Ode to the Latina mom.

How her values and exaggerated way to to teach me life lessons was important to the person I’m today.

Ever since I moved to America and started learning about cultural habits, I started to feel jealous of American girls. I can explain to you why with one word: freedom. We always watch the movies and think they are being over exaggerating when we see 16 years old getting a large twin bed, driving everywhere, getting in and out of the house without having to explain herself why, or to where they are heading. One thing is for sure, that would never happen if you have a Latina mom, as you don’t get anything as personal space until you leave the house. Or ever.

The other day I talked to a friend about how American girls seems far ahead from us, Latinxs, only because they get their space and their wishes fulfilled, as soon as they bloom on their teenage years. We don’t. During the conversation, we talked about how nosy our moms were while we were growing up. There was no such thing as personal space, she said her mom read her diaries, my mom used to participate in phones conversations, either telling me to change the subject, because I was on it for too long, or because it wasn’t interesting. At least for her. Closing the door? Rarely. When I finally had my first boyfriend at 18 (!!!!), my mom turned the couch to face my room to make sure we were not too close. Is ok to be protective? Absolutely. Is it going beyond the protectiveness limits? Most likely.

I made a list of things I think can differentiate a Latina mom, from any other mom.

My 15 birthday party, when my mom made all the chocolate around the table, the cake and put out the decoration.

Let’s start with food.

As a child, there was not much control with the food, but my mom used to get frustrated when she thought I didn’t eat enough. Or I didn’t like the food. She also made me sit at the table every meal, she still does that, even when she is the only one eating, she loses her mind when people eat at the couch, in front of the tv. One of the freest things I ever did, after I moved out, was eating every single mean in front of the tv. I guess I said that before, my mom has respect for the food and sees the act of sitting at the table as an act of respect.

Career

They decided for you. You can turn around later on and changed it, but whatever they think fits you, they will try to put it in your head that this is what is good for you. A lawyer, a doctor, an engineer, something they call “stability”. Stability for who? Its a degree, you can be a horrible professional in any career you choose. I guess there is the factor that your proud mom wants to show off to other people “looks, Maria’s daughter is doing great as an engineer” Great, it’s their life, not mine. It comes with the worried of us being unsuccessful.

Friends

My mom always paid close attention to who was I hanging out with. If I had a different word in my vocabulary, the entire focus turned to the person I was calling a friend. She always said, “if you hang out with bad people, you might be confused as one of them.” Very protective, I understand, especially when you are raising a daughter alone, In Rio de Janeiro. One of my most memorable teenage stories was when I was16 and was invited to go to a house party, on a Tuesday( I said it was memorable). It was just a get together with my friends from school, at one of the kid’s apartment. I called my mom at work and asked her if it was ok for me to go, she said it was fine, just give her the address. I promptly gave it to her and went to my closet to separate my outfit, I was excited because my friends were going, even friends that are never allowed to go anywhere were up to it.

My mom got home around 7 pm looked at me and said “You are not going” In shock I asked her why did she change her mind, she said she looked at the address on the phone list catalog, looked in the map, and realized that the apartment complex was too sketchy. I didn’t fight about it.

The next day at school, I never regretted not going to the party. It was a studio apartment, there was a bunch of rock and roll kids, my future best friend allegedly ate the brownie with weed and kissed her best friend as a dare, a couple of friends made out in the laundry area, they were all having a great time, when the dad’s host arrived unexpectedly and kicked everyone out. Except for one or two kids who had stayed and help clean. All I know about the party is what I heard. If I was American, I would find a way to go and get yelled at later.

Cleanliness

Every Saturday morning felt like a Greek tragedy, where I wanted to sleep and my mom wanted me to clean. Getting yelled at because of your cleaning skills it’s not good. Getting your entire life questioned because your room is a mess, also don’t help. Between screams of “I’m not your maid” and “You are a mess!” I learned to control my urge to run away forever. At least for that time being. I eventually did. When the Latina mom yells at you because the house needs to be spotless, she will throw everything that comes to your mind at you. My mom once said I would never find a husband because I didn’t like to clean or keep my surroundings clean. Not because I wasn’t a good person, or because I didn’t have self-respect, but because I didn’t like to clean, in a very patriarchal way. I got a husband indeed and he couldn’t care less about cleaning. I got yelled at by my mom for nothing.

Invasiveness

Privacy is a word that doesn’t exist in her dictionary, at least not while you are living under her roof. Phone conversations are interrupted, birthday parties work as a laser scanning, as she will observe how your friends behave and talk about them when they are not around. Where you going, what time are you coming back, who is going, what time are you coming back. While Latino dad is there for your entertainment only, Latina mom waits for you awake. At least she tries.

Life Values

All the lack of privacy, overprotectiveness, and yelling apart, my mom has inputed in me her greatest life values. Some of them are worth sharing, for example, get a boyfriend with a car, so you can wear any shoes you like, and won’t have to walk to the bus stop and hurt your feet. Learn how to be well in your own company, as if you put yourself first, you won’t need to beg for anyone’s time and attention.

Be brave and don’t let anyone tell you how to live your life. Only get out of a relationship when you are sure you won’t go back to that person, once its done, it’s done, so don’t leave if you are not ready. Don’t spend more money than you make, don’t get in debt to please other people, you want it? Work for it. Is it worth it the time and money you work for it? Buy it.

I said I’m jealous of American girls because they have freedom, yes, but I’m not jealous of American moms. My Latina mom gave me her heart and soul whenever I needed, work extra catering shifts to give me a Backstreet Boy concert ticket, and gave me the courage to be the life change I wanted in my life. We didn’t have much, but my teenage years were filled with books, music, tv, magazines and dreams. That’s all I could ask for.

Please let me know in the comments if you have a latina mom and if she behaves like mine! Or if there are other types of mom, from different cultures that are wired the same way!

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  1. I don’t have a Latina mum but, despite all the restrictions when you were growing up, I can see how much you love yours, and what a great supporting and loving start she gave you. Lovely post!

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