How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

'They do this for their children': More on what immigrant parents tell their kids (or don't)

For those who are children of immigrants, what sort of conversations took place in your home growing up when your parents talked about why they came to the United States? Did they ever talk about the sacrifices they made, the opportunities they hoped you'd have?

There's a conversation that occurs in the Oscar-nominated film "A Better Life" that has sparked a good discussion on this site, with readers writing in about their personal experiences. In the scene in the film, an undocumented gardener named Carlos Galindo, played by actor Demián Bichir, relates his hopes to his teenage son:

“You are the most important thing in this world to me, mijo. I wanted you to be able to be anything you wanted to be. That would make me feel worthy, if you became somebody.”


"That is what every immigrant parent tells his kid,” tweeted reader Cesar Zambrano after watching the clip, kicking off the conversation thread.

As the child of immigrants, is there pressure to do well? Definitely. And never mind the Tiger Mother, as it's fairly universal. The methods of communicating it may vary, and some parents may be more vocal about it than others, but the pressure is there in one way or another.

Is there inspiration, a learned work ethic, gratitude? That, too. Sometimes, it comes along years later. My immigrant mother worked two jobs for a while, which helped pay my Catholic school tuition. She never complained about it, though I probably did, because I didn't see her much. She'd return from her day job, grab a quick bite and leave again for her evening shift at a drugstore. Now that I'm older, I realize how much she'd rather have been home with her family.

Here is what a few others shared yesterday (with very slight copyedits). A reader who posted as "a" wrote of the pressure:

I had these conversations constantly growing up.

As terrible as it sounds, I've grown immune to it. Everything - from getting B's instead of A's or for being a little too loud or rowdy, or just in the middle of a quiet dinner - my father, especially my father, would talk about "breaking his back" or the way he's "killing himself" for my sister and I. All the sacrifices... so many sacrifices, he and my mother had to make!

I'm 21 and I carry those words not as a motivating and inspring force in my life, but as a burden that sags like a heavy load.


Szahedi wrote:

My sister's family moved here 4 years ago. Now she and her husband, one a urologist and other a dentist, have to start over and are at school. Life is very hard for them having 3 kids and trying to survive. But I can see that they do this for their children more than anything. They want these kids to grow up knowing the meaning of freedom.


Jairomedal wrote:

I was 12 years old when I immigrated to El Norte. I believe that a dad or parent shouldn't tell their kids their sacrifices. I will, however, tell my kids, daughter what it took me to be in this country, the borders I had to cross, the people God put in my way to help me the long journey, mountains, rivers, hunger, sickness, cold, eternal walks, fear, the dark.

Moments I value to this day, who makes me appreciate what I have become and continue each day as an opportunity to achieve our goals. Sacrifices for my children perhaps not, but understanding the values they have right now as opposed to what I had.


Earlier this week, Miguel Corona wrote:

While I don’t remember my parents ever having a conversation like this with me – they really didn’t have to. We as a family knew about their sacrifice. We saw how hard they worked for us. They were the first to rise in the morning before the sun came up and the last to turn off the lights at the end of the day.


More thoughts, anyone? What if any conversations like these took place in your home? How did they make you feel then, and what kind of effect did they have in the long run?

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