Tag Archives: mother’s day

Mama’s Revenge

19 May

“If you ever bring home an iron and have the audacity to call it a present, it’s grounds for instant divorce,” I’ve warned Conan since before we were married. Not that he’s the type for that, but just in case anyone around here were to put crazy ideas in his head. Because the most typical presents for moms around here are pots and pans and tupperware and a million other items with which to do chores. Stop the excitement; it’s just too much for me.

As if this suggestion that Mama’s only interest is her household duties were not bad enough, here in my very own beloved neighborhood in Puerto they took the cake this Mother’s Day. It’s always celebrated in Mexico on May 10, and this year it was a Saturday. At least all the moms didn’t have to get the kids ready for school. Maybe Mama could sleep in a little bit (unless she has a 2 year old like mine that has a 7 AM internal alarm).

I had to work early-ish anyway, so it wasn’t like I was planning on sleeping till noon. I was not planning on the fireworks starting at FIVE O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING, either. That’s right; two hours before I needed to get up, that jerk-off, arrogant neighborhood delegate down the street decided to “celebrate” and “congratulate” all us excited Mamas in the neighborhood. He set off a bunch of fireworks, first, and then put Las Mañanitas (a sort-of Happy Birthday song in Mexico, much longer than the “happy birthday to you” business) on his loudspeaker.
It sounds something like this:

Now every neighborhood has their own loudspeaker, their own announcer. You need this to make important announcements. Like the other day, they got all the men together to clean up the creek bed down the road. Or they announced info about Kids’ Day events recently. Or they might announce that there’s a vaccination campaign at the health center. Or they announce that there are tacos being sold at so-and-so’s house, or discounts at the pharmacy today. And yes, of course they use the announcer to congratulate and celebrate people on their birthdays or for other special moments. This is reasonable.

Waking up all the tired mamas, all their cranky babies, all their excitable kids, and everyone else in the neighborhood in the darkness of the five o’clock hour, however, is totally, completely outrageous. And rude and presumptuous. How dare they set off fireworks in our honor at such an ugly hour! Who’s gonna see those fireworks at that hour? “Doesn’t he have a wife, this stupid announcer of ours? Isn’t she a mother?” I asked Conan, who was pretending to sleep, in vain. “Doesn’t his wife have any sense or decency, even if he doesn’t? Does he think moms around here need to wake up any earlier, what with all the cooking and cleaning and washing they already do for umpteen hours a day? Does he think moms haven’t lost enough sleep thanks to the wonders and magic of motherhood already?! Does he think anyone cares about his stupid fireworks!?” I was becoming hysterical, using up excessive amounts of pre-coffee energy on my ire.

“Try to go back to sleep,” Conan advised me. I almost bit his head off, too, until I remembered that he was on my side, and that trying to go back to sleep was probably the only reasonable thing to do. Tragically, though, I’m not always a reasonable person, especially early in the morning before caffeine. So instead I lay there stewing, listening to repetitions of Las Mañanitas, listening to the other “celebratory” songs he alternated with. I wanted to throw things when he again muttered his confident and totally ironic congratulations to all us proud and ecstatic moms out there. (And I say he muttered because nothing on these loudspeakers ever comes out really clearly; it all sounds like muttering to me.)

So there I lay, plotting my revenge. Planning the organizing for my protest. Mulling over the pros and cons of going directly to his house, by myself, immediately (cons: still dark out, possibility of biting dogs loose at this hour, have to get dressed, doesn’t exact revenge) or waiting and organizing among the other (surely as rabid as I) moms in the neighborhood (cons: requires patience, probably still won’t involve me making a giant scandal outside his house at 3AM when he least expects it, won’t give me back these 2 lost hours of sleep).

In the end, the darkness of my house, the comfort of our family bed, and the hope of future revenge convinced me to stay home. By six all had quieted down outside, though not in my dark and bitter heart. Since then, Conan investigated some for me and found out that another guy in the neighborhood who got out of control with his announcing duties had a vigilante neighborhood group come together and take away his loudspeaker. So something, certainly, can be done. Some collective mom action can and will be done, if I have anything to say about it. Whether it will be sufficiently just revenge or not is for the future to tell. I’ll let you know, and I promise I won’t set off fireworks in front of your house when I do.

Her Mother’s Tongue

9 May


“Más milk!” Lucia tells us first thing in the morning. “Más dump trucks!” She yells when we’ve just seen a dump truck and she wants to see more. She usually says “more kisses” as you’re walking out the door, but mostly she prefers the Spanish when it comes to more. For a while she’d get it all mixed up and say “mos” instead of “more” or “más.”

Image<“Cheers!” She says. “Ice cream!” She yells with her mouth full. Oh the joy!>

With a lot of words she tends to prefer one language or the other. For example, she always says “agua” and never “water.” She usually says “este” and rarely “this.” For a while I thought maybe she could only learn/remember one word or the other, despite the research that says babies and young children can learn multiple languages at once with no real problems.* But just when I think she doesn’t know a word in the other language, she’ll suddenly say it to somebody else. Like when she went to go get eggs with her Abuela, she said “huevo” repeatedly, although she always says “egg” to her Papi and me.

It is fun to watch language and understanding unfold in any child, but it is extra fun for me to watch her in these two languages- the way she mixes them up, when and where and how she uses them. “Esto es for poopies,” she told me yesterday, bringing me a diaper. “Ewie poopies,” she added, grinning. More and more she says both words. “Córrele” she says, like her Abuela says all the time while Lucia’s running. “It’s running,” she says as well, in case.

