Who you trying to get crazy with, ése?
Don’t you know I’m loco?
– Cypress Hill
Fernandito does not attend any type of schooling. He plays soccer with about 5-6 teammates. He watches YouTube Kids on occasion. And somehow he is speaking English. Sentences. With the most beautiful accent that tells the world, “I speak two languages. You?”
But this newfound love of English has caused a fear inside of me. I have mentioned this before, but usually when I mention Fernandito’s Spanish journey, I receive brush-off-like responses of, “I did that, too, and now they don’t speak Spanish at all.” My BFF, who also raised her kids in a Spanish-only environment told me, “Wait as long as possible to introduce English. He will pick it up and FAST. There will be no going back.” She’ll even send me videos of her kiddos speaking English. As if my fear wasn’t strong enough already!
And here’s the thing: I DO want Fernando to speak English. I want him to be fully bilingual, and I KNOW that he will learn it quickly in school. My fear comes from evidence of seeing this and then seeing these same kiddos preferring to speak English in place of Spanish. I already see this with Fernando!
We were home, I had ordered pizza delivery, and Dennis (husband) was almost home from work. I asked Fernandito what he wanted to watch on TV. He said he wanted to watch Cars 3. Netflix has this great feature where almost all their programs and movies are available in Spanish, so naturally I set the movie to Spanish. And Fernandito said, “Nooo! No quiero en español!”. I am 99% sure I gasped. And I said, “Como que en español, no?” And he said, “Siempre veo en español con Mama Lilia!” – my mom, who watches him, educates him, loves him, while I am at work. So naturally I expressed my fears to Fernando, who is still 3 years old and said, “Tengo miedo que se te va olividar tu español.” I think Fernando is bright and can hold a conversation with pretty much any Spanish speaking adult, but I am pretty sure he was probably thinking “WTF” or something along those lines in his 3 year old brain. He responded with, “No se me va olividar!”. And then the pizza arrived and interrupted our discussion.
This conversation has been forever seared in my memory because it was the first time Fernando advocated for himself in regards to language preference. It was on my mind so much that when it was time to attend my final Positive Parenting Class, I brought it up, grateful for the opportunity to speak in a class where my cultural situation would be understood. In speaking up, I understood that part of my fear stemmed from judgement of others. I have this whole blog dedicated to what it’s like raising this kiddo in a Spanish-only home. I do not want to fail.
And while I don’t know how this journey will end, I do know that I will continue to enforce the Spanish-only rule in my best postivey-parent way. I will work with Fernandito. I will hear him. I will validate his thirst for learning.
It’s hard. It’s crazy hard. And it’s only going to get harder once Fernandito starts school. But I will not give up. Dennis and I had made sure that when Fernandito was in Speech, that his tests be conducted in Spanish, that his Speech Pathologist speak Spanish, that his programs on TV be in Spanish, his books in Spanish, his dentist visits in Spanish. And maybe we sound crazy, but it’s working. Fernandito speaks Spanish fluently. We know this is accurate because we hear it, and we receive compliments on his Spanish. It’s not because he’s amazing (he is), it’s because we have worked so hard to make this happen. And that is why when I hear his accent when he speaks English, I am filled with pride. Spanish is his first language, his native language, and that is something that cannot be forgotten.