Teaching children about their heritage.
Latina women have a rich Hispanic heritage that we want to impart to our children. Whether it’s sharing food traditions, speaking Spanish, or choosing a name that will help a bicultural child feel as if she belongs everywhere she goes, new mothers need help navigating how to bring Hispanic culture to their children. And Lorraine Ladish’s crib sheet does just that.
What to Name the Kids
Reading Lorraine’s thoughts on choosing a name was interesting because it reminded me of my mother’s experiences. She grew so tired of people butchering her name that she legally changed it to a more American-friendly version. I love her given name, but can understand her frustration.
I am of Dominican and Chinese descent, and my husband was born to a Caucasian mother and African-American father. Our children’s cultural backgrounds are diverse, and we don’t know what they will choose to identify as in the future. We picked names that sounded good with Armstrong, would look nice on a plaque in an executive boardroom, and one wasn’t likely to hear called in a prison or courtroom. We’re practical people.
We figured playing it safe with names wouldn’t hurt anyone. Also, my husband kept ruling out my awesome ideas — like Max Power for my son and Rio for my daughter. It’s a personal decision and not one to take lightly, but in this instance, since my husband and I are of different cultural backgrounds we chose good, old-fashioned, American-sounding names: Cameron & Preston.
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When to Use Spanish and When to Use English
I agree with Lorraine: It is important to speak both languages to your child. I struggled with this when my children were younger. My husband is bilingual, but is fluent in German. I am not. He understands and can speak a little Spanish, but not enough to carry on a full conversation.
I didn’t have family close by and wasn’t accustomed to speaking Spanish at home. The only time I would speak Spanish was on the phone with family, and a little when they visited. My children heard it, but not as often as I would have liked.
Definitely make an effort to speak Spanish around your child. Make it a habit, and it will eventually flow naturally. It’s three years later, and I am getting better at it.
Read to Them in Spanish
Lorraine read to both of her children in Spanish from the beginning. I started a little later, since my first born didn’t care much for listening to me read until he was about two. My daughter always loved being read to. Most of their books are in English, but they have a handful in Spanish.
Something I’ve always done is when using flash cards, I’d tell them the word in English and Spanish. The kids looked at me funny at first, but my three-year-old knows a bit and understands that Spanish is a different language that Mommy uses when on the phone with his Grandma. He can count and name colors and simple objects in Spanish.
It’s wonderful hearing your child speak in your native tongue, and kids love the intellectual challenge. Make it fun for them. Choose books based on their current interests to draw them in, even if at first they don’t understand exactly what you’re saying. Oh, and Dora is a good babysitter if you need a few minutes to yourself. Just sayin’.
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Show Your Kids Photos
I can’t wait to show my kids the pictures of my parents in the Dominican Republic shortly after they were married. I’d like to find some of me as a child, too.
I spent a lot of time in my parents’ native country, and am a photography fanatic. Pictures are hugely important and essential to preserving your family memories of cultural traditions. Show them all the photos you can.
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Keep in Touch
Like Lorraine, I am very close with my family. We live pretty far away, but the kids video chat and speak to their grandparents constantly, especially Grandma.
My son knows that every morning while he eats breakfast the person Mommy is speaking Spanish to on the phone is his Grandma. He loves it. It’s our morning tradition. A cup of coffee and a phone call to Grandma.
Serve Latin Foods
Eat what you normally would. Your child may go through a picky phase, but keep on introducing your favorite Latin foods. Your child is bound to grow to love at least one. I still eat mondongo (Dominican tripe stew), and I know it’s because I was raised on the stuff. If someone had randomly asked me if I’d like to try a soup made of the intestinal linings of cows as an older kid, I’m positive I would have declined (probably loudly — ew!). Food, memories, and our cultural identities are intertwined. It’s important not to neglect this important area. A diverse palate is a beautiful thing for our heritage and nutrition.
Different Customs and Values
Although my children are still toddlers, I’ve given this a lot of thought. There are absolutely Latin customs and values that I insist upon instilling in my children. Maintaining close relationships with their grandparents is the most important to me. My Nana and I were best friends. I spoke to my Nana every day, several times a day. I visited her almost weekly until she passed away. My Abuelita was often in the Dominican Republic, but when she wasn’t, I’d spend time with her too.
Nana and Abuelita were the queens of the family. The were adored by us. I want my children to have the same relationship with all their grandparents.
Lorraine is absolutely right. I can’t stress this enough: Don’t stress. Be yourself and your child will follow. Drink your cafe, habla tu español, and preserve your familial traditions. It will fall into place.
What were your thoughts on the crib sheet? Any pearls of wisdom or tips for moms looking to preserve and carry on their cultural traditions with their new babies?