Monday, October 6, 2008

Padre nuestro, part 1

I had this bright idea that I'd teach my kids Spanish. I'd spent years making myself into a bilingual, and I wanted to save them the sweat. Kids' minds are sponges, right? I used to take infant Brielle for walks, describing all I saw in Spanish. For a long time, it was virtually all I spoke to her.

But as the only Spanglophone in my family and among the people we usually hang out with, speaking Spanish became to my kids yet another one of Daddy's strange and generally annoying quirks. I'd try to read a book in Spanish, translating on the fly, and Brielle would reprimand me, "It's not in 'panish, Daddy!" And the books that were in Spanish she did not want to hear. The more fluent she became in English, the more adamant she was that I not speak Spanish.

One day, I considered what was probably a false dichotomy: raise a daughter who was bilingual but distant because, over her protests, I always talked to her in her weak linguistic suit, or throw in the towel and let her learn Spanish the old-fashioned way--earn it. Figuring she'd have enough to tell the therapist about her weirdo father without this, I dropped the one-man immersion agenda and switched to a new tack.

I would try to make learning Spanish seem cool.

I'll let you know how it goes.

But one last vestige of my Daddy-as-Spanish-teacher days is that at night, after praying in English with the girls, I say the Lord's Prayer in Spanish, stroking their hair and kissing cheeks along the way. In the twins' room, I walk back and forth between the beds to deliver this affection as I pray. It looks something like this:

"Padre Nuestro, que estás en los cielos--" I lightly scratch Ashlyn's scalp and walk over to Melía, who is lying upside down in her bed.

"Santificado sea tu nombre." I turn Melía upright and smooth her curls back out of her eyes before walking gingerly back to Ashlyn, hoping not to tred upon one of the many homeless toys littering the floor.

"Venga tu reino, hágase tu voluntad--" After squeezing Ashlyn's cheek tight against mine, I return to Melía. I try to run my fingernails over her scalp without pulling it out of the ponytail, since this may be the hairdo she has to live with tomorrow, depending on how late we're running.

"--como en los cielos, así también en la tierra." Back at Ashlyn's bedside, I am either amazed at how fast she falls asleep, or at my foolish commitment to praying over the kicking, screaming fury that has been the storm before her calm since babyhood.

"El pan nuestro de cada día, dánoslo hoy." I walk back across the room, stretch Melía's beloved purple Tinkerbell blanket over her and just for kicks (literally), I try pulling the nice plush bedspread that grandma made up over her legs, just to see if she'll notice. "No! Not dat wow! I don't lite that bwankit!" Duly chastised, I return the comforter to its regular location bunched up at the foot of the bed.

"Y perdónanos nuestras deudas, como nosotros también perdonamos a nuestros deudores." I come back to the face side of the child and sneak as many kisses onto her cheek as I can respectably squeeze into the middle of a prayer. Melía is OK with this.

"No nos metas en tentación, mas líbranos del mal."
I tiptoe back across the room. Ashlyn is nonresponsive now, either because of her ongoing pre-slumber fit or because she's already out. If it's the latter, I get to lay some kisses on her round cheeks. In the case of the former, I really get into this line of the prayer, for temptation is nigh.

"Porque tuyo es el reino--" I pause and make the perilous three-step journey back to Melía and plant a single kiss on her cheek.

"--y el poder--" Back to Ashlyn, who also gets a kiss on the cheek, whether she's dreaming or tantruming.

"--y la gloria--" Melía knows we're in the homestretch now, and is finalizing her plans for how to delay the end. Will it be another trip to the potty? Or a request for a beverage, followed by requests to warm/cool/dry it? Maybe both. I hug her, knowingly.

"--por todos los siglos." Ashlyn gets an indulgently tight squeeze. Unlike her skin-and-bones sisters, her solid frame feels like it can take it. And anyway, she'll sleep through it.

"Amén." One last kiss on Melía's forehead, and I tuck her in under the purple blanket, which she has mostly shed by now. I slide back over to Ashlyn.


A final kiss on Ashie's head, and I am the luckiest man in the world. I have three beautiful angel princess monkey daughters.

And they are now asleep.


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