Tomorrow marks two weeks since I began speaking only Spanish to mis niños. It’s getting a little easier for me, but if I don’t begin to mix it up a little, I think that by the end of the summer they will only learn verb tenses for making demands such as “Clean your room”, “Behave and eat your food”, and “Go play!” … I never realized that being a mother is akin to being a dictator at times.
One obstacle we’ve run into is that I have no privacy when speaking to the niños when Suegra is around. It isn’t like I’m constantly bad mouthing her to the kids, but sometimes I want to tell them something that isn’t her business. To do this, I switch to English, and Suegra is immediately suspicious and paranoid when I do that. It has created some tension, to put it mildly.
Yesterday, to escape the negative energy in the house, I took the boys swimming. Because thunderstorms were approaching, the pool was nearly empty which is a luxury I don’t take for granted. I grew up in a house with my own pool and now that I’m subjected to the horrors of public pools, having it to myself is a rare and appreciated occasion.
The water felt cold under an overcast sky, but after a few minutes, we got used to it. We swam in relative peace under the bored gaze of three lifeguards for awhile and then some more people showed up. It was an Anglo guy and his son. The little blond boy was probably about 5 years old, and with that typical 5 year old energy, he bounded into the pool, splashing and squealing, shattering my hopes for a quiet swim.
“Want to play with me?!” he said to my sons. My boys are 8 and 11, but they’re kind, so they obliged, at least for a little while. When they grew bored with the baby games, they swam out to deeper waters to join me. After a few minutes, the little boy began calling them earnestly from the shallow end of the pool.
“Hey guys! Come back! Come play with me!”
The father of the boy relaxed in a lounge chair, making no attempt to silence the boy as he called after us over and over again.
The boys looked at me pleadingly. “Don’t make us go back, please.”
I answered in Spanish, “Diga le que estas descansando y puedes jugar más tarde.” (Tell him that you’re resting and that you can play later.)
My 8 year old cupped his hands around his mouth to amplify the sound and called out, “¡¡MÁS TARDE!!”
My 11 year old and I burst into laughter and my 8 year old had no idea why.
“You just told him in Spanish, baboso!” My older son told his little brother.
My 8 year old cupped his hands around his mouth and called out again,
“SORRY ABOUT THAT! I SAID IT IN SPANISH! I MEANT TO SAY I’LL PLAY WITH YOU LATER!”