Posted on May 19, 2005

Bringing Up Los Ninos

Robert Stacy McCain, Washington Times, May 13

Mimi Towle had a problem shared by an increasing number of American parents: communicating with a nanny who barely speaksEnglish. “There were some incidents where I didn’t feel clear on things — ‘How long did you put her down for a nap?’ There were just things that got lost in the translation,” Mrs. Towle said.

The former fact-checker for Parenting magazine says she was familiar with “every bad scenario of what could happen with a child,” but was surprised to find that bookstores in her suburban community near San Francisco — where Hispanic nannies are commonplace — didn’t have any guide to Spanish phrases about diapers and bottles, rashes and fevers.

So she wrote “Bilingual Babycare: Bridging the Communication Gap Between Parents and Caregivers,” a book whose publishing success has highlighted shifts in American demographics and lifestyles.

Now in its second printing, Mrs. Towle’s book includes hundreds of helpful phrases like, “El es muy especial para comer” (“He is a picky eater”), “Creo que ella tiene popo” (“I think she has a dirty diaper”), and “Puedo verificar sus documentos legales?” (“May I check your legal papers?”).

Providing this helpful information has provoked some unexpected reactions, publisher Oli Mittermaier said.

“Of all the titles we publish, this is the only one . . . that has received some negative response,” said Mr. Mittermaier, co-founder of San Francisco-based Lilaguide, which specializes in books for new parents, including “Baby-Friendly Washington DC Area.”

On Internet book sites such as, anonymous reviewers have assailed Mrs. Towle for perpetuating “useless stereotypes” of Hispanics as “uneducated and fit for only low-skill, low-wage jobs,” or accused her of pandering to “upper-crust wives” needing advice on how to “survive their domestic trials and tribulations.”