The moment when you realize being an adult doesn't come easy. The responsibilities starts to roll when you start to pay for your own bills, make huge financial decisions - such as purchasing a house or car, wash your own clothes and cook your own meals, and that's when it hits you - what happened to your childhood?
As I grasp onto the memories of my childhood and the days when I played in the muddy park, searching for worms, I ask myself what happened to that sweet, tomboy little girl who wasn't afraid to get dirty with the boys? The memories seem to be faint as it trickles in like droplets. As a child, I didn't understand why I couldn't play with the boys and why I had to wear a dress. When I tore a hole in my first stocking, I was afraid to tell my mother that was playing at the park while waiting for my pre-K bus, I tore my stocking while climbing on the monkey bars.
The expectations that I've perceived to notice was that girls like myself, who talk and looks like me, was taught to be modest as well as to speak in a sweet-toned manner where the elders would see you as a "good respectable child" and to save the parents face of being good parents. I felt as though I was forced to grow up fast to please my parents and others around me.
Though young, unlike the other girls, I knew I was different, shy but yet very outspoken. I didn't enjoy many of the gatherings relatives would host every weekend. I was too claustrophobic and there was no where to stand, especially in a single-family home that went over capacity of 100 guests. While leaning against a wall, I would hope to be invisible enough for no one to realize that I was there. In the background I would remember listening to all the gossip the older women talk about. They would complain about other women, their husbands, their children, other relative's children, and non-stop bullshit. And when they kid around saying that one day, I will be a good young Hmong wife to a Hmong man, I would slyly blush and smile knowing that would please them. Girls as young as myself were constructed and groomed to be obedient, it was considered, well-behaved. By age 9, older woman would teach me how to butcher a chicken, cook a meal for my family and had responsibilities with house chores. All I knew was that, this was normal. I would get pinched on the side of my stomach and be told I'm too fat or getting chubby. I was only 8 years old and weighed less then an average American kid, a measly 40 to 45 pounds. The elderly women had no filter, whatsoever, unknowingly that it could eventually deteriorate and effect my confidence and self-esteem as I got older. I get creep out by male relatives who ask me who my parents are. To me, they look like pedophiles. I never really understood the reason why they ask the question. Maybe I was ignorant, naïve and uneducated about my own culture. In all honesty, I wanted to getaway.
There are many similar stories like mine about my family background. The Hmong's participation in the Vietnam War that caused them to flee their homeland. Unfortunately, every individual has a story of their own, similar but different. As for my parents, they went through all the hardship by adapting to this new country as they thrived to survive, they use their skills and abilities from their native land. They attended high school like many others and ambitiously enough, completed associate degrees at local community colleges.
As a second generation born and raised in Minnesota, I couldn't understand why I wasn't able to do the things normal American kids were doing. Fortunate enough, we had a little more freedom and adapted to Americanized our lifestyle than many other Hmong immigrant families. In 1st grade, my first best friend was white, I'll call her Amy. Amy and I were like peanut butter and jelly. We stick together so perfectly and did everything together, even got in trouble together. We both love cats, in which we always played cats and dogs with the boys. The boys, of course, were the dogs. Coincidently, we shared the same birthday. One day she handed me an invitation to her birthday party. Oh boy, was I ecstatic! I've only read and seen pictures of how real birthday parties look like but had never experienced areal friends' birthday party. My anticipation grew as I sprint home after being dropped off by the bus. I excitedly announced it to my mother about my best friend's birthday party that upcoming weekend. Sadly enough, only to be shut down from my own mother saying I wasn't able to attend. Jaws dropped, I can clearly hear the firm and short answer given to me, "No." Confused and saddened, I continuously asked why, but there was no reason given. As a child, I cried because of the hurt, and embarrassed that the next day, I will have to tell her I wasn't able to attend. Even though this was the first time my mother had said no, I was taught at that age where there were many more disappointments I'll face.
To this day, I realized that I'm still that little tomboy girl who still likes to play in the dirt but deathly afraid of insects and worms. I have found the love for my culture even though there are things I oppose, I will respect it. My parents have kept me humble, selfless, and shown kindness to others, even if they treat you like shit. Show them humility, because we are all human. I still hate large gatherings. When an elderly woman tells me I'm fat, my loud unfiltered mouth will sarcastically and humbly say, "Thank you, you as well", and walk away tall and proud. I realized that putting a smile on your face and showing others that you're happy the way you are is the biggest weapon you can use. I still race the boys and have the love for cars yet I'm still as feminist as it comes. I may not be a wife to an Asian man but I am grateful to be a good wife regardless of race. I understand that as an adult, my parents was trying to protect me and my siblings from the world the way they were raised but also wanted my us to become the American Dream. We were hidden from the negatives of the world only to find out later in life that, this world needs help in many ways.
I understand that many people have a different upbringing than I do, and respectfully, others opinion doesn't matter to me about my own upbringing. I make no judgment in anyone's culture, race, or decisions in life. We all have an identity of where we come from and our own cultural beliefs. The life given, is a way to be thankful. Some people may be unfortunate to go through struggles of abuse, violence, loneliness, etc., but embrace what you have and find a solution of hope and disparity. At this point of my life, I question many things. One of my question would be, if a decision I made never happened, happen. How would I be living my life today? You may hear the good ol' saying, "Live with no regrets because the decision you make today will determine your tomorrow."
The nostalgic childhood memories has emboldened me to be who I am, and I will always be that little girl with no fear.
© 2016 Cherish with Chia
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