Parenthood is filled with decisions. Should we be sugar free? Should we pretend we’re vegan while the kids are awake? Should I keep myself from swearing in front of the kids, or at the very least keep the swearing to languages his teachers don’t speak? Because we all know, it’s ok to swear in Spanish when your kid goes to Cantonese school. Teachers don’t have a clue, and it is kinda funny to hear 3 year olds yell puñeta and “que se joda” when no one around them understands a lick of what they’re saying.
One of my best friends in high school is African-American, and he would always tell me in disbelief “nigger please”. I thought it was funny. I didn’t know better. But I think it would be entirely appropriate if my kid went to school in Catalan and would tell his preschool buddies “nigger please”. That would be funny! After all, folks in Spanish speaking countries listen to rap and mumble ALL the words, not knowing that there are certain words you’re not even allowed to mime.
Anyways… so I’ve been thinking a lot of what to speak to the little pooping machine. Alba has it easy, it’s Catalan. It’s a matter of pride. It’s her mother tongue. It’s non negotiable. Me, it’s complicated. I don’t write worth shit in Spanish. And though I’ve always spoken Spanish at home, I’ve always gone to school and worked in English. My friends are split 50/50, but all my family lives in the States. My state-side cousins can only say burritos, tacos, and “donde esta el baniiio”. Also we love to travel, and use English as a crutch. So yes, it’s complicated.
Spanish is a sensitive issue in Alba’s Catalonia. No one wants to speak it among friends and family, but no one really wants their kids not learning it. After all, they’re surrounded by folks who do. It’s similar to English in Puerto Rico. No one speaks it at home, and it’d
feel weird to do so, yet even the most hard core nationalists send their kids to English school. It alleviates the need to speak it at home, thus outsourcing the uncomfortable task of teaching the colonialist lingua franca. Funnily, in Puerto Rico, Spanish isn’t considered the language of the empire because it was such a long time ago, and the Americans arrived much recently (124 years versus 529, but who’s counting). Plus, the only words we have clearly passed down from our native Taino language are “hurricane”, “hammock”, and
“barbecue”. You know, the essentials. Everything else was kinda lost, or in my opinion, not really relevant.
It’s always funny when folks in Spain ask if I resent the Spanish for having colonized us. I’m like… the Spanish are so far removed, they’re the least of our problems. It’s like asking them if they feel any animosity towards the Italians. After all, they all speak a variant of the
lingua franca of the Roman Empire. But no European feels colonized. Colonization is a condescending thing they feel towards folks in the Americas (North and South alike).
So Alba already has dibs on Catalan, and my Catalan is so lacking, it’d be offensive to use with kids past the age of ahummm, 3? So that leaves me two options:
(a) Speak Spanish, which in Catalonia will make him feel colonized, in the States will be rather useless, and in Puerto Rico will make him sound like he has a lisp (if he picks up her mom’s accent).
(b) Speak English which will useful in the US, make him feel colonized in Puerto Rico, and rather out of place in Spain.
…or better yet, option (c), skip all of the above and teach him Mandarin and robot, because we all know that’s where we’re clearly going.