Rap, My Mama and Fitting in


May 13, 2013 by Katia

I have a confession to make. I’ve never tried drugs. That’s right, people that are still here. WTF, I know. And you thought I was cool, well, I’m sorry if the two of you feel misled. I think that a big part of it was growing up in an atmosphere where the need to fit in wasn’t the number one priority – not that this is the only reason people do drugs. I am not saying that I’m above the need to belong, either, because you know, Pope much? I was actually never diagnosed but I’m pretty sure that if someone bothered, I’d be classified as suffering from Acute Need to Fit In Disorder, it’s just that I didn’t experience it growing up as severely as I did later in life. I don’t recall having any educational conversations with my mom about fitting in, but I’m sure that observing her behaviour had something to do with my approach.

My newish immigrant mom never went out of her way to become one of the locals. Other than my friend, Katya, I’m 99.9% sure I was the only other Katia growing up in Tel-Aviv in the 80’s, although there were definitely some Katia-born Cathys who converted to coolness. To make matters worse – I was the only Katia with a cat called Trishka. To make matters Worsest – I was the only Katia with a cat named Trishka and a canary bird called Fofa. So I was Katia, but kids still wanted to befriend me.



While other clandestinely Russian kids roamed around calling themselves Cathy and speaking Hebrew only with their heavily accented parents and non-understanding grandparents, I was also the only one among my peers, who fluently and openly spoke Russian to her parents. It’s not that I didn’t try to rebel but my mom, grandma and auntie, grandma’s sister, never wavered and always insisted on correcting me whenever I inserted a Hebrew word or spoke Russian with an “intonation”.

It probably sounds like they were uptight, maybe even strict, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. At least two of them smoked, at least two (think grandmas) drank Vodka regularly as part of their pre bedtime routine and curse words were used in the most creative ways.

Through the years, I’ve watched my mom behave consistently. Not giving up her identity or making personality compromises and adjustments in situations when I knew for sure that I would. Surrounded by people who spoke a totally different layer of the same language she did, she wouldn’t forego the unexpected adverb and everyone liked her for that.

I always thought I would adhere to the same principles raising my sons. I disappointedly watch myself deviate from them daily and use English with 4 Year Old instead of Russian because he’ll understand me better, because being more clear in my communication with him is better for our rapport, because I don’t want him to be that kid who is different. I wish I didn’t care.

On Mother’s Day weekend my mom flew in for a visit. Her grandson threw himself at her exclaiming “Babooshka” (granny) – about the only word he remembers how to say in Russian, putting warmth into every syllable. She embraced him back never ceasing to speak Russian to him. I’ve watched them play together all day. Him never ceasing to speak English, her never ceasing to respond in Russian and they couldn’t get enough of each other.

Yes, it’s important for my son to understand me, it’s important that we have a strong rapport, it’s important that he feels accepted by society, but doesn’t a broader sense of acceptance start from fitting in at home?

Happy Mother’s Day, Mama. I am grateful for this and so much more.


Things to make you smile:

  1. The gifts I got for Mothers Day. They are 4 Year Old’s choices.
    Thing One.

    Thing One.

    Thing Two.

    Thing Two.


  2. This clip from MC Abdominal, because a son, a Jewish mom, Canada, gulp. Thank you, dear husband, for sharing.
  3. If you’ve got the Mother’s Day Blues listen to my friend, Stephanie, from Mommy, for Real!

7 thoughts on “Rap, My Mama and Fitting in

  1. interesting… (from a Doctrine perspective*).
    If I can recover my own childhood recollections, I believe they continue ESFL English as a second first language), there were traits in my (reported) behavior as a pre-civilzed human that stand in contrast to my current personality type.
    Enjoyable Post.

    *the business of being an ‘Outsider’ and all

  2. Brian says:

    It’s true that often, kids who speak a different language at home or come from a different culture are outsiders among their peers. Nia Vardalos illustrated this well in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

    Sometimes the opposite is true, though. In the white-bread world I grew up in (where I was a mainstream member), we thought it was cool to speak another language, to have been somewhere exotic, or to know a lifestyle different from the one we all had. At least I and some of my friends did. The “popular” bullies probably picked on everyone who was not just like them, because that’s what bullies do.

    We had a Norwegian foreign exchange student at my Utah high school, and she was the life of the party, so to speak. Everyone wanted to be her friend. (It didn’t hurt that she was pretty good lookin’.)

    Today, my teenage daughter hangs out with some friends who love everything Asian, especially Indian or Korean. One girl swears she will marry an Asian boy someday. They love the movie “Bend it Like Beckham.”

    • Katia says:

      Yes, I think you are totally right about kids being interested in the different. My son, about whose feelings I am so worried, started asking me “talk like you do” more and more frequently. I think he feels it’s special that have our own language.

      Growing up I was aware of my own “differentness” but now I realize that there were so many others just like me, children of immigrants from other countries, that to them I wasn’t as different as I thought I was.

      So cool about your daughter and her friends :-))

  3. Stephanie Sprenger says:

    I always love learning about all the richness that makes up *you*. I hope you have a wonderful time with your mom. I bet she is really proud of you. I can’t quite imagine the balance of preserving heritage and tradition and paving your own way with your own children. A delicate dance, I am sure. Happy Mother’s Day!

    • Katia says:

      Thank you so much, my friend! I translated the post this morning to my mom (so nice to do it in person, instead of on the phone) and she said she was very touched. Happy Mother’s Day to you too! I loved your Mother’s Day Blues and I’m going to add it to my post.

  4. modmomelleroy says:

    There is nothing more ‘Mom’ than rocking the Spiderman bubble bath. 😉

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