“You had a big head as a baby, but at least you grew into it” – And other loving things Latino parents say

At Thanksgiving dinner with my (Anglo) family yesterday, I realized just how Latina-ish I’ve become.

The conversation turned to the children at the table, and how much they’ve grown. I said to my oldest son, “You were such a difficult baby. My God, you cried and cried and never shut up.”
My oldest son said, “But I’m a good kid now, right?”
“Yes, now you’re a great kid,” I agreed.

My youngest son puffed out his chest. “I was a good baby, right Mommy?” he bragged.
“Oh yes, you were a very sweet baby. The sweetest!” The youngest son smiled in triumph.
“But, Mommy!” the oldest son said, “I was the cutest, wasn’t I? You told me once I looked like a model baby!”
“Yes, when you weren’t crying, you were absolutely gorgeous.”
My oldest son smiled.
“What about me, Mommy?” the youngest son said, “was I cute?”
“Yeah, you were cute, but you had a big head… at least you grew into it,” I said smiling and kissing his cabezón.

This is when I realized my entire family was looking on at this exchange in complete horror. The only person not looking horrified was Mr. López. My little sister mumbled, “Well, this will be the Thanksgiving they’ll remember in therapy.”

I felt a little embarrassed then, realizing what the conversation looked like through their eyes. I looked like a terrible mother, but these things I said to them are not things I haven’t said to them before, and in this way, the boys are not Anglo at all. They don’t take it personal, they are not traumatized. They take it in good humor, because this is the way Latino families lovingly joke with each other. It’s not uncommon for a family member who hasn’t seen you for a couple years to say, “Look at how fat you got!” and then to embrace you with a rib-crushing hug. No hurt feelings! (Admittedly, I can dish it out, but I can’t always take it.)

But later on the way home in the car, I began to worry, what if my boys are more Anglicized than I think? What if they’re harboring secret hurt feelings over my words? And so I asked them.
“Hey guys, what I said at the dinner table about you as babies, it didn’t hurt your feelings did it?”
“No,” they both said, bewildered.
“I was just joking around,” I said, in case they weren’t being honest.
“We know,” my oldest son said.
“Yeah,” the youngest son said, “it just means you love us.”
“Right,” I smiled.

Posted on November 27, 2009, in Anglo vs. Latino, Culture, holiday, humor, niños. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. I love your stories!

    You’re so considerate…

    I love how your family reacted! I bet they’ll remember it for a long time too!

    • @ Mandy – Yeah, their opinion of my mothering skills dropped a few points ;) I’m sure they’ll remember it. Ah well.

  2. I don’t think the sort of lightheartedness you are raising your boys with is just a Latino thing. I know in our family, we joke about all sorts of things that in my birth family would never have been laughed about. I think you’re raising them with joy and laughter and that, my dear, is a good thing! Happy late Turkey day!

    • @ Heartinhand – Happy late turkey day to you, Canuck ;)

      Well, I already know you are quite unique in your parenting and spirit in general :) … Most Anglo families that I know, though, would never say anything so “traumatizing” to their children. Anglo parents, at least in recent years, have tried to shelter and protect their children.

      Here’s an article about “over-parenting” and how there is now a backlash against it:

      http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1940395,00.html?cnn=yes

      It’s really interesting. (And admittedly, in some ways, I was a helicopter parent myself in their early years but I’m learning to let go :)

  3. HAHAHA! Yep. I shock my poor sister and mom many times over with my honesty and/or joking nature. My mom now just spends her time saying “What Mommy really means…..” or “Mommy is just kidding. Ha-ha-ha (no real laughter, just awkward glances and a pasted smile).” My daughters are gorgeous, so I can joke about how stinky their little feet were, or how they USE to be cute, but now we are going to have to trade them in for better looking kids. And you know what? Its a good thing. I have been told by every teacher Cateyes has had that she has a great sense of humor, and that they like having her in class because she ‘gets’ the teachers one-liners and sarcasm. This year her math teacher actually said she is a lot smarter than she lets on, because he will tell a joke in class and she will be the first one to have an honest response, be it a groan or a giggle, and that the other kids look to her to see how they should respond, since they have no idea what dry humor is. Too bad she couldn’t be tested on that huh?

    • @ Humincat – I have gotten the same, “What Mommy really means…” explanations from my parents to my children before. LOL.

      It’s interesting to see how a child’s sense of humor varies based on the environment they’re brought up in. Have you ever shown your child Monty Python? My kids get it! LOL. I was so thrilled…They enjoy a bit of weirdness in their comedy – but the humor on the Latino channel they laugh AT, rather than laugh WITH, (which is the same with me, to tell the truth.) … Watching El Chavo (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-SLI2lClWM) is like nails on a chalkboard for me. The goofy sound effects make me want to kill myself – but my husband loves it. LOL.

  4. Hey we do joke about this too but then I realised that as my elder daughter is getting older now, she tends to be a bit more sensitive ;(

    Your boys are so cute & lovable Buddy :D

    • @ Shionge – Ah yes, you have to be careful with the older sensitive ones sometimes. They can become self conscious.

  5. LOL!
    You and I must be sisters!
    I do the exact same thing (the honest, potentially embarrassing comments about babyhood). And the boys always take it with a big smile, and “tell me another one”.

    • @ Pol – Well this is interesting. The two Anglo Canadians who have commented say they are like this, too. I wonder if Canadian Anglos are more laid back than (U.S.) American Anglos? I always assumed the two cultures were identical. Very interesting!

  6. That? Is awesome. LOL

    I can just see the look on your family’s face. I wrote a while back about our Latino “terms of endearment” and how to anyone else they would sound horrible. So glad to hear it from your perspective as well.

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