Two mothers on creating taonga with te reo Māori
Celebrating a new series of the beloved Reo Pēpi bilingual board books, we have essays from Kitty Brown (Ngāi Tahu) who creates the books with her cousin Kirsten Parkinson, and Helen Steemson, a Pākehā mum determined to share te reo with her Māori son.
Recently, my two-year-old spoke her first words in te reo Māori. I was elated. However, not long afterward her cognitive development surpassed my reo skills. My struggle to keep up with her need for language means she now defaults to English first, most of the time, like me. It brings tears to my eyes sometimes when I say “Watch out bub!” and then, “Ata haere e kō!”
I have accepted the reality that I will probably never be a fluent speaker of te reo Māori. Instead, I will be a lifelong second-language learner. I’ll be one of those aunties that shouts “Horoi ō taringa!” at dinnertime. Maybe I already am.
I’m an admirer of those with the reo. I know people who have spent their lives in recovering the language. Years in formal education settings and on marae, piecing it back together. Structuring a social life that can support the language. And making whānau choices that nurture te reo.