My seventh grade daughter Lucia is taking her first year of Spanish. After a summer of worrying if she'd get Spanish (instead of French of Japanese), Lucia was thrilled to learn that she would be enrolled in her language of choice.
I took Spanish all four years of high school and majored in Spanish is college. I spent a year living in Spain. Sadly I rarely use Spanish in my day-to-day life, but now that Lucia has Spanish homework and quizzes and tests, I speak it much more than I have in the past twenty years.
Lucia is filled with questions about Spanish, "Is there a way to say 'high five' in Spanish?"; "How do people who speak Spanish say 'um'?"; "Why do they use upside down question marks and explanation points in Spanish?" It is so fun to have this new concept to talk about together.
Our neighbor Ella, also in first year Spanish often carpools to soccer with Lucia. At the beginning of the school year, hearing the girls talking about their new language, I implemented a new soccer carpool policy: ¡Solo Español! (Only Spanish).
With ¡Solo Español!, I speak to the girls only in Spanish and they have to try to figure out what I'm saying. I give them lots of hints, do as much hand gesticulating as possible while driving, and I put one of my old Spanish-English dictionaries in the back seat for them to reference (though they'd much rather use their phones.)
Last night after a late practice that finished close to 9pm, driving home I started speaking in Spanish. I talked about the leaves on the trees on Lake Washington turning yellow, red, and orange. Since they had learned colors, after several attempts they were able to deduce that I was talking about the trees. I asked if they were hungry and they could answer, "Sí." I asked if practice was fun and they could say, "Sí, muy bueno."
There were lots of things the girls didn't understand, but we still had a conversation. And, most important, we had fun. I often get so frustrated dealing with areas in my life I don't comprehend fully. I anticipated this feeling yesterday when I called my insurance carrier to figure out where my family will land with Trump's demolition of Obamacare. I went into the call with a sense of dread but I ended up spending an hour-and-a-half on the phone with three incredibly helpful customer service agents. One guy, Owen, said at the beginning of our conversation, "Good. You're asking questions. When you don't understand, keep asking me questions. That's what I'm here for."
We can't be experts in everything. We need each other to learn, especially new things. The idea that learning can be fun is something every parent hopes for their kids--that they are exposed to teachers who are creative and energetic and enthusiastic in ways that give kids joy when they are learning. The idea that learning can be fun is important as an adult too. When I take a yoga class or training, I want to feel excited and engaged. When the teacher gives me enough information to feel like I know what I'm doing and room to be confused and a little bit lost, I am in a situation where I feel safe enough to try new things, to take risks, but also to fail as often as I succeed.
By the end of my talk with Owen, even though I was still a little bit confused when we hung up, I felt great. I felt confident that I'd learned enough (though not everything) and I felt certain that Owen had heard my concerns and given me as much help as he could. I had to send a few more emails and make a few more phone calls, but I wasn't cranky or distraught. I was in a surprisingly good mood.
Last night after soccer when we dropped Ella off around the corner, as she got out of the back seat, I yelled, "Hasta el Sabado," (see you Saturday), and she stammered, "uh, uh?"
Then I tried, "Buenas noches."
Ella looked back from her front walkway, ¿Qué?
"Adios", Lucia and finally yelled together.
"Ohhhhh....Adios", Ella replied with a big fat smile on her face.