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Immigrant Parents Are a Different Kind of Parent

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Immigrant Parents Are a Different Kind of Parent

Sara Righter, Contributor

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My earliest memories involving my mother and the general public are all the times she got questioned: “Where are you from?” or “What’s that accent?” or the mocking she would endure when her back was turned. When I was younger, I used to think the jokes were funny; I would laugh along, not fully understanding the meaning behind them. Members of my own family would make fun of my mother, whether it was about her accent, her broken English, or making slights about things she had said incorrectly.

At 22, my mother and her immediate family left everything behind to seek refuge in this country. In the following year, she managed to learn enough English to get her through day-to-day life and worked to support her family. My mother told me of countless encounters she has had with coworkers or even friends who would belittle her because of her accent. I recall a story of one of her close-minded coworkers assuming she fit the stereotype of a “typical” Russian; as if my mother wore a fur hat, had a pet bear, and solely ate and drank 90 proof vodka. She told me she came into work one morning with a headache and her coworker claimed it was because she had been drinking vodka early in the morning.

When I was old enough to fully comprehend everything my mother gave up to come to the United States, I felt a sense of almost obligation to honor her and make her proud of who I would become in my life. Her story of hardship, fleeing Russia as Jewish refugees trying to escape the pogroms, made me feel as though if I didn’t do my absolute best I would be letting her down and making everything she had done for her future and in turn for mine, was all for nothing. Growing up she always said she wanted me to be a lawyer or a doctor so I could be rich and live a lavish life. I never wanted to pursue these career choices, but I believe her motive was so I wouldn’t have to struggle financially like my family had to when I was a baby. Nonetheless, I found myself striving to do my best academically to prove myself and my worth to her. Her hardships had become my motivation. 

At times, I felt as though my mother was pressuring me too much or being over the top with her expectations of me. I recall being told not to worry about it too much because she was doing it out of love and only doing it because she wanted the best for me. It wasn’t until recently when I began to piece together stories of my mother’s past, that I truly understood that everything she had done was so I would be able to have a better life. She endured the teasing, mockery, and stayed in an almost xenophobic country to allow her child to have a brighter future.
I truly believe all my hard work and academic success is due to the efforts my mother made to shape my life. Without my mother’s sacrifices and tribulations, I doubt I would have ever been in the place I am today. For that, I am forever thankful. I believe immigrant parents are a different kind of parent; they push you to your limits, motivate you to succeed, and all the while love you unconditionally. Her accent may be thick, but her love for me is thicker.

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