Let me preface this by saying I will always be grateful to my parents for everything they’ve done for me. They uprooted their lives, left their parents and siblings so that my siblings and I could have a better life.
Leaving behind everything they knew to come to a country where they had to start all over again with three young kids was scary and difficult to say the least. In the words of Tupac Amaru Shakur, ‘there’s no way I can pay you back/but the plan is to show you that I understand/you are appreciated.’
That being said, there’s a unifying feeling I share with my fellow immigrant sisters who are either like me, the first born, or they’re the first born daughter. When we get together we share similar stories and experiences that are unique to us. It’s shaped and strengthened us. Sometimes it’s a strength we wish we acquired on our own and didn’t have to learn it so young. But we look around and wonder, ‘who else feels this way? who understands this?’
It’s the feeling of being the third parent in the family. That fine line when your parents need you to grow up for a few minutes/hours so you can help them but will without hesitation remind you that you’re the child, so don’t get comfortable.
Those moments when you’ve become the interpreter during the first social services meetings when you just arrive here. Or the facilitator at your school during Parent – Teacher interviews. Or a plethora of times when dealing with superintendents, store clerks, bus drivers, etc. My parents speak English, but the nuance of dealing with new systems overwhelm them. And after years of dealing with service providers that cop an attitude whenever they hear a slight ting of an accent, my parents have nuzzled themselves into the safety of ‘can you just handle this?’
I know to some of you this may sound like I’m an ungrateful daughter, but trust me I’m not. Daily I pray for them and go above and beyond for them. I’m just venting that there’s this odd place that first born daughters navigate where we constantly switch hats from being our parents’ lawyer/translator/financial advisor/chauffeur/assistant to being their child.
The silver lining is that it prepares us for our independence and our own families one day. It creates a strong bond between us. It instills humility and compassion for my parents who have overcome so much to give me a better life. It’s afforded me a tool that has made me a leader at school and the workplace.
But I’m still human and I share this borderless place of parent/child with so many of my friends. Sisters who are like me, first born daughters, that carry heavy burdens silently while managing it all fearlessly. To them I say, you are appreciated.