This post is part of the Blogging Carnival on Bilingualism, hosted by Multilingual Mania. You can check out great posts on the subject here.
A multicultural family was not something I planned, nor could I have prepared for the compromise it demands. And as the minority language parent, compromising is my job.
I never pictured myself feeling like an outsider. I never imagined that after six years living in Spain, the neighbours would still walk by me without a glance, even the ones I am related to. Or that my Spanish family still wouldn’t know my name. Or that I would sadly conclude that real integration is impossible for me here, and seek out a near-by expat community.
But the real shock came when starting a family cemented that isolation. I am the minority in my own family. One Canadian fighting for air time with three noisy Spanish men. Being Spanish, going to Spanish schools, living in our mono-cultural Spanish neighborhood, my boys will never understand my experience as an outsider. They will know nothing but fitting in. I have accepted being left out.
By committing to English only with my kids, I underline my foreigner status. As their only daily dose of English, it’s imparative, but it shuts the door on the incidental social opportunities that could lead to friendships.
My boys will converse with their Dad, friends and neighbours in a language that is still work for me. I won’t get their subtle jokes or know their slang. Helping with homework will be interesting. I won’t talk like, dress like, or smoke like the other Moms waiting at the school gate. How will they feel about that?
I worry about our communication as they become older. How will I retain some influence as Mom loses ground to teachers, friends and daily life, all Spanish? Couples often struggle to find common ground regarding values and communicate with consistency, but when you add a cultural divide, the rift seems downright dangerous.
But honestly, what is it I want them to learn? Do maple syrup, RCMP and flags matter? No. I just want them to know me. I want them to feel connected to me. I want a shared experience, deeper than language, that unfortunately, we usually communicate with words.
So now, while they are too young to say “Vaya Mamá dejame en paz” (Leave me alone!) , I impose some Canadian culture.
Go Canucks Go!