Raising Bilingual Teens & The 5 Stages of Grief

funny bilingual parenting comic by Latinaish.com

“Tenemos que hablar más …porque… tengo que pensar… por… cada… palabra,” my 15 year old son told me recently in halting Spanish as we walked around the international market. His Spanish is good but far from fluent.

Our 12 year old speaks even less than our 15 year old although he understands everything I say to him and voluntarily plays Club Penguin in Spanish, “just because.” He also switches to Spanish to get my attention. On a daily basis you can hear something like this in our house:

“Mommy, can I have a cookie?… Mommy… Hey, Mommy… Mamá, quiero una galleta.” — to which I finally answer him. Some parents do this on purpose so their children don’t speak English at home, but in my case, sometimes I’m just so focused on what I’m doing that I tune everyone out. Only the jolt of unexpected Spanish is what breaks my concentration.

Despite the fact that Spanish and Spanglish are still spoken on a daily basis in our household, we’ve begun to speak it less and less. I’ve said before that raising bilingual children “takes constant commitment and re-commitment” but it feels like we’ve been hitting pretty hard on the frequency and necessity of re-committing this past year.

You see, in my experience bilingual parenting, unlike most things you practice, does not get easier. In fact, I would argue that bilingual parenting only gets more and more difficult the older your children get.

Think about it – when your children are very young, one of the first questions they learn and repeat ad nauseam is, “What’s that?” … For parents raising bilingual children, even if the target language isn’t your native language, things start out pretty easy.

“What’s that?”
– Una manzana.
“What’s that?”
– El color verde.
“What’s that?”
– La luna.
“What’s that?”
– Un gato.

What a sense of accomplishment! You’re doing it! You’re really doing it! You’re raising a bilingual child!

Of course, the reality is that the older your child gets, the more complex his questions. Apple, green, moon, and cat are part of your vocabulary and now your child’s – no problem, but how do you answer:

“Where do babies come from?”
“What’s the difference between a Republican and a Democrat?”
“Why don’t birds get electrocuted when they sit on power lines?”
“How come it looks like the moon follows me when we drive in the car?”
“What’s endosymbiosis?”
“What exactly is a black hole?”
“What does ‘birth control’ mean?”
“Can you explain antidisestablishmentarianism?”
“If ‘X’ equals 32.4 and a train is traveling at 68 miles per hour…”

Nevermind answering those questions in Spanish – I may need Google’s help, (and a few aspirin) just to answer them in my native language! Apple, green, moon and cat will no longer be sufficient.

As a parent attempting to raise bilingual children, making mistakes along the way, and having setbacks, you often tell yourself, “It’s okay, there’s still time” – and yet, that time does run out, which is what you face as a parent of teenagers.

So, this is where we stand at the moment. We keep trying and will fight to the end to raise bilingual children, but I am at a point where I’m forced to accept that unless I drop them off in El Salvador for the next couple years, they most likely will not be native speaker fluent.

If your children are tweens or teens, you may be beginning to go through “the five stages of grief” if their Spanish isn’t as perfect as you had hoped. For me, it went something like this:

1. Denial – My kids are totally bilingual! They’re doing great!
2. Anger – Why aren’t they replying in Spanish! Whose fault is this?!
3. Bargaining – If they can just speak Spanish really well, not even perfectly, I’ll be happy.
4. Depression – This is my fault. I’m a failure as a parent.
5. Acceptance – I’ve done my best and will continue to try my hardest. All the effort has been worth it, and I’m okay with the result even if it falls short of perfection.

Just know that wherever you’re at on this bilingual parenting journey, you’re not alone, and like any other aspect of parenting, you’re not always going to get things exactly right.

Most importantly of all, don’t give up.

“There is no failure except in no longer trying.”
– Elbert Hubbard

Noticias en Caliche

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Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Recientemente Carlos me introdujo a un sitio salvadoreño de noticias que se llama MAS.SV. La ventaja de leer MAS.SV no es sólo saber de eventos actuales en El Salvador y en todo el mundo – también es aprender vocabulario salvadoreño porque el sitio está escrito en “caliche” (el dialecto de El Salvador.) Son bien divertidos los titulares:

• Roban cel y luego se toman fotos cuando estaban haciendo picardías
• Conocé a Chantel Jeffries, la chica que iba con Justin Bieber cuando lo enchucharon
• Abunda la cochinada

También hay artículos chistosos y interesantes como, Pueblos españoles con nombres graciosos y Didga, el gato skater que causa furor en la web. Chécalo y diviértete!

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Carlos recently introduced me to a Salvadoran news website called MAS.SV. The advantage of reading it is not just knowing current events in El Salvador and around the world, but learning Salvadoran vocabulary because the site is written in “caliche” (Salvadoran slang.) The headlines are really funny:

[I'll try my best to translate the Salvadoran slang words.]

• Roban cel y luego se toman fotos cuando estaban haciendo picardías
(They stole a cellphone then took photos when they were “messing around” (sexual connotation.)

• Conocé a Chantel Jeffries, la chica que iba con Justin Bieber cuando lo enchucharon
(Meet Chantel Jeffries, the girl who was with Justin Bieber when they “got him/arrested him/put him in handcuffs.”)

• Abunda la cochinada
(“Dirtiness” abounds)

There are also humorous and interesting articles like Spanish towns with funny names and Didga, the skater cat causing excitement on the web. Check it out and enjoy!

Burrito Box – The World’s First Automated Burrito Kiosk

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I’ve never really wanted to live in Los Angeles… until now. Los Angeles is home to the Burrito Box, which is the first automated burrito kiosk. For $3 plus tax you can use the touchscreen vending machine to get one of the following 5 varieties at a Mobil gas station on Santa Monica Boulevard:

Chorizo sausage with cage-free eggs and cheese
Uncured bacon with egg and cheese
Roasted potato with egg and cheese
Free-range chicken with beans and rice
Shredded beef and cheese

If you want sour cream, hot sauce or guacamole, they cost a little bit extra. Pay with your credit card and then wait. (It takes about a minute to a minute and 30 seconds.)

Unfortunately, reviews from people who have actually tried the burritos seem to be much less enthusiastic than those who want to try the burritos. Since I’m on the east coast and don’t have access to a burrito vending machine I guess I will have to continue to make my own, but if anyone invents a pupusa vending machine, DC Metro area has dibs on it.

16 años

Tracy, Carlos y nuestro hijo mayor - 1999, La Playa Libertad, El Salvador

Tracy, Carlos y nuestro hijo mayor – 1999, La Playa Libertad, El Salvador

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. English translation in italics!

Este fin de semana, Carlos y yo celebramos nuestro decimosexto aniversario. A veces no sé como hemos llegado a este punto juntos con todas las complicaciones de nuestro matrimonio, pero estoy super agradecida.

This weekend, Carlos and I celebrate our sixteenth anniversary. Sometimes I don’t know how we’ve reached this point together with all the complications of our marriage, but I’m super grateful.

Carlos y Tracy - San Salvador, El Salvador 2011

Carlos y Tracy – 2011, San Salvador, El Salvador

10 Vídeos Favoritos – Diciembre 2013

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Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. English translation in italics!

Estos son mis vídeos favoritos en español en este momento. La mayoría son “Vines” y por eso son bien cortitos. Chécalos! // Here are my favorite videos in Spanish at the moment. Most of the videos are “Vines” – that’s why they’re so short. Check them out!

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Giving Tuesday & Visiting Perritos

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Have you heard of Giving Tuesday? Giving Tuesday, (celebrated December 3rd this year) is a national day of giving, a movement that was created last year to encourage people to take part in charitable activities and to support non-profits. I wanted to do my part to spread the word and hopefully inspire others by sharing my family’s Giving Tuesday story.

You see that cute pup who looks ready to tackle the Christmas tree in the photo above? For those who don’t know, that’s Chico. We adopted Chico from our local Humane Society last year. For Giving Tuesday, we decided we wanted to donate supplies to them so they can continue to do what they do – find homes for deserving cats and dogs.

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Since I’m a Lowe’s blog ambassador and receive gift cards to complete my monthly projects, I decided to make use of one of the gift cards that had leftover money on it by buying most of the supplies at Lowe’s. If you want to donate to your local Humane Society, call or visit their website to find out what they need and accept. Our Humane Society listed specific cleaning and pet supplies. Besides these items from Lowe’s, (plus some cute Christmas stockings I couldn’t resist) we bought a couple bags of kitty litter and cat food, too.

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My boys carried the supplies to the car and we went as a family to the Humane Society to drop them off, (well, drop them off and visit the animals for a little while.)

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There were over a dozen dogs awaiting homes and it was hard to walk away from them. We stayed and talked to each one for a couple minutes. I don’t know if they understood me, but I told each one they would be adopted soon and to hang in there. I got a little choked up doing this. Also, you’re not supposed to stick your fingers through the bars, but after letting each dog sniff my closed fist and reading its body language, I did pet most of them. Some of them were so hungry for love that they’d lean against the bars trying to get closer to me.

After visiting with the dogs, we visited with the cats. Our Humane Society allows some of the cats free roam of a closed room full of toys and everything they could possibly need. Carlos kept complaining that he didn’t want to go to the cat room because he doesn’t like cats but after a few minutes, I caught him like this.

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Hmmm, does that look like someone who doesn’t like cats to you?

Leaving was bittersweet but it was literally closing time and we had to go. I think we all felt happy that we were able to give a little something but sad that we weren’t able to do more, so this is my attempt at doing more by spreading the word.

If you didn’t know about Giving Tuesday, or hadn’t planned to participate, I hope you’ll consider it. You can support any organization or cause you feel passionate about, but if you’re an animal lover and have room in your home, I hope you’ll consider adoption. There are plenty of sweet dogs and cats waiting for you to make them part of your family.

