Training My Spanglish Children

A few days ago, I saw my two and three-year old sons playing a little game. My older boy, Chito, was picking up all the toys that were on the floor, and putting them into a bag. At first I thought he was attempting to clean up, but I quickly realized he was just getting ready to play something he had in mind, with the toys. Once everything was in the bag, he threw it over his shoulder, and walked over to his little brother, Marquez, who was pretending to cry. Chito opened the bag, took out a toy, and gave it to Marquez, who immediately stopped “crying” and then gave Chito and hug, and yelled, “Gracias” as Chito walked away with the rest of the toys. For about ten minutes I watched them take turns being the one with the toys, and the one who was sad.

I was laughing, thinking, “Santa? Boys, its June!” Then I asked, “Are you boys pretending it’s Navidad?” Chito said, “NOOO Mami” and went on to explain what the game really was.

My kids speak 100% Spanglish, which can be hard to follow if you don’t speak both English, and Spanish, so here is the English version of what he told me:

“We are playing that there are sad kids crying, because they don’t have any toys, and we are taking turns being like Mami and Papi, and bringing toys to them. Then they are happy and give us a hug and say thanks!”

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That’s when I stopped laughing and tried to hold back my tears. My two little boys haven’t even started school yet, but they have learned things that a lot of adults still don’t know. They have seen more poverty in their two and three years than most Americans will see in their lifetimes. They understand that there are people who are hurting, and need our help.

My kids have watched us, and been a part of our mission work since they were infants. They get excited to see pictures of kids wearing their old clothes, or to play with the kids in the needy communities where we work. My boys know a little bit about what we do here, but they still don’t understand that they are not like most kids here.

They don’t know that most people don’t have a house like we do, or that some kids don’t have a tv to watch. When they complain about their dinner, we are quick to remind them of all the kids who are hungry, but it’s hard for them to really know what that means at this point. My kids are just starting to understand that most people do not speak Spanish and English, but they still constantly mix the two when they talk to people. They know that they are “Salvadoreños” and “Americans”, but they have no idea how important that is.

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Right now my boys are “Spaniglish” in every sense of the word. Not just in the way they talk or the foods they eat, but in the way they think. They love everything about both of their cultures. One day they will grow up though, and their eyes will be opened to see the flaws in both of their countries. They will see the huge difference between the country where they were born, and they country where they live. It will become clear to them, why they are so blessed to be dual citizens. Right now they just know that they love to visit family in America and they love to live in El Salvador, but one day they will understand that most people can not come and go like they can.

I pray that when that day comes, they won’t forget all the things that they have seen. Years from now, I hope that the idea of helping sad kids is still something that they long to do. When it finally hits them just how blessed they are, I pray that they will remember those who are not, and do what they can to help them.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

On one hand, I wish my kids didn’t have to see such poverty, and hurt at such a young age. On the other hand, I’m glad that they know that there are children who have no toys, so they will appreciate their’s a little more. They are in “training”, and I’m thankful that they already understand that it is important to help them others, because that is what Jesus has called us to do.

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