I landed in Santiago, Chile when I was almost 7 years old. I was a picky eater who desperately missed her Cookie Crisp cereal and the warm weather of Miami. I barely knew how to write in Spanish and was the youngest in my class, with wild hair flying about. I never blended, not even in my teen years when I most craved acceptance.
Seventeen years later, I returned to the States. By then I had not only mastered the art of writing in Español (Spanish), but had made a living out of it as well. I was truly bilingual.
But being bicultural once again made me feel different, especially from those who had only lived in one place. Though I've learned how to adapt and find common ground with others, I am constantly stuck between different worlds. I feel totally American because I was born in the USA and have called it home for the past 15 years, but a part of my heart will always be Chilean, not only because my family lives there, but because that long, skinny country adopted me and shaped who I am in so many ways, for so many years. I am of both cultures.
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And it is this knowledge, this understanding of different worlds, that I want my kids to have no matter where they live.
Raising Bilingual Children
I have two amazing, challenging, bilingual children who are growing up knowing diversity and different cultures. We speak Spanish at home at all times, and yet, they also know English because we live in America. I love the fact that they know both cultures; it's part of who we are as a family.
My days are split between two languages, between tummy aches and "dolores de guata" (tummy ache in Chilean Spanish). I navigate constantly between the stay-at-home and working mom worlds (and no, I don't believe in the mommy wars), between wanting to be perfect and falling short, between blending and standing out.
No soy de aquí ni de allá, says a song in Spanish, literally meaning I'm not from here nor am I from there.
But not fitting in is exactly the point.
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Why not fitting in can work for you
It used to bother me quite a lot. I wondered what was wrong with me. Now this chameleon-like ability actually fills me with satisfaction and empowerment. Thanks to not quite fitting into one tidy, pretty category, I get to step outside of the box every single day, meet and build relationships with diverse people in the most unexpected places. I feel inspired by diversity. And if I were always in my comfort zone, in one clearly defined category, I probably would not even meet half the people I engage with.
So, if you've ever felt something's wrong with you, stop thinking that. And just begin reflecting on what it has enabled you to do. On how it enriches your life. On how unique you are. On the people it has allowed you to meet. Celebrate it.
But never forget that there's nothing wrong with those that do find their own place in ways and areas you don't. We can all co-exist and bring joy into each other's lives, if we just stop wanting others to be like us.
- By Jeannette Kaplun
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Jeannette Kaplun is a Latina mom that co-founded Todobebé, co-hosts the weekly Viva la Familia de Todobebé TV show on Univision and loves to help others even if she doesn't always practice what she preaches. Forever running from one place to another, she's given up on being a perfect mom and has come to terms with the fact that sometimes trying your best is the best you can do. Born in the USA and raised in Chile, she now lives in Miami, Florida with her husband and two children, who are being raised bilingual.
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