Maggie Makes Four!

This journal started off documenting the adoption of our youngest daughter. It now follows the twist and turns of our lives as we raise these two amazing little creatures into the best women they can become.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Doing What Scares You

I'm a firm believer in doing things that scare you.  After all, that's how you grow as a person and if you play it safe, you never really learn.  Anyway, I thought this was my philosophy until it was tested by a five-year-old girl.

A couple of weeks ago, one of Maggie's new friends invited her for a playdate.  Since the Magster is the princess of playdates, this didn't surprise me, but this playdate had a twist:  the invitation came from a non-English speaking family.  In fact, Maggie's friend speaks more English than her mother, though from her mother's smiling face and nodding head, I assumed she knew her daughter was inviting Maggie to their house.   The mother handed me her address written on neatly written on a piece of paper and I realized the second problem:  it was in one of the roughest sections of town.  

Now, if you know where I live, you know there aren't many rough parts of town, but this part is as dicey as it gets here.  While I agreed to the play date, but I was terrified.  I was sending my four year old into an environment where she couldn't communicate in a neighborhood I didn't trust.  

I came home and did some homework.  I checked out the Megan's Law website, the police reports, everything showed there were no problems in the immediate area where Maggie's friend lives.  I asked around school and everyone agreed this family was very nice, not wealthy, but very committed to their children and education. Several people told me the Mom is a very outspoken member of the Latina community, who is learning English, and highly respected among the DI teachers as a strong advocate for Spanish speakers.  From being in the class, I knew her daughter was very bright, polite and immaculately dressed every day.  (Better dressed than Maggie if we're being honest.)  But was this enough information to leave my daughter at their house for a playdate?

As the date approached, I lost sleep.  Maggie's been on loads of play dates and I realized my discomfort over my inability to talk to the Mom beyond a simple Hello was eating me up.  Maggie was looking forward to going, and when I explained the language barrier to her, she insisted she spoke Spanish.  (This after four weeks of DI--please!)  

I decided if I could see the apartment and if it was okay, I would let her stay.  So, at the appointed day and time I took Maggie to her friend's house.  As we wove our way through the apartments, it was like we entering in a foreign country.  Latino radio and television programs blared from open windows.  Rainbows of laundry hung from windows.  Half-clad toddlers scooted about the walkways with their mothers close behind.  Everyone shot Maggie and I strange looks.  No doubt we looked as out of place as I felt.  

Once we found the apartment, we went in.  Maggie's friend's Mom was reading a book in Spanish to three or four school kids.  (She babysits after school.)  Her place was immaculate.  Her baby was asleep in a worn bassinet in the corner, a couple of fish tanks filled with clean water and dozens of fish sat in another.  There was music on, but no television anywhere I could see.  She greeted us with a big smile, took Maggie by the hand and showed her where the bathroom was, handed her a cup for water with her name written on it, and introduced her to the other kids.  Then told me to be back in an hour.  

My knees shook as I walked away and pulling from the parking lot was probably the hardest thing I've ever done.  But I did it.  When I went back in an hour, Maggie was glad to see me.  She was clutching a small purple box of Mexican candy.  She said thank you to her friend and her Mom told me in Spanish, Maggie had been well-behaved.  (At least, I think that's what she said.)  

As we got into the car, I asked Maggie if she had fun.  

"It was hard," she answered.

So I asked her what that meant. 

"Mom, they didn't speak any English and my Spanish isn't so good," she said.

I smiled.  She was fine, she had fun and she even showed me a new game she learned at her friends all in Spanish.   

Next time, we'll do the play date at our house and I wonder if the Mom will have the same hard time I did.  Probably.  She'll be in the same situation I was. She doesn't know me or my neighborhood or anything about my culture.  I've been wondering what I can do to make it easier on her.  She really does seem like a nice woman.  

But I've come to this conclusion, if we, the parents, aren't willing to trust our gut, act on faith and get out of our comfort zone,  then why bother with the dual immersion education?  


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