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.