Recently my sister posted a video about growing up with parents who speak broken English. When I first started watching it I thought, wow, how incredibly selfish of them to be turning their parent’s hardships into their own. Not even half way through I was about to turn it off until a girl started crying about how she never had help writing those English papers. I broke down, had snot coming out my nose and mascara streaks going down my cheeks. It hit me hard, I never thought about the troubles I went through, I always thought it would be too selfish to do that. The amount of pain they went through is nowhere equal to what I’m dealing with, so why complain? It wasn’t until this video that I realized, I have never spoken out about what it was like growing up with parents that couldn’t help me with my English papers or with spelling or understanding legal documents. I had to teach myself, along with teaching them after I figured it out.
A little background on my family, we’re originally from Croatia (east of Italy – see here), moved to Germany and then had to move to the United States (long story, message me if you’re interested in finding out the details). We moved to Minnesota on July 7th, 1998, I had two months to learn English before starting school. Luckily, as children we’re able to pick up on foreign languages very quickly (it’s quiet crazy how quickly actually, if you have children, sign them up for a foreign language class, you’ll be shocked!). By September I was speaking English fluently (well, with some trouble, but I was doing pretty well) and was all ready to start Kindergarten. So we all know what happens when you start school, you have homework… to do homework for the very first time you usually have the assistance of your parents. Well, mine obviously did not understand English nor did they know how to write in English. But, my dear mother was always there supporting me and trying her best to help in any way.
I spent my childhood helping my parents fill out legal documents, applications, writing emails, reading, etc. everything a normal kid never has to worry about. Trust me, I threw those temper tantrums a couple times on why I had to do this? Why couldn’t they just figure it out? But shortly after my second tantrum I saw the look of disappointment on their faces. My mom cried and apologized and just asked if I could please help them, my dad just looked down and apologized that I had to do this as a kid. And trust me, I never complained about it again and learned to accept that this is just a part of my life. That this is my norm now and to never look at it as a burden.
(My lovely parents on our family vacation to Nevada)
No one knows the emotional take it has on you when you have to watch your parents being discriminated time and time again. The feeling you get when you watch your mom come home distraught because a customer or coworker laughed at her after she pronounced something incorrectly. Or the amount of times that my dad would walk away from situations ashamed of himself because someone’s mission in life was to make him feel two inches tall for being a foreigner. I grew up watching the same look on peoples face when my parents spoke, they would squint their eyes, scrunch their forehead and say, “what, I don’t understand you?” in this disturbed voice. I don’t know how many times my parents asked me to go to the store with them just so I could speak for them and they wouldn’t have to experience discrimination for that day.
But, never did I take the time to understand the tole this all had on me until that video my sister posted. While writing this I keep thinking about all the ways it affected me negatively and just keep realizing that it didn’t. Sure, times were not easy, they still aren’t, but wow have I grown to be a strong individual that is always ready to tackle any battle. I can honestly say that the most rewarding thing in my life thus far has been watching my parents become literally the strongest people I have ever met. They’re people that could take ten bullets to the chest and still keep walking, because they have always learned to just keep moving and to never let someone tear you down. If it wasn’t for them, my sister and I wouldn’t be the people we are today.
Now, if you think that we all just hid in our house away from all those foreign-people-haters, you thought wrong. My parents opened a Bistro, where we even made a cake for the Governor and Minnesota’s 150th birthday! Now my dad is kicking butt as a Bodyguard! Mom is running a tight shift as a Kitchen Manager. I went to school to become a Graphic Designer and stayed on the Dean’s List year after year and now have an amazing job doing what I love (and of course this amazing blog!). My sister is majoring in law enforcement and is currently working a job that normally a 20 year old would never get. Super proud! We all have such beautiful and wonderful lives that it’s crazy to think how it all got started and what we had to go through.
To all of you that didn’t grow up in a broken english home, take this time to understand what that coworker, friend, classmate, is going through and learn to have patience and appreciation for how hard they have had to work their entire lives. And remember, next time you mock their accent or laugh at how they say certain words, that’s actually hurting them, even if they have a face that doesn’t show it. And to all of you that can relate to this 100%, I want you to know that it’s okay to express how you felt/feel. Reach out to me and let’s chat! I want to hear your story!
For the wonderful video that inspired this blog post – click here!
Thanks everyone for taking the time to read this!