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: