Carving Your Own Path as “Different”9
February 28, 2015 by Katia
Have I taught you the following biblical quote yet?
“What I had feared has come upon me” (Job 3:25).
If I’m half the Jewish mother I assume I’ll evolve into as I progress in age and anxiety, I would expect that by the time you’re reading this letter as teenagers, I will have equipped you with enough cultural trivia, family history anecdotes, Woody Allenisms and common sense to make you realize that the use of the singular form “has” in that sentence, suggesting that the narrator possesses A single fear is outrageously improbable. Nevertheless, it seems appropriate for the occasion, so here goes. What I had feared, dear boys, has come upon me. You’ve reached the age when (if everything went right) your parents, particularly when placed in social contexts, have become synonymous with the verb ‘cringe’. The fact that your dad and I are OFFICIALLY different complicates matters further.
As you begin to mature, life will lose its exciting and confusing newness and some irrefutable certainties will begin to emerge. That’s when you’ll realize that your parents’ names are way weird. Erez and Katia sound nothing like Jon and Jean. Especially when we talk. Our accents, you will start noticing, range from mild to wild and some of your friends may not always be able to understand us right away. Cringe. This will put a seal of approval on a long-suspected fact. Your parents are indeed THE most embarrassing parental specimen in the entire history of parenthood EVER and you should totally go hide somewhere.
While the main gap separating your friends from their parents is age and time-based, in your case geography will make things far worse. You’ll find that the childhood friends serving as protagonists in your parents’ cautionary tales are very hard to relate to, because they have names like Schmoolik. For a boy. How is anyone supposed to respect their parents after that?!
As you know, dear boys, your mom grew up with immigrant parents herself. No one (and I do mean NO ONE) in mama’s home country had parents named Maris and Victosha. What I’m getting at, is I get it. I get you. I remember that being a teenager is exhilarating, full of promise that sky is the limit on one hand and devastation potential on the other. Having parents who are different, for whatever reason, when you’ve reached that internal boiling point can be almost painful at times, I know. But I also remember that most of the time it isn’t. When you’re a teenager and there’s a whole new set of uncertainties that emerge and everything is wrapped in sky rocket promise and wrecking ball potential, you’ll long for the advice of that grownup that you trust and it doesn’t matter if they’re called Katia and not Jean, because they are the ONLY ones who would do. And as you continue growing up and understand that there are more uncertainties in life than certainties, you’ll realize that being different, albeit a definite certainty in your case, is not the negative thing you perceived it to be as a child. When you look back at your life you’ll realize that it was precisely that otherness which shaped you into the unique one of a kind form that is you.
And when you’re even older and have kids of your own and need to start pretending that everything in life is a certainty again, you might be able to come up with a few certainties of your own when you attempt to explain cultural differences to them.
And then you’ll tell them that the knowledge of another language is so much more than being able to say the same word in two different ways. Hearing another language spoken at home, even if you don’t end up speaking it yourself, will pave new thought patterns and perceptions of reality that are dipped in a totally different cultural flavor and this will open up your eyes to other ways of seeing and experiencing life and will bring personality expansion.
You’ll be able to appreciate that being immersed in a different reality through your parents’ stories opened up your eyes to how good you have it and allowed you to actually experience the cliché “putting things in perspective”.
You’ll educate them and lead by example demonstrating how viewing yourself as part of a heritage that spans different countries, even continents, makes you more tolerant to otherness and less egocentric in your perception of both your private and national self.
And if everything went according to plan then that comparative analysis you’ve been living – sometimes excitedly, sometimes begrudgingly – will allow you to conclude that there really is no such thing as different, since we are all different, just in different ways and that we are also all similar in similar ways.
I love you.
אני אוהבת אתכם.
Я вас люблю.
Last month Netflix launched the show Ever After High about the kids of famous storybook characters trying to create their own destiny. That got me thinking about the topic of our personal history is a repetition of that of our parents and what parts of my personal history and my history as part of a couple would l want my kids to repeat or simply be aware of.
Are you repeating your parents’ history in a way and would you want your kids to repeat yours?
** This was a Netflix Stream Team post on the topic or Creating Your Own Destiny **
I think it’s important for all of us to grow and extend beyond ourselves, our own perspective, in so many ways. I think for so many teenagers, their parents are different or embarrassing for a whole swag of different reasons: nationality, dress sense,old-fashioned, It’s hard to win but tht also seems to be part of the growing up process which we grow through and come to embrace our diversity and appreciate its beauty.
Oh, I loved this. I totally hear your anxiety. I would like to, if I may, alleviate one tiny aspect — there is no way anyone would misunderstand your *extremely* slight non-native accent. Seriously! I’ve met you! I know! 🙂 But as for the concept, I get it. I remember “feeling bad” for the kids whose parents sent them to school with full ethnic lunches. I think about how even I send Henry to school with pasta al pesto when all the other kids have turkey sandwiches. And, um, his dad is NAMED AFTER THE WEATHER. Even though he’s American. So, I guess what I’m saying is, we all have traits that will make us absolutely cringeworthy to our children. And I imagine the ones about which we are most insecure (our accents, our weight, our physical features, our names, what have you), are the things that will cut deepest when they point them out or are embarrassed by them. Not easy for anyone. But you are not alone. xo
I so get this Katia! I remember being mortified that we lived with my dad after my mom left because totally embarrassing! And I also remember babysitting for a French family whose mom (Anoushka) had the most delightful heavy accent ever. I wanted to be her. But yeah, I do get it – parents are embarrassing anyway. I have complete faith though that once those ugly teen years are over that your boys will be so much more open to life and differences and being more alike than different and they will be brilliant, culturally rich and amazing. I know it.
I think we will all be embarrassing to our kids no matter who we are. BOTH of my parents were teachers at my high school. BOTH OF THEM!!!!! I was Little Miss Goody Two Shoes who always followed the rules because there was absolutely no way I could hide it from them. When I thought I had hit the jackpot and dated a boy from another high school, my mom called one of her teacher friends at that hight school to find out if he was a “good boy.” I was mortified! It was awful. All of high school. Awful. I survived and I still love my parents, though! 🙂
все очень верно и точно выражено, спасибо вам
I wish I could respond in Russian, but it will probably take me an hour to locate the right letters on my keyboard. Receiving this comment in Russian felt like home. Thank YOU very much.
I also feel like home when I read your posts. Keep it up, please.
P.s. this web site may help you to locate cyrillic symbols – translit.net
As immigrants ourselves, my husband and I also have similar conversations (and explanations) with our boys, the differences in cultures and accents! While I proudly wear my Anglo-Indian accent, there are other parts of me that have morphed with time. I’m proud of my heritage and like you, hope that my kids will also adopt some parts and nurture their roots!
I know that we are similar in a lot of ways, Roshni, so this comment means a lot coming from you. I think that kids take on our culture, or at least parts of it, without even paying attention or doing so consciously. I think they absorb it and it later comes out in the most unexpected (and expected) ways. xox