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

Feliz Thanksgiving!

teagradezco

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!

Halloween 1998

carlos_n_1sthalloween

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!

Este tiempo del año los días son pesados con nostalgia, no sé por qué. Tal vez es el cambio obvio de las estaciones – noches calurosas de verano que han cambiado a ser frillitas, el verde claro de las cosas vivas se han convertido en tonos suaves de anaranjado, amarillo y marrón – que me recuerdan de los cambios en mi vida durante los años que han pasado.

La foto arriba es de Carlos sosteniendo nuestro hijo primero en su primer Día de Halloween. Lo vestí como un dragón o dinosaurio, no recuerdo bien. Carlos se ve tan lindo en esta foto. Él tenía sólo 20 años y nosotros habíamos estado casados ​​por menos de un año. A veces no puedo creer como pasa de rapido el tiempo.

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

This time of year the days are heavy with nostalgia, I’m not sure why that is. Maybe it’s the obvious change of seasons, hot summer nights that have become chilly, the bright green of living things having turned mellow shades of orange, yellow and brown – which remind me of the changes in my life over the years.

That photo above is of Carlos holding our first born son on his first Halloween. I dressed him as a dragon or dinosaur, not sure exactly. Carlos looks so cute in this photo. He was only 20 years old and we’d been married less than a year at that point. Sometimes I can’t believe how quickly time passes.

Que Llueva, Que Llueva

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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 ha estado lloviendo mucho por aquí, hasta que el techo comenzó a gotear. Un día empecé a cantar “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring” – una canción en inglés que casi todos los niños aprenden en los Estados Unidos cuando están chiquitos. Cuando terminé de cantar, Carlos empezó a cantar en español.

“Que llueva, que llueva,
la Virgen de la Cueva,
los pajaritos cantan,
las nubes se levantan.
¡Que sí, que no!
¡Que caiga un chaparrón!”

Nunca he oído la canción “Que Llueva, Que Llueva” pero Carlos me explicó que es la canción que cantan los niños en El Salvador cuando llueve. Me pregunté yo misma si hay una canción infantil para la lluvia en cada idioma – Me encantaría escuchar otras.

Si no conoces como se cantan las canciones, aquí tengo grabado a Carlos cantándola en español, y una grabación de mí cantándola en inglés!

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Lately it’s been raining a lot here, so much so that our roof started to leak. One day I started to sing “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring” – a song in English that almost all children in the United States learn to sing when they’re little. When I finished singing, Carlos started to sing in Spanish.

“Que llueva, que llueva,
la Virgen de la Cueva,
los pajaritos cantan,
las nubes se levantan.
¡Que sí, que no!
¡Que caiga un chaparrón!”

I had never heard the song “Que Llueva, Que Llueva” but Carlos explained that this is the song that children in El Salvador sing when it rains. It made me wonder if there are children’s songs for rain in every language – I would love to hear others.

If you don’t know how to sing these songs, here I have a recording of Carlos singing it in Spanish, and a recording of myself singing it in English!

Little Passports (Giveaway!)

littlepassports_luggage

Geography, history, culture, language and travel are some of my favorite things, and as a mother I have always tried to pass on the same love of discovering the world to my boys. I wish a program like Little Passports had existed when they were little but I couldn’t resist accepting an offer to review it despite my boys now being 15 and 11 years old.

When you sign up, you get this adorable travel suitcase, a large world map, a passport, stickers, activity sheets, and more.

littlepassports_inside

My favorite thing besides the cute passport, was one of the activities that required looking at the map to find capitals of countries, which would then reveal a secret code. The recommended age range for the World version of Little Passports is 5 to 10 years old, and for the USA edition it’s 7 to 12 years old, but my 11 year old and I had fun exploring the contents of the suitcase and doing the activities together.

littlepassports_activity1

Each month of your subscription, your child receives a packet for exploring a new country, (or states in the USA edition.) We also received the packet for Japan which came with a letter, a photo, a fun sushi eraser as a souvenir, a boarding pass which provides access to online games, stickers, activity sheets, and really high quality origami paper with instructions.

littlepassports_Japan

The letters you receive each month are written by fictional characters named Sam and Sophia who have a magical motor scooter which takes them anywhere they want to go. This is a fun premise for little kids but obviously my 11 year old kind of rolled his eyes at me when I explained that part, so that’s the only reason I would say the recommended age ranges are accurate — otherwise, Little Passports is a lot of fun for kids and adults of all ages. I say adults because while my younger son and I were folding origami, Carlos got curious and insisted I give up my seat so he could try it.

cyj_littlepassports_origami

Are you ready to win your own subscription to Little Passports? See details below!

====GIVEAWAY CLOSED. CONGRATULATIONS, SUSAN!====

GIVEAWAY DETAILS

Prize description: One lucky winner will receive a 3-month subscription of Little Passports World Edition.

Approximate value: $41.85

How to Enter:

Mandatory entry: Just leave a comment below telling me which country in the world you would most like to explore with your child, grandchild, niece, or nephew. (Please read official rules below before entering.)

Optional extra entry opportunities: Once you have completed the mandatory entry, you can do as many of the following for extra entries in any order you wish:

• Follow Latinaish on Twitter, and leave a comment here w/your Twitter name.

• “Like” the Latinaish Facebook page, and leave a comment here saying that you did.

• Follow me on Pinterest, and leave a comment here saying that you did.

• Subscribe to Latinaish.com in the sidebar on the right where it says “Free Delivery” either via email through WordPress.com or on Bloglovin’ and leave a comment here saying that you did.

