I Never Fully Appreciated My Immigrant Parents — Until Now

Ad failed to load

Being an immigrant in America has never been easy. Xenophobia and racism have reigned supreme since Europeans first arrived and deemed indigenous peoples "savages." Over the next few centuries, various populations have endured the brunt of this hatred. African Americans were brought over as slaves. Chinese, Germans, Japanese, Irish, and Italian immigrants arrived and face systemic prejudice. And today, many of the same populations who were once oppressed have now become the oppressors. Muslim, middle eastern, and Latinx immigrants are now facing unfathomable and systemic bigotry. That's why I know I’ll never be able to thank my own immigrant parents enough for the sacrifices they made in coming to the States in search of a better life.

I was born in Miami, FL, a city composed mostly of immigrants. Despite my lifelong complaints about my hometown being too hot, too humid, and too buggy, there is so much about this undeniably magical city that I love. One of those things, of course, is how diverse it is. Miami is such an immigrant enclave, in fact, that I never really felt like much of an outsider. We were all from “somewhere else,” or at the very least our parents or grandparents were, so it wasn't odd to have originated from somewhere other than the continental United States. My parents and I, for lack of a better term, simply fit in.

Giphy
Ad failed to load

It wasn’t until I got older that I began to realize how we were seen by a plethora of other people in this country. And it wasn’t until the past few years that I realized just how much hatred some folks harbor for people like my parents. They call us lazy, then they blame us for stealing their jobs. They say we’re dangerous, but then they take over our neighborhoods. They tell us to go back to our countries, yet we were either born here or have adopted this place as our own, building it up to be the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. But while this did not become apparent to me until much later in life, I know my parents have known this reality for quite some time.

They tell us to go back to our countries, yet we were either born here or have adopted this place as our own, building it up to be the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

My father arrived in the country in the early 1980s. He and my mother had gotten married in Nicaragua during the Sandinista Revolution, but he was forced to leave when his own life was in danger for refusing to continue to take part in the war. As my mother was pregnant with my older brother, my dad had to leave her behind with the promise to send for her. He came here without knowing when he would see her again, or if he would ever meet his son. While he did not speak English, he found what work he could in construction, making the best of every opportunity available to him.

Ad failed to load
Giphy

My parents spent over three years apart to build a better life for themselves and their son. Eventually, my dad was able to save enough to help get my mother and brother travel to the United States. He doesn't discuss the years they spent apart these days, but I can’t imagine it was easy for him. Miami in the 1980s was not the Latino hub it is today. People like my father were just getting started, establishing their lives and businesses in a place that let them know, with reckless abandon, that they weren't welcome. They heard the slurs thrown their way, and there were few protections for marginalized people. And, of course, there were people that made my father and other minorities aware of their “place” in the United States; a place for "the other."

She was a young mother doing everything she could to raise two kids in a foreign country where people didn’t always take kindly to people like her.
Ad failed to load

Still, my father learned the language as best he could. He worked hard and slowly rose through the ranks, learning all he could in his new profession. Eventually he took on supervising roles, and earned the respect of his employers and co-workers. Meanwhile, my mother gave birth to me and raised my brother and I the best she could, away from the only friends and family she'd ever known. This was decades ago, before we had smartphones and Facebook, or Skype and FaceTime and Snapchat. There wasn’t even a phone at my abuelitos’ (grandparents’) house in Nicaragua that my mother could call to check in on her parents, or to let them know she was OK and ask them for parenting advice. She could only rely on letters sent in the mail to give and receive news of her family. She was a young mother doing everything she could to raise two kids in a foreign country where people didn’t always take kindly to people like her.

In other words, she was braver than I’ll probably ever have to be.

Giphy
Ad failed to load

My parents left their homeland because things were difficult and dangerous, sure. But they also left their home country and happily stayed in America because they knew my brother and I would have many more opportunities than we ever would have been provided in the tiny town of Corinto. They stayed and worked hard to give us, their children, a better future. They wanted us to have a home we could rely on, so they saved and scraped everything they could to finally buy a house. They wanted us to graduate high school, and so they supported us every step of the way and throughout our educational careers until we did. They wanted us to go to college, and while they lacked the ability to create college funds for us, they always inspired us and pushed us to learn until we finally got our diplomas. They wanted us to have careers someday, to do something that would sustain us and maybe make a difference in the world, and to never feel limited. And, because of their hard work and constant sacrifice, we are.

My parents came from so very little. I’ve seen the home my mother grew up in, and the impoverished town where she and my father met and fell in love. I know that their electricity often went out and their water mains would cut out for hours or days at a time. I grew up modestly, often sharing a single room with my whole family, but now my son has his own room. We had no family vacations growing up, but I’ve had the chance to drive my son across the country and stay in fancy hotel rooms with him. I take him to races and theater performances, outdoor concerts and movies galore. I wore my cousin’s hand-me-downs for the majority of my childhood, but my parents now send over designer brand outfits for my son — not because they’re show offs or snobs, but because they are so proud of what they are able to give him; to see the fruits of their labor presented to their only grandson. Even when they struggle, because they still sometimes do, they do what they can to give their children and grandchildren every luxury they never dreamed of while growing up in Central America.

Giphy
Ad failed to load

How could any child of immigrants thank their parents enough for the sacrifices they made? When I think of the people who, today, feel emboldened to tell Black and Brown people to “go back where they came from,” or this current administration passing legislation that separates immigrant families, all I can think of is, “That could have been us." And it could have been. It could have been us.

When I think of the people who, today, feel emboldened to tell Black and Brown people to “go back where they came from,” or this current administration passing legislation that separates immigrant families, all I can think of is, “That could have been us."

My parents continue to stay in this country because this is where their grandchildren live, and they don’t want to be too far away. They continue to sacrifice and continue to give their growing families everything they can, and despite living in a place that could prove to be even more dangerous for them should the palpable hatred of immigrant families continues to grow. And make no mistake, my parents are just one example of the immigrant experience; of the people who truly make this country a great place for everyone and not just for those with deep pockets.

Ad failed to load

If it weren’t for my parents, I would not be able to write this today. I wouldn't have the luxury to pursue a career in writing, my dream job since I was a child. I would not be able to work while raising a child who has never wanted for anything.

And that is why, no matter how much time passes, I’ll never be able to thank my immigrant parents enough.

Ad failed to load

Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherlode, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

The Entire Family Can Enjoy These Movies & Shows Coming To Netflix In June

It's just one of those sad facts of life: every month, shows and movies vanish from Netflix, their varied excitements no longer at your fingertips. But luckily the streaming service is always prepared to fill that content void with lots of new things…
By Megan Walsh

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at Names.org recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

8 Fascinating Facts About Babies Born In May, The Luckiest Month Of All

The height of all things fresh and springy, May is an excellent month to have a baby. It's a time of growth, graduations, and outdoor celebrations. And these fascinating facts about May babies will give you more reasons than ever to appreciate childr…
By Lindsay E. Mack

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills
)}