’s so true that after all we do each day for our students and school community, who wants to still be in “teacher mode” when at home?
PS, my kids turned out just fine! Great Spanish students, too, who love to travel and speak it for fun. 🙂
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! The only thing my preschooler knows is Sana Sana Colita de Rana. I have always felt guilty for not teaching her Spanish and Arabic (my husband is Egyptian). It just didnâ€™t feel natural. So, dual immersion kindergarten, here we come.
OH my God… you validated what I did with my own children. I am a native English speaker but teach German as a 2nd language. I tried to speak German to my oldest all day when he was a baby and I felt weird. It is NOT my mother tongue and I don’t speak with native fluency and I just felt ingenuous. I quit doing it and always felt bad I didn’t continue…but when you are alone with your baby in the house and speaking in a foreign tongue – it is just weird. Couldn’t keep it up. So THANK YOU for now I know why I quit. Ha… and there are so many others that verify the same sentiments.
This is such a wonderful post. We all hear this all the time. As my own children are now becoming school age it has been amazing to hear so many people just assume they know Spanish and ask my children what something is in Spanish (my son has started to just make words up for these people, hahaha). I have so many people ask if I teach my husband as well. I started to respond that we all have to go home from work at some time and as a teacher I already bring enough of my work home with me. I need to have some aspect of work that I am able to turn off and this is it. Once it’s worded this way, everyone totally gets it.