Thanks to some great friends, we have an all-day Spanish play date every Thursday this summer. My hope is that it helps reduce the shock of immersion school, and the fact he’s with a few classmates in his upcoming first grade class is an extra bonus. Nuevos amigos! New friends!
This was our first week. I was so excited. Really I could hardly sleep with the anticipation, and maybe a hint of anxiety. We were about to get a glimpse of what is to come this fall – our almost first grader’s reaction to a day without English. All activities are lead by a Spanish speaking woman. Kids can speak either language to each other, but the teacher only speaks in Spanish.
It was at a local farm this week. The kids fed the animals, rode a pony, colored, and played. The weather was perfect. Good times! New friends!
I was counting the minutes to head back to get him. Anxious for a full report, I arrive a few minutes early. Kids are running, jumping, playing, laughing, and (not) chasing the chickens. My son is on the swing. He is sitting alone, quietly pushing himself with one foot. He’s in deep thought. I am a bit worried.
I get the feedback about the day from a friend (and owner of the farm) and my sister, who graciously spent the day helping out and putting her fluency in Spanish to good use. All is great. He’s spent the day making nuevos amigos. The kids were excited to learn they’d be together this fall. They played hard, had a great time. I exhale. Less worry. “It will be an interesting few months,” I hear from someone who has been through this new-to-immersion journey we are entering. Not sure exactly what “interesting” means, but I can let my imagination run wild. I want to know more. I’m a planner. I don’t like surprises.
I call to my quiet boy. “Come! Tell me about your day!” I am all smiles. He shuffles his feet, walks to me. I bend down to hug him and he’s like a warm blanket, draped across me. He’s exhausted. “How was it?” I whisper. “Great!” He replies. There is genuine excitement. “Let’s go home,” he says quietly, and walks slowly to the car. And I get it. His mind is jello. I know that feeling, after a long day of studying, when all I want to do is absolutely nothing.
Later, he says, “I just don’t know what they are saying. I don’t know what to say back.” Me neither, I think to myself. I tell him that while he doesn’t know right now, his brain is learning and soon he will know. I tell him he is so tired because his brain is working hard. Like his muscles are working hard when he’s running. It’s like that. He nods.
At bedtime that night he wants to read his English/Spanish dictionary. I’m relieved. He’s not overwhelmed. His desire to learn more is so natural, so instinctual, so powerful. We play a game, “Mom, do you know how to say ‘___’ in Spanish?!” He reads the English word to me he’s found in the dictionary. My answer is always, “No.” He reads me the Spanish word, proud of himself he’s teaching me. My heart is glowing. We are jumping in.
And tonight, after stories and hugs and kisses, I get up to leave his room and he says:
“Buenas noches, Mama.”