November 16, 2014.
It’s not E.’s birthday, and it’s not our wedding anniversary.
It is a tale of six cities, three countries, and two continents.
November sixteenth is the day that our family and our friends – both new and old – came together to witness E.’s baptism and to commit to helping us raise our daughter.
This day taught me two lessons I believe are relevant to raising a child bilingually: commitment and community.
As you may know, D. and I, together with E., packed up our apartment in Washington, D.C. last summer and said goodbye to our friends and neighbors of ten years in order to relocate closer to D.’s job.
Ten years. That’s an entire decade. A decade’s worth of inside jokes, Friday game nights, potluck dinners, birthday parties, tears of heartbreak, hugs, laughter, and community.
So, when the time came to consider where and when to baptize E., our first thought was at our church in D.C., of course!
In the end, though, we chose our new church home of only four months.
Why? E.’s baptism, just like her birth ten months ago, marks the start of a new adventure for our family of three. It reflects our planting roots in this new city and church. The people in this new church (as well as our dear friends in D.C., too!) are the people who will watch E. grow, who will help D. and I when the going gets tough.
Her baptism brings two words to my mind: community and commitment.
As our pastor sprinkled those drops of water on E.’s head, I turned my head for just a second to the pews in front of us. The first three rows were filled with friends from D.C. One row back sat my parents, joined by my sister and her family, all who had driven several hours to join us. To the left sat D.’s aunt, uncle, and four cousins, who live in Belgium. And, via Skype sat D.’s parents on their living room sofa in Madrid. OUR COMMUNITY.
Filling in the remaining pews was our new church congregation, most of whom we haven’t even met yet. Yet, in true Presbyterian style, when the pastor asked them to stand in unison to commit to helping us raise E., they all got to their feet and with one voice proclaimed, “We do.” COMMITMENT.
The same two principles apply to raising a child bilingually.
D. and I have made a commitment to raise E. with the experience of two languages. This is – and will – not be easy. For me, Spanish is my second language and isn’t my go-to language to express love, anger, and sadness. But, I’ve committed to telling E. te quiero not “I love you.” For us, it’s sometimes awkward to consistently use Spanish with E. in public, when everyone else uses English. But, we’ve made a commitment.
We cannot do this thing called bilingual parenting alone. We need others. That’s why we daily Skype with her tíos in Mexico. Why I organize play dates in Spanish. Why I started this blog. When the going gets tough, we know we can’t do this alone. We need friends, family, neighbors who will help.
You may not consider yourself religious. You may not be a Christian, or a Presbyterian for that matter! And, maybe infant baptism makes you a bit uncomfortable. That’s cool! But, if you’re a parent out there raising your children in more than one language, be encouraged. I may only be ten months into this parenting thing, but I know that the commitment you’ve made is not in vain.
I’d love to hear from you: what has your commitment meant to you and your family? How have you relied on your community? Drop me a line!