Editor’s note: This story was written by a high school student in Northwest Asian Weekly Foundation’s Summer Youth Leadership Program. This story is part of a special back-to-school issue.
By Xiu Wen Li
With the economy as it is today, everyone is clinging to their job as if it were their lifeline — and in some cases, it is. However, when my dad lost his job at the start of this month, his siblings applauded. “Now you can focus more time on your son,” they said.
For first-generation Asian Americans like my parents, who don’t speak a word of English and have few options when it comes to finding work, earning money requires lots of hard physical labor. Many of them left behind comfortable lives to come here to the United States, where they make up the bottom of the ladder.
Now, some might ask, “Why would anyone do something so stupid?” The reason is simple, they want a better future for their children.
Parents are willing to do anything for the sake of their children, even if it means breaking their backs working long hours for low-paying jobs. They will do whatever they can to provide a certain standard of living for their families, so that their children would have no worries other than making good grades on their next report card. This is understandable and noble.
However, sometimes, even parents get their priorities mixed up.
Most parents work hard at their jobs with the mindset that their children will work just as hard in school. Parents hope that when their child grows up, their jobs won’t take such a physical toll. Many fall victim to the stereotype that all Asians are studious and assume that their children will value education first, as they have been taught. Not that it’s entirely their fault — working two full-time jobs can make it difficult for anyone to think about anything else — but parents have to remember that every child is different. Methods that worked with their firstborn may not necessarily work in the same way with their second (or third, or fourth).
For example, take my brother and me. Anyone who knows anything about us would say that we’re complete opposites, be it our academic records, positions in basketball, or our tastes in music. The only similarity is our height, but that’s something we can’t help. It took my parents a long time to realize that they can’t treat us the same way and expect the same results. Now, they’re pulling their hair out trying to find a way to set my brother “back on track.”
Whenever my cousin gets mad or frustrated with school, my uncle always responds by saying, “A little suffering now, a lifetime of comfort later.” Their willingness to give up whatever they had in their homeland proves that all parents understand this notion.
If parents made this sacrifice for the sake of their children’s futures, then they should invest more time and energy into their children’s daily lives. The same concept still applies. What’s a couple of extra dollars now compared to the rest of their child’s life? ♦