Sunday, January 31, 2010

A new storytime en español?

Shortly after getting home from our visit to Mexico over the holidays, Angelica and I went back to her beloved storytime at the local library. It occurred to me to ask if they might have any interest in starting a Spanish storytime--since to my disappointment, I could only find two places in the whole city that offered children's storytime in other languages. Even though they have been unequivocally positive in their response on the matter, it seems like it's already taking too long to get it off the ground. This past week, I brought up the subject again to the woman in charge of the children's programs at the library, and she got visibly excited. "Oh, it's you? Yes, I think it's a great idea! In fact, I was a Spanish minor in college." So then I asked her why no one had started something similar already and she said: "out of fear".

Out of fear? Fear of what? Turns out that I think she meant fear of not speaking the language well, since she went on to tell me how she wishes she could remember enough Spanish to do it herself. I didn't follow up on the subject, though, as she was already on to telling me about her brother who married a girl from Chile....telling her story. So I let her continue, and of course told her some of mine.

Every time we go to Mexico I buy books in Spanish for Angelica. I also go scavenger-hunting at the bookstores when we're home for the "good ones". Most of them are translated from familiar stories like Buenas noches, luna (Goodnight Moon) and I especially love stumbling upon a Dr. Suess story. Who couldn't love a title such as Huevos verdes con jamón (Green Eggs and Ham) or Hay un molillo en mi bolsillo (There's a Wocket in my Pocket) I mean, did you know that "wocket" in Spanish is a molillo? I sure didn't. What's a wocket anyway? Or a molillo? I don't know, but it's fun stuff. Both the English and Spanish books rhyme but with different sounds and rhythms. Cool, right?! Until the day I found the "treasure" of The Cat in the Hat as a bilingual book. I was sooo excited until (after I had bought it and brought it home), I realized that it didn't even rhyme in Spanish. What was the point of translating it, then? Since then, I've always been more than a little wary of "bilingual" books...

Playing scavenger hunt at the bookstore to find the "good ones" has always been a treat for me, ever since I was a child and our annual family travels always dictated a detour toward a bookstore excursion. My brother and I would always get to pick out a brand-new book of our choice, and it was a delight to me. Books were by far my favorite gifts, which were also tokens of love, from Mom and Dad. I remember being disappointed one year when my grandma wanted to buy me new clothes and my heart sank, since I would have prefered a book any day to a new sweater.

It's obvious to me that I'm trying to transfer this childhood joy to my daughter. Not only that, but also to share with her stories in Spanish, too, or in another language, like German--even though I don't speak it myself--since I recently had the opportunity to go to a German storytime with her. What a delight it is for small children to naturally acquire new words in another language through hearing stories and singing songs. It's so natural, I see it more and more every day as Angelica loves to repeat phrases from her current favorite books. Hearing a story in Spanish or French or German is completely uncomplicated and natural to her. I know I've said it before, but it's we adults that make learning a language complicated. But children have the natural capacity to soak it all up without giving it a second thought.

So with all of the opportunities for toddlers to experience new things, what's so radically different about a Spanish or German storytime than a gymboree or music or signing class? The goal is to expose them to new things so that they can find what they enjoy and are good at, and if foreign language isn't part of that curriculum during their early years it will never be a natural or easy endeavor for them as young adults. Is it just fear of introducing something new?

If it is, I'm going to keep pushing against it. I will be that salmon swimming upstream, because it's that important to me. And hopefully there will be a new Spanish storytime soon at our local library!!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

little hands

Remove Formatting from selection When I really looked closely at that tiny, outstretched hand it amazed me. The curved little lines sketched on it were there, just like on mine. The form was so perfect, yet so minature. It was another moment like any others--Angelica was waiting for me to pour some soap on her hands-- but for some reason today that little hand became something mystical to me. I guess it's partly because you treasure the tiny parts of a newborn, and dream about them being formed in the womb during pregnancy. But at some point all that fuzziness starts to fade and you just get into a routine, which doesn't leave much time or thought for reflecting on your child's perfect little form anymore.

But today it did. I felt like someone was saying "Remember these tiny hands. Memorize their form. They won't be so small forever. They won't cling so tight for long".

