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Roisel's Story: One Father's Journey as a Heritage Spanish Speaker

One day after Spanish music class, Mi Casa Es Tu Casa® dad, Roisel, stayed a few minutes longer with his daughter, Ave, to tell us the story behind why our song, Un Pajarito, meant so much to him and his family.

It was this detail, and his dedication to parenting, to music, to Spanish, and the ritual of coming to class that made us reach out to him and ask for an interview.

If Spanish is important to your family, if you want to raise a kind and empathetic child, if there are songs that come into your life and seem to speak directly to you, read on.

Getting to Know Mi Casa Es Tu Casa®

Heritage spanish speaking family enjoying spanish music class for toddlers

Roisel takes care of Ave during the day so, when they began at Mi Casa Es Tu Casa® a year ago, it was an activity that Ave did just with her mom in order to give them their own bonding time.

But when Ave’s mom had to leave the country unexpectedly for a period of time, Roisel started attending class with Ave instead.

When I realized I had to take over for my wife, someone who speaks Spanish fluently and who dances on the regular, I was nervous at the idea of having to replace her. After the first class, Ave told me I had to practice more (because I wasn’t at the same level as my wife haha).

Ave’s family has our At-home Spanish Music Program add-on, so Roisel turned to the online video classes as a way of immersing himself and getting comfortable with the music and the flow from one song to the other.

I started to watch the online videos with Ave and we started to learn the songs and dance moves together. It made going to class much easier.

The videos are very well done. They are like high-quality little TV shows. The people you see in the videos are the teachers you see in class... They also bring you into the world that Mi Casa has created.

Roisel was willing to step out of his comfort zone in order to prioritize their family’s goal of integrating Spanish and music into Ave’s upbringing. And more than that – Ave saw him show up, try something new, and practice at it. Seeing her father model that trait is an invaluable, everlasting benefit for her.

Special Connection with Un Pajarito

At the end of every music class, we count down from 10 (in Spanish, of course), lower the lights, and take a few minutes to experience calm time with our little ones during one of our lullaby songs, like Un Pajarito.

This song makes Roisel think of his parents and his daughter. To understand why, you need to know that pajarito means little bird, and ave also means bird in Spanish.

As Roisel explains it:

Un Pajarito, is about a little bird that tells an expecting mother that she is carrying a beautiful miracle that is coming into the world and that the world will never be the same.

online spanish music class for babies screenshot of woman playing guitar sitting on a swing with a bird on her shoulder

My father, whom I didn’t meet because he unexpectedly passed away before I was born, was nicknamed “el pajaro”. My mom told me that having me was the reason she was able to survive the horrendous pain she felt losing him. This song makes me think of the loving words my mom used to describe what I meant to her during that time.

Sadly, Roisel’s mother, Eva, passed away just before Ave was born, but because “Ave” is “Eva” inverted, and because it means bird just like “el pajaro,” in many ways Ave carries both of her grandparents with her.

We call her Avecita, our little bird... Ave was a light for me during that time. She is that beautiful little miracle for us.

Ave will always carry that story about her name with her, providing a connection to family that will always be with her, even if she never got to meet them.

Un Pajarito is also the lullaby song in our class demo if you’re curious about what the At-home Spanish Music Program looks like.

Families in Austin can add it to their in-person class. And families outside of Austin can enroll in the program on its own. It’s a beautiful way to deepen your experience with the music via movement, sign language, games, and connection. You can create an account and try the Demo here.

Mindfulness & Parenting with Mi Casa Es Tu Casa®

When I asked Roisel for a favorite memory from Mi Casa Es Tu Casa®, he chose to share an act of mindfulness Ave had brought home with her from class.

Roisel had been having a bad day and was venting his frustrations in the kitchen. When Ave overheard, she walked up to him and put her hand in his:

She said “daddy, we do this thing at Mi Casa. Would you like to try it?” She stunned me and I said yes. She told me to “take a moment to just feel what I was feeling.” Her statement dislodged me from my reaction and left me speechless. I immediately calmed down…This was the first of many times when Ave shared something she learned about in class at Mi Casa Es Tu Casa®.

These are benefits that we see in toddlers and children who have grown up around Mi Casa Es Tu Casa®. Our secret mission is to be more than just Spanish, Music, Fun, even if that’s what brings families in the door. We are a holistic program that models love, mindfulness, and rituals in a way that supports families as we all navigate this big world.

Next, I asked Roisel what he loved about being Ave’s dad:

There are so many things... watching her grow and learn. Seeing her make mistakes and try again. Having the privilege of being a guide to her as she navigates emotions, experiences, and relationships.

One thing that I cherish is that she challenges me. Once I became a father, once we had Ave, I had this innate motivation to be the best version of me I could be. I want to be a good role model for her.

We’ve also talked to Ave about being new parents and how we are figuring this out as we go. Ave allows us, almost expects us, to learn and adjust. As we work with her on her routines, behaviors, reactions, and being accountable for her actions; she does the same to us. She holds us to the same standards.

As a parent I have an opportunity to be anyone and the person I want to be for my daughter is something I never expected. I am constantly pushing myself beyond my comfort level.

Roisel’s Spanish Language Journey

Every family that comes through Mi Casa Es Tu Casa® has a different relationship with and goals around Spanish. For some families, it’s just a fun experience. Even then, it’s still extremely beneficial for babies to be hearing native Spanish speakers singing and talking in Spanish at such an early age (yay!).

For other families, creating a truly bilingual household is the goal, and Mi Casa Es Tu Casa® is an important factor in that equation.

Roisel is a heritage Spanish speaker who is learning alongside Ave to improve his fluency. Mi Casa Es Tu Casa® helps him do that.

My personal history with Spanish is a bit incomplete. I know that both of my parents spoke Spanish at home before I was born. After my father passed away my mom responded to my siblings in English because they primarily spoke English in school so I never learned Spanish fluently… I would say that making this effort to help Ave learn Spanish is a course correction.

In addition to the classes, Roisel took tips from the Mi Casa Es Tu Casa® blog and YouTube channel, learning ways to incorporate Spanish into his existing routines with Ave.

For example, I started categorizing when I spoke to Ave in Spanish. Along with going to class and watching the online videos, we centered our Spanish-speaking routine around cooking, which was ideal because what we were trying to do was well established. As I spoke to Ave in Spanish she was able to pick up what I was talking about in context because we’ve cooked together many times.

Ave is slowly starting to understand what we are saying. She is starting to say words in Spanish herself. She is so proud of herself when she is able to make herself understood in Spanish!

This YouTube interview we did with linguistics professor and hyper-polyglot Emilie Zuniga, PhD speaks about how to establish your language practices around your routine (often called the Time & Place method).

This blog post has tips specifically for parents who aren’t native Spanish speakers or who don’t have the highest level of Spanish.

Thank you to Roisel for sharing his Mi Casa Es Tu Casa® story in more depth with us. We're grateful to be part of the journey.

If this story resonated with you or you'd like to share anything with us, please leave us a comment below!

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