I know it’s the 4th of July and I should put up something festive and all patriot and such but really I just can’t stop myself from soaking in the fun we had this afternoon at the playground. Our oldest is not in any kind of preschool so her interaction with kids is limited to playdates (few and far between, we’re shitty parents, I know, and we’re working on it) and random encounters in public places often frequented by kids (usually the playground but also places like the zoo, children’s museum, Chipotle in the early evening, etc.).
So today we were in the playground and a group of kids came running to play. They looked like they could all be siblings or maybe cousins or just really good neighborly friends. As is her usual response to a large crowd of kids, D watched for a long time. She asked lots of questions – Who are they? Why are they here? Why’d they take their shoes off? Can they play here (in “her” playground)? She watched for so long that I tired of pushing the swing and started to utter a 2 minute warning about our departure. She told me we couldn’t leave because she had to play on every last piece of playground equipment.
We made a dash over to the other kids and she made her way up the ladder to the slide. I chatted with her the entire time (I’m a chatty one and thank goodness my daughter is as well). The kids overheard us and since we speak in Spanish with one another they asked what language we were speaking. I told them Spanish. They asked if she could speak English and I said yes. They said cool.
COOL! Be still my soaring heart.
D smiled at them and engaged them in some conversation about having them join her to play. They each had a little something to say about the bilingual thing. One little boy told me he only knew how to say “gracias”. Another little girl said she only knew how to speak English. An older boy wanted to know how she was able to learn two languages.
They were interested, impressed, curious, kind, sweet. They made my baby girl feel special not different.
I can’t explain the feelings inside when the kids were asking questions. I hadn’t realized I was so something about how other kids would react to my daughters being bilingual. I realized I’d worked it up in my head in the same way I’d worked myself up about how I’d approach the “Where are you from?” question once I had children of my own. It was new territory today. Wanting to be protective yet open and inviting. Wanting to speak confidently but cautiously. Educating proudly without boring the kids to death with my excitement.
It’s not that I think all kids are mean but I know kids can be cruel. Even good kids can be cruel without meaning to be. For instance, I will never forget the day a boy I’d just met told me not to worry because I could just marry a white man like my godmother (I was there with my godmother and her husband). I don’t think I was even a teenager, maybe just 11 or so. I wasn’t mad or sad but just confused and astonished someone my own age would say something like that. So, being a Latina mom who happens to not look mainstream Latina, I have spent many hours contemplating what my little melting pot daughters will face. My girls will encounter questions and comments I never had to worry about. I grew up in a place where you were the odd man out if you didn’t speak Spanish. Cubans were everywhere. Let me repeat, EVERYWHERE! Here my girls will be in the minority. Our experience today encourages me to believe my girls will juggle their bicultural/bilingual identity just fine in our little New England home.
Thank you, little ones on the playground today, you made this mami very happy.