Disclosure: This is not a paid or sponsored post. This post was in no way encouraged by The Humane Society, Lowe’s, or any of the product brands shown.

Feliz Thanksgiving!

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Hola! I’m sure all of you will soon be busy cooking, eating, and spending time with your familia if you aren’t already, but I wanted to give you these printables I made to keep the niños busy while the chumpe (pavo!) is in the oven.

Have the kids fill out these little notes of thankfulness to practice their Spanish and express their gratitude for loved ones, then cut them out and give them to family!

Instructions:

1. Choose the thankful notes you would like to use – (Either “te agradezco” or “le agradezco” depending on the intended recipient.)

2. Click on the image below to be taken to the download page.

3. Download by clicking “Download” on the top right hand side where you see the blue arrow. Open the PDF in Adobe Reader then click “print.”

Have fun and Feliz Thanksgiving!

Click here to go download!

Click here to go download!

Click here to go download!

Click here to go download!

Regalitos de Bolivia

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Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Una amiga mia, (Susan de Medina Adventures) me dijo que quería mandarme regalitos de Bolivia – el país de su esposo. Con alegría acepté su amable oferta y esperé pacientemente los regalitos en el correo. Bueno, llegó el paquete y cuando lo abrí, no podía creerlo. Esas cosas no eran “regalitos” – eran regalotes! Me encanta tanto cada cosa que ella y su esposo me mandaron. ¡Vean por ustedes mismos la maravilla de los recuerdos bolivianos!

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[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

A friend of mine, (Susan of Medina Adventures) told me she wanted to send me some little gifts from Bolivia – her husband’s country. Happily I accepted her kind offer and waited patiently for the little gifts in the mail. Well, the package arrived and when I opened it, I couldn’t believe my eyes. These were not “little gifts” – they were big gifts! I love each thing she and her husband sent so much. See for yourselves the awesomeness of the Bolivian souvenirs!

Ofrendas and Changing Beliefs

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Today has been a busy day since Día de los Muertos is also my youngest son’s birthday. We’ve been celebrating with him and preparing to celebrate again with family tomorrow, but I also took time to set up our ofrenda over the past couple days.

This year marks a turning point for me culturally because I included many of my own loved ones on our ofrenda. Last year I actually added my paternal grandfather, but I did so hesitantly.

I say “hesitantly” because as much as I admire the holiday and feel it’s a good way to remember Carlos’s loved ones, I hadn’t felt comfortable remembering my own loved ones. Originally I thought, well, this is a Catholic holiday and being that my father’s side of the family is Jewish and my mother’s side of the family is Protestant, it just doesn’t make sense to include my family. However, with each passing year I realized that my hesitance was not truly about the mixing of religions – my hesitance was actually an Anglo-American belief so deeply ingrained that it was difficult for me to recognize – and that belief is that remembering loved ones is something painful, sad, fearful and unpleasant.

When I added my paternal grandfather to the ofrenda last year, it wasn’t an easy thing. I chose my favorite photo of him, one I took myself when I was probably no older than eight. I still remember the moment I took it. He gave me the camera, a Kodak Instamatic, I think it was. He showed me how to load the film, snap a photo, and he set me free. I ran around my grandparents’ house in New York photographing everything. At one point I followed my grandpa out to the driveway. He was wearing one of his signature newsboy caps. “Hey Grandpa,” I said, “Let me take your picture.” He smiled down at me – that is the photo I put on the altar. I added Corn Flakes, the cereal he used to eat every morning, a little trumpet to represent his love of big band music, and a dreidel because he was Jewish.

While I experienced sadness at first, that sadness lifted and I began to experience the holiday as it’s meant to be celebrated. My boys asked me questions about the altar, and I had the opportunity to share stories with them about my grandfather which felt really good.

This year as I set up the altar, I realized that my attitude toward remembering loved ones had changed and I now felt comfortable including my great-grandmothers. As they did last year, the boys asked questions about photos and items on the altar. I was more than happy to tell them stories, the good memories of so many people I was blessed to have known.

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Related Links:

Altar 2010
Altar 2011
Altar 2012

No Tengo Gato

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Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Muchos escritores tienen un gato querido para hacerles compañía, pero yo no tengo gato – Yo tengo a Chico, un perro que piensa que es gato. Últimamente cuando estoy escribiendo, se sube en el banquillo y se sienta a mi lado. Él ocupa mucho espacio y a veces no es muy cómodo, pero aún así no lo cambiaría por un compañero de trabajo humano. No habla demasiado. Eso es lo que me gusta de él.

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Many writers have a beloved cat to keep them company, but I don’t have a cat – I have Chico, a dog who thinks he’s a cat. Lately when I’m writing, he climbs onto the bench and sits right by my side. He takes up a lot of space and sometimes it’s not very comfortable, but I still wouldn’t trade him for a human co-worker. He doesn’t talk too much. That’s what I like about him.