I've been wanting to write a card about this for a while because I feel like this is a really unique experience that, at the same time, a lot of people can relate to. My mom was born in the Middle East, raised in Mexico, and moved to New York City when she was a young girl. Because of this, she had a really different way of raising us than maybe the 'normal' American parent would, and I don't think I really understood why I felt so weird and different growing up until I could look back at the whole experience and realize - hey, I'm a first generation.
My favorite show on television right now is 'Fresh Off The Boat', a loosely biographical comedy based on the life of celebrity restaurateur Eddie Huang and his childhood as a first generation Taiwanese American. The Huangs might be from Taiwan, but I feel like the things they experience and the way that they handle situations are so reminiscent of anyone who comes from a similar family situation.
Inspired by that show, and facets of my own life, I figured I'd put together a list of ABSOLUTELY TRUE (AND TRULY HILARIOUS) experiences first-generation kids deal with when growing up. Granted, many of these are my own experiences and might not be true for all first generation kids. However, I hope you all get a laugh!
Your grandparents don't speak English - and taught you all the best insults in the language they DO speak.
Okay, maybe Teta (aka 'Grandma') didn't want me to know how to call people sloppy, dumb, and fat in Arabic, but she talked so much Middle Eastern smack that those are some of the only words I know.
You never get to eat the cafeteria lunch - just whatever was left over from last night's dinner.
There's nothing quite like trying to explain to the other kids at the table what falafel is. (Not many 4th graders have come across it before, and don't realize that they'll be devouring them by the dozen when they become the 'trendy' foreign food 15 years later.)
You have so many cousins that family photos require the panorama feature.
So you've got your first cousins, your second cousins, your third cousins once removed, the cousin who is a cousin of your other cousin (which also makes you cousins, according to your mom), and the cousins who aren't actually cousins but are so close to your family they're treated just the same.
Your mom isn't saying you have to marry someone of the same background, but she isn't NOT saying that.
Just like she's not telling you that your wedding ceremony has to be in your family's church/mosque/temple/religious center of choice and that you must give her lots of small, chubby, adorable grandbabies.
You have to warn your non-ethnic friends about your family before they show up to a party.
Take your shoes off, sample the hummus, and I apologize in advance that no one on my mom's side knows how to pronounce the 't' in 'Courtney'. (You guys, my uncles paid for a bellydancer to show up to our Fathers' Day party one year. I cannot make this up.)
You have an uncle that pushes alcohol on everyone even though half of your cousins are still in high school.
Here's looking at you, Uncle Alfif. (Or as we say in my family - Alcoholic Al.)
And your parents aren't really fans of the fact you never tried learning 'the language'.
Why do I need to learn how to speak a language I'm only going to be able to use when I'm talking to old people at family functions? I already learned all the good words from my bilingual cousins anyway.