Official Rules: No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years of age or older to enter. You must be able to provide a U.S. address for prize shipment. Your name and address will only be shared with the company in charge of prize fulfillment. Please no P.O. Boxes. One entry per household. Make sure that you enter a valid email address in the email address field so you can be contacted if you win. Winner will be selected at random. Winner has 48 hours to respond. After 48 hours, a new winner will be selected at random. Giveaway entries are being accepted between September 20th, 2013 through September 25th, 2013. Entries received after September 25th, 2013 at 11:59 pm, will not be considered. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. If you win, by accepting the prize, you are agreeing that Latinaish.com assumes no liability for damages of any kind. By entering your name below you are agreeing to these Official Rules. Void where prohibited by law.

Buena suerte / Good luck!

Disclosure: I received this product for review purposes. No other compensation was given. As always, all opinions are my own.

Conversations at Casa López – Part 3

Here are the latest “bilingual moments” and funny conversations from Casa López!

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“Mira el niño bajo de la blanketa.”

- My 11 year old pointing out a kid hiding under a blanket

___

Me: You’ve been eating so many apples lately.
Carlos: I love apples.
Me: I can tell.
Carlos: I’m like that guy you told me about, Johnny Apple Cider.
Me: Johnny Appleseed.
Carlos: I’m a different guy. I’m his cousin.

___

Me: What else do you want me to pack in your lunch?
Carlos: Tex Mex.
Me: Huh?
Carlos: Tex Mex.
Me: I… didn’t cook any Tex Mex?
Carlos: The one in that cabinet.
Me: Oooooh. CHEX MIX.

___

11 year old: Mommy, remember that girl in Kindergarten who could only speak Spanish?
Me: Yeah, I remember her. How is she?
11 year old: She speaks English really well now!
Me: Oh, really? That’s good.
11 year old: Yeah, she speaks well but she has an accent kind of like Daddy when he says ‘stop’, like ‘estop.’
Carlos: Hey.

___

Me: Go wash your hands in the sink but try not to make a mess.
11 year old: Can you please speak English? I don’t know what you’re saying.
Me: I was speaking English!
11 year old: Well then, that’s just weird.
___

Carlos: I thought you said the dog would calm down after the nudity.
{The kids bust out laughing}
Tracy: Um… neutering?
Carlos: Nudity?
Tracy: NEUTERING!
Carlos: NUDITY!
{me and the boys laughing}
Carlos: You said the dog would calm down after they fixed him.

___

Related Posts:

Conversations at Casa López
Conversations at Casa López – Part 2

The Quince

I am officially the mother of a quinceañero. The party was on Saturday and the house looked very festive. (Although I should say, “more festive than usual” because gringo neighbors have told me our decor looks festive at times when we weren’t celebrating anything at all.)

quince1

Besides the paper flower garland, a few banners, and colorful balloons, I also made a large collage with photos of my son. There are 14 photos in all, one for each year of his life up until now. I had originally planned to leave a spot in the middle for a photo of him as a 15 year old, but there wasn’t space.

The collage was one of many things which didn’t come out quite the way I imagined. You know how quinceañeras trade their flats for high heels? I had planned for my son to trade his sneakers for a pair of formal shoes. While he liked the idea of new shoes, he thought doing any sort of ceremony with them in front of people was “too weird.” So we bought him a pair of shoes but we didn’t do anything special with them during the party.

I had also considered a “brindis” but my family is not really the toasting type. Instead I came up with a creative way for us to “toast” the birthday boy without making a big show of things. I put a stack of index cards and pens on a table with a sign encouraging guests to write down birthday wishes, advice, or a favorite memory from his childhood. The things people wrote were really heartwarming and the cards make a great keepsake for my son.

quince2

As for the food, I had planned to make everything myself but by the time I finished making the tamales, I was so exhausted that we decided to order the pupusas from one of our favorite pupuserías, Santa Rosa in Frederick, Maryland. We were so pleased with the care they took in preparing them and packaging them that I wrote them a “thank you” card today.

Everyone enjoyed the pupusas, tamales and snacking on yucca and plantain chips.

quince3

To drink we served multiple flavors of Jarritos along with a few other choices. My older sister asked me if anyone mixes Jarritos. I told her I don’t know anyone who does but she decided to try mixing the orange and pineapple, (which she says is good.)

Although I had planned to serve the traditional tres leches, my mother offered to make the cake so I let that idea go and told her to make whatever she wanted. She wanted to make the cake look like footballer Lionel Messi’s jersey but decided the amount of dye it would take to achieve the dark red and blue of Barça was not something we should all be eating. Instead she made a chocolate and vanilla cake with vanilla frosting. (The quinceañero didn’t really care what the cake looked like as long as he got to eat it.) We sang “Happy Birthday” in English but before he could blow out the candles, I started up “Feliz Cumpleaños” in Spanish – my family didn’t miss a beat and joined right in.

quince4

After cake we opened presents. The main gift was a much needed laptop which everyone chipped in on. He’ll be taking several Advanced Placement classes this coming school year so the new computer will be put to good use for sure.

That’s pretty much it. It wasn’t the biggest or fanciest quince, I didn’t have fifty primos to invite, no one danced to the salsa and cumbia music that played… While planning the quince I lamented that my family is so small, but when it comes to family it’s quality, not quantity, that matters. My family came and celebrated the life of my now fifteen year old, and he knows he is loved mucho.

collagequince