Welcome, Mamma Crew!  Today is Kiddos Tuesdays when I discuss issues related to yes, the kiddos.

When we agreed to take Bug and Dora into our family, it never occurred to me that language would be a problem.  Yes, the kids had been born in the United States but grew up in Mexico, but they visited us every summer and the four kids had always managed to get along beautifully.  So I optimistically assumed that it would be just as easy to have them move in. Nope! It’s one thing to have the kids for a couple of weeks in the summer and another completely to have them move in permanently.  My Spanish was rusty at best, and I am truly being kind when I say it, I grew up bilingual but hadn’t spoken Spanish in 6 years before we started living part-time in Puerto Rico. No, I’m not Puerto Rican. Dealing with the Puerto Rican dialect had also been very challenging. Really, I have to confess that my Spanish is early elementary at best.  My girls had never learned it and my husband had grown up in Ohio. My limited Spanish and Google translate were the only bridge between Dora and Bug. And, the truth of the matter was that both Dora and Bug needed to learn to speak English. The question was how fast they would learn. Lightning fast, actually, but not fast enough for the kids not to get into several fights.

Much to my surprise Emmi and Dora were the fighters in round 1.  During the summers, Dora had appeared to be a girly girl. This was right up Emmi’s alley. I mean that girl, if you look up the definition of a girly girl in the dictionary, there’s a picture of her. So this was right up Emmi’s alley. In preparation for Dora’s permanent arrival, Emmi began doing everything she could to learn Spanish.  She wanted to be the perfect hostess. And, I think that was the first mistake.  This was not a visit. This was a permanent move. Of course, Dora responded by acting as though she was on a summer visit.  This meant that the onus for the developing relationship was on Emmi.

Napping with Mom

Why didn’t I pick up on this? Well, I’d forgotten how much energy it takes to run around after a 4-year-old. And it seems to me that 4-year-old boys have more energy than 4-year-old-girls — even girls with ADHD in the moderate to severe range. So frankly, I was feeling overwhelmed trying to keep up with Bug.  In the meantime, Emmi was slowly becoming resentful. Why did she always have to be the nice one? Why didn’t Dora make an effort to speak English when Emmi was trying so hard to speak Spanish? Dora, on the other hand, was attached to the translator on my phone. She refused to attempt speaking any English with the kids or anyone else. It was easier to shrug her shoulders and close the door on Emmi both literally and figuratively.  And, the girlie stuff, well it turns out it was only on the surface. Dora was really more into gaming like Andy. So round 1, no one won, everyone lost, as the second cold war went into effect.

Round 2 was between Dora and Andy, and there was nothing cold about it.  I think they put WWII to shame based on the assaults and strategy they deployed on each other.  Dora accidentally shot the first missile. This girl has the most beautiful large eyes, but they are very adult-like and she often utilizes them to throw mean looks that would wilt Regina George, the queen of mean in Mean Girls.  Andy, who has difficulty reading social cues, had no problems understanding the attitude that Dora was laying, especially after she stepped on Andy’s toys. All bets were off then! Andy slammed the door shut!  But she did open it frequently so that Dora and her could continue their heated exchange.  It didn’t matter what the other did. They were both certain it was done on purpose to piss off the other one.  These two were loud enough that I often had to find some way to entertain Bug or simply hauled him with me to serve as a referee.  So round 2, no one won, everyone lost and WWIII was in full effect.

Learning to be a Family

Round 3 was the twins and their best friend Lily.  After all the fracas, Lily got into the ring. She doesn’t like anyone that gets between herself and her besties.  The idea of adding another bestie, especially one that couldn’t get along with the first two, was not an appealing one.  So instead of encouraging rapprochement, she did everything she could to divide and conquer. She wanted the twins for herself. And this was easy with Andy who has a hard time forgiving and forgetting. And every time I brought up letting things go, she would bring up the fact that Dora had stepped on her toys on purpose. Emmi was another matter.  She would periodically make attempts to reach out to Dora. This meant that Andy and Lily would get angry with Emmi for turning to the enemy. And, me, running around after Bug the cute little terror and drain of energy. I just couldn’t believe how tired he left me by the time I tucked him in bed. So round 3, no one won. The parties in WWIII had new allies.  

Bug was all about round 4.  He would go into all of the girls’ bedrooms anytime I turned a blind eye, even if it was just for a second.  He would wreck Andy’s Lego sets, and oh my goodness, she knows where every piece is supposed to be. Where every THING belongs on the map; he used Emmi’s makeup, and Dora had to endure both the taking of her toys and the taking of her makeup. The piano and guitar were always fair games if left unattended.  Everyone was screaming! I was exhausted and left wondering I could give all four kids up for adoption! Sarcasm is such a good friend in these moments! So round 4, who won?  No one! But, I did nearly lose my mind.

Ah, round 5, was between Dora and me.  She staunchly refused to use the English language. Instead of learning, she relied on the dictionary and the translator on my phone.  If she had to speak to anyone, she did so in Spanish and expected someone else to figure it out. At the homeschool co-op, she only spoke with the kids who spoke Spanish.  It got to the point where she refused to speak to me at the co-op. Instead, she would ask questions from one of the other mothers who spoke Spanish. She knew that their answer would be in Spanish while mine would be in English. Really? Anything to avoid dealing with me!  When I tried to encourage her to attempt English or make other friends, she would stop talking and just stare at me. It was painful to watch her large eyes open wide and look at me with a mixture of fear and absolute resentment.  

After all, I should understand how she felt.  Had I not gone through the same thing when I was 6?  Yes, I had, so how had I manage? There were no translators back then,  and frankly, we didn’t own an English-Spanish dictionary. My parents were not big into books. I tried to remember how fast I had learned English.  In less than 6 months I was considered fully fluent. Did I have English as a Second Language? No, no I did not. There was no such thing in California in 1972 when I was in the first grade or if they did have a class, my parents were not aware of it.  Frankly, I was grateful for it. I had known people in California who had been born in the United States and had English as a Second Language only never to actually learn English.  Don’t ask, I still don’t get that one. How did I want to deal with this situation? I mulled it over, talked to some of my mama girlfriends, and everyone said I should be patient. Only, guess what? I’m not that kind of patient.  I’m a grab-the-bull-by-the-horn type of problem solver. And my children are well aware of this.

The first thing to go was the translator on my phone.  Dora had to use the old-fashioned English/Spanish dictionary.  Second, none of the moms at the co-op could answer her questions.  She had to come to me. You would be surprised how fast she began to pick up English when the two easy outs were gone.  And, as far as not getting along with Emmi and Andy, if they could not get to know each other and learn to get along, they couldn’t go out with their other friends.  No other hanging out with friends. Doesn’t that just sound painful? No more calling or texting. Oh yeah! I went there! Nope, sorry girls, they were stuck together. It had worked with the twins when they fought. Guess what? I made them spend time with each other. There was no reason it couldn’t work with my now triplets. I thought I had won this round, but Dora threw me a curveball.

Suddenly, Dora wanted to return to Mexico.  Learning English was too hard. She wanted to return to her country.  I reminded her that she was not born in Mexico, it was not her country. She was born in the United States and she’s a US citizen.  This is her country. She wanted to live with her grandmother.  Not an option since her grandmother, my aunt is getting older and has health problems.  Of course, at that moment she took out the big guns! She wanted to go home to her real mom!  I refused to be hurt by this.  I was not going to play into it. Nope, sorry, mom sent you to me because she is currently ill and incapacitated.  She cannot work to support you and cannot take care of either of you. She is doing the incredibly hard thing of being without you so that you can have a good life.  There is no going back. You will learn English. And, the three of you will figure out how to get along. And, me, it was time I needed to accept that only it’s, in the beginning, I need part-time help with Bug.  I needed to be able to give the girls more of my undivided attention if our new family unit was going to be a success.  

Now, this round was especially hard because of the amount of criticism I received from friends and family was extensive and detailed.  Everyone has an opinion. But, if there’s one thing I don’t suffer from, it’s lack of conviction. Once I make a decision, and I feel it’s the right decision, I stick to my guns. And I really thought long and hard before taking Dora and Bug into our family unit. So despite the challenges, I knew it was the right thing for them, and for us. And if I made a mistake, well, we were all going to have to deal with it together and move on until we found the correct solution for our family. Or let me rephrase that — not the correct solution — but the best solution. The solution that worked for our family.

So if you’re wondering who won this round?  We all did! Both Bug and Dora were speaking fluent English in less than six months.  Is it extraordinary? I don’t know. But we were all thrilled. This year, only 18 months after moving to the United States, Dora tested grade level for English and above grade level for math.  And, yes, my approach was hard. But it did work. The girls have learned to get along.  Emmi, Dora, and Pepper are the best of friends. Andy and Dora ly spend a lot of time together and get along quite well.  Well, they get along well for long periods of time.

Proud of her English!

Those two are just so similar that it’s impossible for them not to clash. So yeah, they are too much alike to be besties. But it’s more important that they are sisters than friends.  We are making serious inroads between all three girls. As far as I’m concerned it would be heavenly if the girls saw each other as sisters even if they fought all of the time. 

I mean I and my sisters love each other and we have never been able to get along. Still, I’m not sure that I’m looking forward to the next six years of girl drama. Do you think this is nature’s way of preparing parents to let go? I mean I think otherwise I would be devastated when they went off to college. Yup, it has to be nature’s way of helping us let go.

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