Living in a house with four kids, grocery shopping is not something we do bi-weekly—or even weekly. Most weeks, I find myself in the local Safeway grocery chain at least three times, and there have been times where grocery shopping is a daily occurrence. Before you assume we don’t know how to plan, consider that the refrigerator is simply always full, and as such, we often have to get last minute items like fresh meat or vegetables that would have otherwise not fit had we done one of those pre-planned mega-shopping excursions that some families manage to pull off.

So today, I found myself once again in Safeway going about my shopping. My youngest daughter Valentina was with me, riding in the cart. She was particularly obsessive about me purchasing her favorite juice today, and so I heard the word “jugo” (juice) repeated over and over as I took her to the car, drove, and then as I pushed her throughout the store. I kept trying to talk to her to calm her down and keep her mind off the juice.

Of course, we were speaking Spanish to each other, as is my custom. Pilar speaks a mix of Spanish and English to the children, resulting in her older children understanding Spanish, but not speaking it nearly as well as English; in order to have a child be bilingual and remain fluent in the minority language, one parent has to speak the minority language exclusively. Since Pilar couldn’t give assurances to me to speak Spanish all the time (“it’s so hard!”), I bit the bullet and decided to do it myself.

At any rate, here I am, a (very) white guy, speaking Spanish with a light-skinned but brunette toddler in the store, when a curious onlooker with children spots me. She tried to play it off like she was reading the product labels, but she kept getting closer and staring longer. She was Hispanic, and had two children with her. If she had initiated conversation with me, I would have gladly explained the situation, but she did not engage me, so I walked away.

A few minutes later, I saw the kids with the store manager, looking for the mother. They were reunited shortly thereafter, and the mother seemed distraught but then quite relieved. I realized that I had seen the kids slip away while she was staring at me, but as I walked away shortly thereafter, I didn’t realize that she had not seen the same.

I know my Spanish is good, people, but it’s not worth losing your children over…! 🙂

One comment on “I Know My Spanish Is Good, But…

  • Where did you hear at least one person has to speak Spanish exclusively for their kids to be bilingual? My sisters and I had both parents speaking in both languages.

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