My adorable son is currently in a Disney phase. Of course, this is encouraged by his mom and papi’s extreme love of Walt Disney World, where we took our first vacation together and then went two additional times in four years… before we had kids.
One day at about 2.5 years old, he had the stomach flu, so I put in Peter Pan. Since he started crawling, he’s been pulling DVD’s out of the entertainment center and looking at the pictures on the covers but I had never tried to sit him down for a movie.
After a solid month of Peter Pan obsession, I had a terrible cold and due to one of the endless Minnesota Spring snow storms, my mother was not able to come down and help me with the two little ones. Digging out a pile of Golden Books from my youth, we read Cinderella. He loved the mice and the magic of “Bibbidi Bobiddi Boo.” What does a sick mom do to buy herself at least a few minutes of resting time when home alone with a toddler? Yep, this mom broke out a “new” movie and popped Cinderella in to the DVD player.
Now, I know there is a school of thought out there about Disney “Princess” movies not being for boys. First of all, there are very few Disney full-length animated features without “scary” parts, despite the typical G-rating. Sleeping Beauty has, not only an evil sorceress, but a terrifying, fire-breathing dragon. Beauty and the Beast‘s Beast has some dark, angry outbursts. The queen in Snow White is far from friendly-looking, and the movie is scattered with dark moments. Even The Fox and the Hound has some pretty scary scenes with a bear and the hunter.
Cinderella has actually very few “princess” parts and has virtually no parts that can be construed as scary in my toddler’s mind. When he watched the story, he fell in love with the mice, Gus and Jaq, and laughed hysterically as they
played tricks on “that naughty kitty Lucifer.” In the book, he thought the words “Bibbidi Bobiddi Boo” were silly and giggled when I read them. In the last two months he has watched Cinderella at least 20 times, usually playing the part of the Grand Duke trying glass slippers on his little sister, “Cinderella” and me, “Drizella” or “Anastasia” depending on the day.
One evening last week, we were watching the movie as a family while playing. The fairy godmother scene came on and my son paused and listened as she spoke to Cinderella. All of a sudden he asked me, “Mommy, what is a spell?” Surprised, since I had not even noticed the word in the movie before, I explained as best I could. I noticed an odd-look on my husband’s face but brushed it off. Later, as we were going to bed, he turned to me and said “I’m afraid he will ask me a question like that and I can’t answer it.”
Now, honestly, most of the time I no longer even remember that English isn’t my husband’s first language. His fluency is amazing and his accent seems to be diminishing daily. It surprised me to hear his voice filled with worry over not knowing a word. I think there is a deep-rooted fear in all parents that, one day, our children will view us as unintelligent and lose respect for us. The fear appears more frequently in my husband as my son ages, his vocabulary expands, and his curiosity grows.
We define my son’s small world in to Mommy’s words (English) and Daddy’s words (Spanish) and he can readily recognize each. We have a growing Spanish children’s book collection, but most of our children’s books are in English. When my husband does the night time routine of reading a couple books with our son, he often has to translate from English to Spanish as he reads. He admits this is getting progressively difficult as my son grows and starts being able to sit still through longer, more densely worded books. If his dad pauses too long to think he quickly gets bored and starts fidgeting.
Besides telling our son to “ask mom when she gets home” when faces with an unknown word, I’m not sure how to help my husband with his concern. His own vocabulary is expanding daily also, and I need to be more aware and conscientious of his concerns and the fact that English is his second language. Does that mean I should be more sympathetic and understanding when we have marital miscommunications? I’ll need to think about that a little more.