Going with your gut

1 May

For those of you visiting from the Multicultural Awareness Blog Carnival, welcome to The Vaca Loca! I’m so glad you could stop by and hope you enjoy your stay!

I’m originally from Kentucky, and besides Speedy Gonzalez and The Three Amigos, I didn’t grow up hearing much Spanish spoken. I started taking Spanish in high school, and it was there that the universe started opening little windows for me and laying out paths that would ultimately lead me to where I am today — married to a man from Mexico and trying to raise a bilingual baby.

I consider myself fluent in Spanish, but not fully bilingual. I think in both languages, dream in both languages, feel in both languages… but English is still by far easier for me. This became especially apparent after having my baby. I spoke to him in both languages, but when it came time to comfort him, coo at his cuteness, and play baby games with him, English dominated. Complicating matters was the fact that I had postpartum depression, which utterly exhausted me and left me with an abysmal emptiness. And it’s when I’m tired and weak that my Spanish suffers the most.

My husband and I had talked early on about how we were going to go about teaching both languages to the baby. The one-parent-one-language method felt forced to us. And since we now live in the US we knew the baby would be getting an overwhelming amount of English no matter what. So we planned on just using Spanish in the home and with Spanish-speaking friends and family. The effect that my postpartum depression had on this plan only exasperated me more and fueled my feelings of inadequacy when it came to raising a bilingual baby. But we pressed on, adamant that he learn Spanish. We quit worrying about the “right” method, and just did what felt right in our guts.

My little z-baby is now two years old and his language skills are really starting to blossom. My husband speaks to him almost only in Spanish, and I speak as much Spanish to him as I possibly can. Some days this means no English. Others it means about half and half. And z-baby? He understands both beautifully. And he speaks some of both, though he has yet to string sentences together in either. He picks and chooses the words he uses. For some things he only uses Spanish — the alphabet, numbers, colors. For other things, it’s only English — parts of the body, apple, move, bed. And for yet other things, it’s what suits his fancy in the moment — ball/pelota, agua/water, kitty/gato, comer/eat, basura/trash. He’s let loose a perfectly conjugated verb or two in Spanish (cayó and ¡ya voy!) and chastises the dog in English (Bad gur!). And I’ve even noticed recently that he asks my husband and me to pick him up in Spanish, but asks my mother in English.

My heart explodes as such displays of bilingual communication. And it’s those moments that make all the hard work worth it, and make it easier to put up with the daily aches and pains of what it’s really like to try and teach our baby Spanish and English. So what does the daily grind feel like anyway? Well, a little something like this….

  • It means translating for grandparents and abuelos
  • It means walking through stores and jabbering away in Spanish while you get stares from everyone (both Latinos and non-Latinos)
  • It means actively seeking out books and activities in Spanish (this is the only gift we ever ask for from Mexico now)
  • It means learning the words for things you may never have had to use before
  • It means getting your Spanish corrected more frequently
  • It means learning songs in Spanish and making up new ones
  • It means always being aware of the balance between how much you use each language
  • It means not beating yourself up when you slip into English
  • It means second-guessing e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g you say — “Did I say that right? Is that masculine or feminine? Is my accent off?”
  • It means loosening up, letting go, being persistent, and having patience

But most of all, it means trusting yourself and going with what feels natural in your gut — and isn’t that the ultimate lesson in parenting, no matter what language you do it in?


A big Thank You to Bicultural Mom for hosting the carnival!


6 Responses to “Going with your gut”

  1. Tara Castillo May 1, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

    What an awesome post! I can totally relate. Sounds like you guys are doing a great job raising your child to be bilingual.
    I’ve experienced the frustrating moments, I slip into English often….. but we always pick back up where we left off and continue on with teaching Spanish.
    I’m hoping it all pays off! I wish we could take a month long trip and emerse him in the language but right now, financially its not possible.
    Keep us updated on how things progress. Kudos to and daddy for being such great parents!

    • danygrl May 2, 2011 at 10:54 am #

      Thanks, Tara. It’s nice to connect with others in the same boat. And I know what you mean about immersion. We’re waiting a bit still, but we really want to travel to and eventually move back to Mexico at some point… hopefully in the not too far distant future!

      • Chantilly Patiño May 2, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

        I second that! Immersion would be awesome and I hope that we all get the opportunity to go soon! Dany, I loved your descriptions of what it means to be a bilingual familia! I think you’re right on! I loved your post! =) Thanks so much for being a part of the carnival!

  2. Char May 2, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

    Thanks for stopping by and visiting my blog. All my daughter’s toddler friends are dual language learners too and their various mom’s and dad’s all feel the same way you do; so you’re not in this boat alone. Just do your best a(which it sounds like you are) and give yourself some grace.
    BTW, your son is super adorable.

    • danygrl May 3, 2011 at 10:15 am #

      Thanks for both the encouragement and cutie comment 🙂


  1. Multiculturalism {Carnival Entries} | Bicultural Mom - May 2, 2011

    […] Vaca Loca “Going with your gut” I’m originally from Kentucky, and besides Speedy Gonzalez and The Three Amigos, I didn’t […]

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