What Can You Say?

“How’s she eating?”

“Is she smiling yet?”

“Does she roll over?”

“Is she sitting up?”

“Has she started crawling?”

“What solid foods has she tried?”

“When did she start walking?”

Somehow from the moment you have a baby, every conversation from the stranger in the produce section to dearest friends and family has the potential to resemble an appointment with the pediatrician. Everyone’s so excited and fascinated by the wonderment that truly is child development, they immediately want to get their bearings on where your child falls on the continuum of newly-born-lump-of-crying-wriggling-baby-soft-love-button to full-grown-kiddo-doing-cartwheels-on-the-playground.

I get it. It doesn’t bother me.

I’m generally pretty relaxed about where my little one is developmentally since I figure she has her whole life to learn to live. I did have one freak out moment when mastering the sippy cup felt especially difficult. I suddenly saw a movie-esque montage of her entire future and she was always holding a bottle. Nothing says “Cheers to the happy couple!” like a Dr. Brown’s. 

So besides this and a bizarre Pinterest-induced moment when I realized my 16 month old is not yet ready for kindergarten (shocked? Yeah… why was I?), I think I’ve been pretty laid back about books and charts and milestones.

But lately… everyone keeps asking me the same question. “Is she talking yet?”

And I find myself hemming and hawing a little bit. “Well, she’s wearing us out with ‘mama’ and ‘papa.’ She says the dog’s name…..” Billy and I have had a couple other moments we were certain she said discernible words, but overall… nothing consistent.

Now pretty much everything I read before her birth about raising a bilingual child acknowledged that it might delay her talking. I was totally prepared for that… right up until it may have happened. Now I’m wishing she would talk and stop just pointing and grunting in frustration. And I have these fleeting moments, when I think Stop the Spanish! We’re going to get this girl on track! She’s got kindergarten in four years!  But then I come to my senses and remember that every kid goes at their own pace and this is the right pace for her and our desire for her bilingual development.

I am also surprised at how I feel a need to remind people that we are raising her with two languages and that I totally expected this delay. I guess that’s my insecurity talking.

Now, I’m not writing all this to elicit reassuring comments that she’ll eventually talk because contrary to the sippy cup, I have not had a vision of her wedding day when she’s supposed to say “I Do” all she can muster is “Mama?” And I’m still pretty laid back about my parenting because, not to sound too cocky, but I’m pretty sure I’m the best mom Gabriella has ever had. But I just put it out there because I often (self-absorbidly) assume that if I am feeling something, others have felt it too.

So I throw my experience onto this blog to say if you sometimes have insecurities around your child’s development, you are not alone, and it’ll all shake out in the end. And if you are worried about delayed talking around bilingualism, don’t let it stop you! The benefits outweigh any delay…. at least, that’s what I tell myself!

"Scientific" Experimenting with Bilingualism

The shirt says it all!
It seems I may have lost in the war of words. How do I know?

Well, the other day I conducted a highly scientific experiment. 

When I needed her hand to walk through the park, I found myself struggling to speak English, which makes no sense because... well, I only speak English. So I began "Dame tu"... rediscovered my brain and ended with a flair.... "hand." Yep. Spanglish at its finest. I was amused when she raised her hand to hold mine. 

So I did what any weirdo with a penchant for social research would do. I let go of her hand. "Gabriella, give me your hand." No response from the little one. Final try... "Dame tu mano." Bingo! Hand in mine. 

Yes, it seems that “dame tu hand” is more clear to her than “give me your hand.”

While I announce this fact with mock disappointment, I am actually really excited to see her being so comfortable in Spanish. I think I assumed she would know it well, but only as a second language. You know… she’d be able to carry on conversations in a bind and would occasionally shout out the Spanish name of something.  ¡Sacapunta!

What I am recognizing, though, is that Spanish will not just be a fun second language, but it is her first language along with English. For right now at least, she seems equally comfortable with both… if not favoring Spanish a little. What amazing brains little ones have!

I imagine I’ve recommended this before, but Spanglish Baby is a phenomenal resource for parents raising bilingual English/Spanish kids. And apparently, my child has taken the "Spanglish Baby" title a little too far. I am excited to see where this journey leads us, and I am eager to hear stories of others who have gone before us.

P.S. Did you know what sacapunta means or did you look it up? Tell the truth...
A Life with Subtitles. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.