My parents still don’t really know what I do for a living. Heck, I don’t know what I do for a living sometimes myself! I could wake up tomorrow with a different job title. The job is in constant evolution (which is partly why I like it so much). But it doesn’t help that I describe what I do differently every time we have this conversation.
In sophomore year of high school, finally possessing a computer with a modem, I begged my parents to get internet service. They refused–we didn’t need it in the house, if I had been using it at the library or the computer lab all this time without complaint. Being a good kid, I would back off for a while, but after I assumed they had forgotten about it, I’d ask again. Again, they would shake their heads in this very Mexican manner, their faces looking off to the side, towards the ground. Not angry or annoyed, but as if the request brought them some sort of emotional pain and shame (like I said, it was very Mexican). Eventually they’d emit a high-ish-pitched, “…nahhh.”
I offered to pay for it with my allowance. I promised that I wouldn’t use it for long periods of time. I offered to do more chores, anything that I thought would make them feel as if they came out the winners in this negotiation. I’d also try to manipulate them, arguing that internet access was now necessary for homework–and they wouldn’t want the grades to drop, right? But they kept doing the head shake.
There are many generational differences between the kids that grew up here and the adults that came over, even if we started our lives in the US at the same time. Few are more apparent than the differences in the way we commmunicate. Relatively speaking 😀, we are much more direct. It’s a product of American culture, facilitated by the English language. When we kids switch languages, we switch demeanor too. Even our body language shifts. It’s a dance that can be exhausting when you are familiar with more efficient ways to get things out of people.
I pressed my parents one last time. Why can’t I get Internet for the house?!
Finally, my mother, the spokesperson of the household, relented. “Mija…we don’t want you on the internet…because it’s probably…it’s probably full of the porns!”
I used to think that there was such a large chasm between my parents and I. Culturally, intellectually, financially–and there is–but I assumed that this meant that they wouldn’t be able to teach me things, especially as I got older and drifted farther away into a very different life. Yet as I get older, I’m starting to pick up on the things they taught me unintentionally, both good and bad. Like grit and resilience. Or the irresponsible habit of not going to the doctor until it’s almost too late. It’s one of the reasons I’ve started to write down these stories. They aren’t usually connected to design or technology when they are saved into my memory. The dots are just connecting over time. When I don’t want to explain things anymore, or translate for them, or tell them about what I do, I remember this story. Because even with just a fifth grade education, and having never gone online herself, my mother was right about the internet all along.