We've been living here in the mid-South for close to three years now. When we moved from Chicago to Nashville, my son was in Pre-K and now, he's going to be in second grade this coming school year. Three years. Three years was all it took for what I've long dreaded to finally happen.
I think my son has begun to pick up the Southern accent. **(Insert Psycho
I've already detected a bit of it about a year and a half ago, but I dismissed it. I thought it was just a few isolated words that can easily be corrected, undone. I mean, can you imagine MY shock...Me...Moi --- a person who has English as her second language, and therefore was taught to pronounce and enunciate words properly and clearly --- when I heard my then Kindergartner utter 'sinins' when what he meant to say was 'sentence' ?!!
And then yesterday, I asked him to summarize a story I had him read. It was "The Elves and the Shoemaker". He said "The old couple was poor", but when he said "poor", it sounded more like "pore" / or "pour". The same goes when he says the word "tour". It comes out as "tore". I had to have him say it repeatedly with a more pronounced "oo" sound, as in "zoo", or "too".....pooooor..... It took us about five times before he said it correctly. Wow.
It's not that I'm putting the Southerners down and being snooty here, although I realize that it's how it seems right now. My 'rejection' of it stems from the fact that it's just not who we are. My husband never lived in the south up until three years ago when we moved here. I'm definitely not from here and I can assure you that the English I learned from the Philippines absolutely has no hint of being Southern. In other words, I'm probably threatened (or perhaps even offended) by the obvious fact that my son is being highly influenced by his teachers and his peers, more so than by his own family, at least in terms of language. More importantly, I feel threatened and sad that it's as if he's acquired yet another layer that covers up his Filipino-ness. He's not just an American now. He's also a Southerner.
Which brings me yet to another point. I reject the stereotypes that might eventually be attached to my son for being (and sounding like) a Southerner. If I can help it, and God knows I will try and fight to the death, he'll never turn into any of the following, all of which are Southern stereotypes:
*(Please note that I'm not saying that this is true for ALL American Southerners)*
(1) a hick or a redneck
(2) a gun lover
(3) racist or any type of bigot
(4) one who wears western boots
(Sorry, but I won't be caught dead wearing those either!)
(5) an ultra-conservative Republican
(7) anti-equality / pro-slavery
(8) a Christian fundamentalist who refuses to believe what science has to say about evolution, and can't reconcile faith and science
Change is inevitable. We all know that. Whether I like it or not, my son will become someone other than just an aggregation of my husband and myself. I know that his socialization experiences are ongoing and there will be many, many times when what he'll see and learn from others will conflict with what I want him to learn from our family.
I suppose this is why 'Choose your battles wisely' is a very popular parenting advice. Maybe I'll let him keep his Southern accent, as long as he doesn't reject learning Tagalog (Filipino). Maybe I'll let him wear cowboy hats and boots, as long as he doesn't think guns are 'cool' or 'macho' or invokes some twisted interpretation of the Second Amendment and becomes a fan of the NRA. Maybe I'll just let him be; let him mutate the way nature intended, with the hope and a million prayers that he will grow up to be a wise, compassionate and happy Filipino-American-Southern man. At the very least, the reality is that at the end of the day, all of us parents really just want our kids to be kept alive, out of jail, and straitjacket free.
What changes have you seen in your own children that made you wish they had a reset button?