Angelica and I have come out of the weaning battle relatively unscathed. I never dreamed that it would be one of the hardest things I'd have to do in the early years with my daughter. However, now we have transitioned into a new stage and I think I'm finally really feeling the passage of time because I had clung to the old stage for so long. I'm really proud that I was able to nurse her into toddlerhood, but I think that subconciously I fell back into treating her as a baby all of the time that I nursed her. So all of a sudden, I wake up a week or so after the nursing has ended...and I see her as who she really is, which is a small person with a tremendous capacity for learning and creativity and for making me laugh, amid other things. She doesn't need me as she once did, but she needs me even more in other ways now. She is growing and I am too, since I now understand that I am learning as much a I am teaching in this parenthood thing.

Seeing that little hand today in all of its glory reminded me of how far we've come on this journey. It remains outstretched, vulnerable and oh-so-small. The lines on it tell only the beginning of a beautiful life story yet to come. I am filled with awe again to have been "chosen" as one of the people to guide it, cherish it and hold onto it as we both grow.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I've lost that loving feeling

It seems lately that I am struggling with everything. I always knew that the weaning process would be tough, and now I'm in the thick of it. It is emotionally draining. It probably doesn't help that we basically started it (I mean, the "hard core--this is it, no going back" version) right after we got home from a two-week trip to Mexico to spend the holidays with my husband's family. As if the poor girl wasn't already in some reverse-culture shock, coming back from playing outside in sunny mild-temperature afternoons to a stretch of below freezing temperatures that lasted for days and threatened all of our sanity as we seemed to pace from room to room. Oh yeah, then there was the fact that Angelica and I both brought back a nice cough as a souvenir from the trip, one that developed into a nasty full-blown this will knock you out cold and keep you miserable in every way except that you do have to go back to work this week cold. You know the kind. That make you want to spend all day complaining (which I did) and long to be in bed almost every minute of the day but yet don't get you that get-out-of-obligations-free pass that you long for. Daddy goes to work in the morning and sweet toddler still rises before 7:00 AM and the day begins.

The chocolate "shake" that originally was some sort of fortified, nutritious kids drink I found at the grocery store which turned into some Nestle's chocolate powder mixed with regular milk when we ran out of the former did at least move the process forward. In desperation as Angelica would demand to nurse I would offer her a "shake" (because the first time I gave it to her I shook the bottle, and from that point on the name was cemented and the sippy cup had to be shaken before she would drink it) and that seemed to work. I also tried a tip from a friend who's been through this before. In fact it was she who told me about the chocolate success she had had with her own boys months ago, but apparantly I either didn't really believe her or didn't believe in making my kid into a chocolate addict. Well Angelica is officially now a chocokid! Anyway, the tip was to have her put a bandaid on my...well, my milk supply...and tell her that it had a "boo boo" and needed to "rest" ("doctor's orders" but I left that part out). The result? Tears. The goodbye ceremony only brought tears from Angelica, but slowly the point was being made. She knew that we were done, and she didn't like it. Frankly, neither did I.

I must add that we got into the weaning boat to begin with because even though I had tried a month or so earlier to get the process going little by little, it really never was very consistent and as soon as we started traveling, she wanted to nurse constantly. Sleep-deprivation was about as bad as it was the first 6 months of her life, and my husband and I decided that we couldn't take it anymore. It was time to get rested again. And thankfully, as this process has gone on, we have seen wonderful results on that end. No more waking up at night for comfort nursing.

But on the other end, I'm irritable, I'm overwhelmed with starting work and being sick, I feel that I'm struggling with depression and I do believe that part of it is this letting-go process. Ironically as soon as I had felt more confident as a mother, I'm doubting it all again. The nursing was such a huge part of our bond and even though I know--I really do--that it's not all about the milk (her love for me), it breaks my heart when she cries with such feeling and reaches to pull up my shirt, trying to seek out one more time that physical bond that we are moving away from.
So we read another book, and I offer her more shake (usually she's agreeable, but not always). I tickle her or we sing a silly song. But I know that she misses it. And so do I.