At almost-two years old, she’s started to learn the words to songs, too, in both languages. I love the way she says “oh my goodness!” and “aquí está!” I love that Lili taught her to say “este no sirve, este sí sirve”. I love that she asks us to sing “Sunshine” (You Are My Sunshine) and she tries to sing along. I love that she uses all of our invented words, like “feetsies” and “currito” (her Papi’s invented word- a very cute burrito, when she’s all wrapped up in her towel). I am so happy to watch her world unfold in words; it’s an exciting and never-ending adventure. 

We’ve wondered if she realizes yet that there are two distinct languages in her mind, in her world. Especially since they don’t come out so distinctly, so separately, it’s hard to imagine how conscious she could be about it. I don’t think she realizes yet that the other kids don’t understand her when she says, “It’s ball,” for example. She definitely copies what other kids do and say, so she speaks some Spanish around kids here, but there are some words she still doesn’t use (or know?) in Spanish, so it’s interesting to see the other kids navigate that. “What is she saying to me?” the older kids ask me sometimes. The younger ones, however, just go with the flow, communicate through context, don’t stress when they don’t understand a word she says. The younger kids remind me that if we’re open to learning, to communicating, we can do it despite any barriers.

While I was busy wondering if Lucia knows she speaks two languages, her Papi just told her one day, “You know you speak two languages.” They were out observing a digger truck, one of the big machines that Lucia loves. “That’s why in Spanish we say máquina, and in English we say machine,” he told her.

He didn’t tell me about their conversation, but suddenly Lucia started saying two words at a time for many things. We went to look at a digger truck down the road, and she started telling me, “maquina. machine. maquina. machine.” Her rubber ducks in the bathtub drink coffee and café now. She plays a game where she falls down, and sometimes she says “cayó” and sometimes she says “fall down”- the grammar perfect in neither language- just general learning-how-to-talk baby speak, but in two different languages.

She’s still at the age, too, where sometimes she speaks entire paragraphs in some unknown baby tongue. But it’s funny when she does it with somebody who only speaks English or only speaks Spanish. “What’d she say?” they ask, impressed with how much she presumably speaks the other language.

“Won’t she be confused?” People sometimes wonder. Luckily I know plenty of bilingual and even trilingual kids in the U.S. who do just fine. I’ve been much more concerned that perhaps she won’t have enough exposure to English. So I was really pleased when Conan decided that he would speak English to her, even though some people here might think it’s rude, like he’s just trying to show off that he speaks English. Extra kudos to Conan as well because it is difficult to speak your not-native language to your child; it is a little less comfortable, a little less natural. As a (U.S.-born) Spanish professor explained once about why her kids weren’t fluent in Spanish, it’s hard to not use all the songs and little sweet nothings and special sayings you’ve learned for babies and kids all of your life in your native tongue. Imagine, for example, your child gets a boo-boo. But you don’t call it a boo-boo and maybe you don’t even tell her you’ll kiss it to make it better because it doesn’t translate the same in the other language. Difficult, huh? So it’s a big deal that Conan decided he would speak English to her.

Because I am a professional worryer, however, I also worried briefly that she won’t learn perfect English grammar, since her Papi’s grammar isn’t always perfect. But then I remembered that my Dad’s grammar isn’t perfect either, nor is the grammar of most native speakers in the U.S. (only us crazy women on my mom’s side of the family are grammar fanatics).

Sometimes I feel silly that Conan and I speak Spanish together all the time; I feel like we’re wasting an opportunity to expose her to more English. But Spanish is the language of our relationship and our love, and language habits are hard to break. I try to remember that my Mom and my Aunt Julia managed to learn Italian even though my Nonna (my Italian grandmother) only spoke it to them some of the time. Granted, I hope Lucia’s English will be stronger than my Mom’s Italian. But my Nonna managed to teach them enough so that they could talk to older family members, get by in Italy, and inherent some of the cultural things that can only come along with the language. Probably Lucia will learn more than that, but if that’s all, it’ll be enough.

Some days it seems that maybe Spanish will take up all the room in her brain and she won’t have any space for or interest in her mother’s native tongue. But then I remember that it’s not a contest, and that favoring Spanish doesn’t mean she won’t learn English. And furthermore, me worrying about it won’t make a bit of difference in the matter, so I might just do what I can do and let go of the rest. Conan and I will keep talking to her in English. Sometimes we might even speak English to each other in front of her. We’ll keep reading books to her and singing to her in English. We’ll teach her to read and write in English, when the time is right. We’ll try to give her other opportunities and contexts in which to use English. And the rest will be up to her.

At the end of the day, her two languages are no different from the way we learn culture and habits from all the different influences in our lives. Lucia is learning language from a variety of sources and influences, like the way she loves to eat pasta and vegetables (from her Italian-American grandparents and her ex-vegetarian mama) and corn tortillas and sweet bread (thanks to her Papi and her Mexican relatives). One’s not more delicious than the other; they all just have their time and place. Her language will have it’s momentary preferences, just like in the moment maybe she wants a hug more from her Gamma (my stepmom) or a story more from her Nonna (my mama) or an outing more with her Abuela (Conan’s mom), but she doesn’t love one more than the other. They all come together to cherish and teach and nurture her in their own ways.

This year my mother’s day gift to myself is letting go of my language worries. It’s appreciating all the different language and love being shared with my baby by so many people. It’s enjoying the fact that my little girl talks up a storm, in her special Lucia native tongue. And that is just perfect.

*Here are a couple of links to some interesting research on multilingual kids, but there’s tons and tons of great info out there beyond this too:
And how babies learn and develop language: