Last week I helped out in Gabe’s kindergarten class during a lesson on writing poetry. His teacher began with an example on the board, entitled Mi mamá. His class is bilingual and his teacher speaks mostly Spanish in class.
The kids volunteered descriptions of their moms – mi mamá es buena, mi mamá es linda. Mi mamá es divertido. You get the idea. At one point his teacher accidentally used English instead of Spanish and she quickly corrected herself. Then the kids took a turn writing their own poems, mostly about their moms. Everybody’s mom was nice, fun, pretty. Spanish speakers wrote in Spanish, English speakers in English, and there was no mixture.
It bugged me. Sure, I like being the nice, pretty, fun mom. But I don’t always pull it off. I often have to yell at the kids to get them to put on their coats in the morning just to get them to school on time. Sometimes I get really angry. Just a couple of weeks ago, Gabe told me that he likes to get to school because his teacher is nicer than me. The screaming stops when he gets to school. Somehow that truth just didn’t fit with the poem he wrote about me.
Later on in the day I came back to school for Anna’s Brownie meeting. While we cut out paper snowflakes, one of the girls announced that she never wants to be a mom. “Moms have to do all the work,” she complained. I nodded but didn’t say anything. I want the girls to speak their minds like that, even when it leaves me feeling sad. It’s true – moms have to do a lot of work. But we also get hugs, kisses on the butt, even poetry. “Trust me, it’s worth it,” part of me wanted to tell her.
I want my kids to know that being a mom is hard. I want them to fear parenthood a little, because it is a huge responsibility. I also want them to know that poetry isn’t only for sunshine and butterflies, but a place where they can get messy and real, where they can play with the good and the bad parts of life. I want them to pull all their feelings out and never worry about being nice or perfect. I want them to mix it up. Honestly, I hope that someday they curse me in Spanglish.