I’m an immigrant.
I have two children born here, which helped me and my husband to remain here legally.
My anchor babies.
My children have learned the local language – they speak it better than I do. They help their father when he needs to write something, because he speaks it but has never learned to read or write it. They laugh at the both of us when we get something wrong.
At home we speak our native tongue, but it gets confusing because my husband and I grew up speaking different dialects which get mixed together with a liberal amount of the local language thrown in for the sake of ease.
In our house we mostly make food we grew up with, but as our kids get older they’ve become more used to the local dishes, and gradually we eat more local food, and less from our own culture.
Our older daughter seems to retain more of my home culture, she chooses clothes that come from my home country, wears her hair in the style children from my country wear it. I worry sometimes that she won’t fit in here, that they will make fun of her dress, her hair.
Our younger daughter has fully assimilated, and fiercely so. She insists on wearing her hair like the other girls here, on dressing just like them. She harps on at me until I go buy her the latest shoe style, just like her friends here wear.
When we go back to the old country, it’s hard to talk to people about our lives here. Our kids don’t know the basics of survival there – even going to the bathroom is different – and we feel like strangers. They play with their cousins and their vocabulary improves, their accents improve.
Keeping up with families is hard. More often than not, we find ourselves shouting down a crackling phone line, as if we hadn’t moved into the twenty-first century. It’s hardest when we miss out on big events: weddings, babies being born, worst of all when a loved one passes away. Those are times when we want to be with our families, to hold them close, and it’s hard with an ocean between us.
But the trade offs are huge: here, our children have the opportunity to an education they would never have back home –public preschool starting at three years old, free university education. Here, our children are safe – I never fear that their school will be overtaken by people with guns. They are growing up with so much freedom: here, we can let our children play outside without fear they’ll be shot.
In the end, we’re working for better quality of life for our family, just like so many other immigrants.
*Author’s Note: I am a U.S. citizen, born and raised in Idaho; married to an Irish citizen, born and raised in Cork; we live in Nicaragua with our two daughters who have triple citizenship. These facts make us incredibly privileged people in this world, but I reject the label of “ex-pat” – in spite of our privileges, we are immigrants, and I hope that sharing similar experiences gives us more empathy, more compassion for other immigrants around the world.