So…I’m the new mommy on the block.
(D. and I, with our daughter, E., just moved to our current city about four months ago.)
And, when you’re the new mommy on the block, that means you’ve got to make new friends (gulp).
(Insert traumatic childhood memories of being at your third high school, with no friends, eating alone on the stairs in the art hallway.)
It can get really lonely being a stay-at-home mom with a nine-month-old baby. Even more lonely when you’re living in a new city. And, even more lonely still when you’ve committed to a type of parenting that by nature benefits from multiple sources of input (bilingualism).
But, resolved not wallow in my loneliness and determined to provide E. with more sources of Spanish input other than yo, I decided to just come right out and say it: “Want to hang out?”(I swear, making new friends is like dating all over again!)
So, late one September night, while D. watched “Cutthroat Kitchen” on Food Network, I buried myself under the covers and logged on to our neighborhood listserv:
“Hola! Is there a Spanish baby/toddler play group in the neighborhood? If not, would anyone be interested in starting up one with me and my daughter, E.? I’m new here and I don’t have any friends yet. Want to be my friend?”
(Okay, so maybe I didn’t write those last two sentences. But, let’s be honest, that’s how all new parents feel as they push their stroller up and down the street, gazing longingly at the other moms and dads at the park, who, we’re convinced, have like 20 friends.)
Well, guess what? Starting the very next day – and for the next three weeks – parents began writing me back.
“Welcome to the neighborhood! You’ll love it. I don’t speak Spanish, but good luck finding a group!”
“I’m from Puerto Rico, my husband from Louisiana, and we’re raising our three children in both languages. I’m free Thursdays. Let’s meet at the park.” And, meet en el parque we did! There were graham crackers, cheese sticks and mucho español exchanged that morning. I even met a mamá from Murcia, España, who lives en mi barrio! (¡El mundo es un pañuelo!)
The responses to my post continue to trickle in.
One madre even spilled her bilingual parenting guts: how glad she was that I had posted on the listserv, how important it was that her children learned Spanish and maintained their cultural heritage, how frustrated she was that her children would respond in English, instead of Spanish.
Parenting is hard, for sure. It stretches us and tests us. It pushes us out of our comfort zone. And, it leads us to do things for our children that we thought, I never knew I had that in me!
Honestly, parenting in a language that isn’t my dominant language can be tiring. I need the support of others (like D., nuestra familia), and that includes our neighborhood and community. I have a feeling that all of us raising bilingual/multilingual children would agree.
It’s now been a month since I hit send to that e-mail on my neighborhood listserv. Parent replies continue to sprinkle my inbox. Poco a poco, I am building amistades and creando una red de apoyo (“network of support”) for my family in this adventure of bilingual parenting.
If I’ve learned anything, it’s:
Never be afraid to ask, “Want to hang out?”