As children, my siblings and I already knew we didn’t have typical American childhoods: after all, my two oldest siblings started working at our family restaurant fairly young, helping with the register and also babysitting our sister Lisa, the first American-born child out of the five of us.
Aside from our ethnicity, we also felt the absence of our parents at ‘typical’ extracurricular activities, such as Field Day in elementary school. One time, my oldest sister came to cheer me on when my class was up against another class for Tug-of-War. I only have photos from that Field Day; all the other ones, I remember just being with my other classmates whose parents also couldn’t make it to the outing.
When I started performing in our school band, my parents were rarely at any of the concerts; only in high school, when my mother started spending more time at home, did she attend a few concerts and awards shows.
Even though I felt my parents’ absence at these special events at school, I also understood why they could not attend: they were working hard at our family restaurant, making sure we all had enough food to eat, reliable shelter, and other basic needs. They sacrificed their time in order to make sure we were well-provided for, so we could excel in school and not worry about where our next meals were going to be.
It is the price that many immigrant parents pay for in order to see their children excel and do better in their lives.