Wednesday, July 16, 2008

You can lead a horse al agua

We had an emotional blowout yesterday during Mommy and me Spanish.

I tried bringing my three kids to our small class, which met in our living room this time, while Carl went next door to do something handymanly at the neighbors' house.

Within moments, we were up to our ears in some serious "berrinche," complete with "gritos" and "acusasiones". I guess that's the last time I do the class para mama y para mi with tres mis. (Where are my accent marks? I did program them in but they're not working at the moment. Puede ser that the computadora needs to calentarse un poco.) Two of my three hijos decided that they wanted to be the maestra, and that I wasn't teaching the class their way. We had to call Dad in to bail us out fast.

What I want to admit here is what every abuela already knows, and what those of us who are still waiting for grandchildren are still learning. You can lead a horse al agua but you can't make him beber. John and Anna like learning Spanish, but only in their own time. It's not easy learning something from your own mother, especially when she expects you to be good at it right away. I know that--I still remember being a kid. At the same time, though, sometimes you really do want to learn, but just need to be able to find out how you connect with what you're learning, and what your ideal acquisition setting and style is going to be. My mom figured that out, and now I'm trying to learn it with my own three children.

We're working on discovering everyone's style and pace, and finding them the right tools and teachers. In the meantime, el agua is available, and no one is going to be dragged there kicking and screaming. Sometimes, I think, when we push too hard, the little caballo thinks we're dragging him to the water to be drowned, or to be pushed into a scary little boat, or he might just not be all that thirsty. So, taking a deep breath, I remember that Spanish takes time to learn, just like English, and that I was never surprised when my six- or eight-month-olds couldn't say a word, even when I tried to get them to talk. For now, they are listening very well, and that's excellent.

We're enjoying the "silent period" when children listen more than they talk as they acquire a language. I know that in a few months, or years, or a decade perhaps, with exposure to Spanish on a regular basis, everyone in the house will become bilingual. And then the "berrinches" we witness on the homefront, albeit few, will happen in two languages, along with el amor y la alegria. I'm waiting for that day, but resisting the urge to push for it, because if I push it may never happen.

En paz,

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