Growing Up With Immigrant Parents

By Francesca Donayre

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Hello again! It’s been awhile since I’ve been here. Life sometimes gets ahead of us and I am finally able to catch a break. A couple of months ago I visited my parents in Florida. It is always nice to see them but something about this visit was different. I had a lot of moments throughout my visit that I said to myself “wow my parents are finally in a home they were able to buy and own” and “wow my parents are finally documented” but it wasn’t always like this. My parents immigrated from Lima, Peru to the U.S 14 years ago. Before coming to the U.S my dad was a member of the Air Force of Peru. He was an aircraft mechanic and building his resume with certificates and my mom took care of us while also having her small business. They both had careers and experience in a field they knew all about, but once we arrived in the U.S. My dad began working as a landscaper. Then working as a dishwasher at our local iHop restaurant, while my mom worked at random factories. Later working as a housekeeper for individual homes and at hotels. Life in a new place isn’t easy. We went from having our own house in Peru to living in a close relative’s home in a bedroom with my parents, my older sister and I.

I remember living in New York, we didn’t have a car so we always rode the bus. I remember one particular day. My mom and I were on the bus on the way to the nearest stop so she could walk me to school the rest of the way, It began raining really hard when I saw my mom pulling out black plastic trash bags, making a hole at the bottom and she proceeded to put my head through the hole and covering me up with the bag. Meanwhile I wondered why she was doing this if we had an umbrella. As we reached our stop, all I remember is my mom saying “Chekita, camina rapido,” I did as my mom said. She was walking under the umbrella trying not to get wet, and when we arrived at the entrance of my school I looked at her and she looked at me. I saw my mother drenched from head to toe. Then I looked at myself and I didn’t have one drop on me. As young as I was, I knew my parents did not have it easy; I knew they were struggling, but I also knew they were working hard and doing their best to care for us. We said our goodbyes and my mom kissed me endearingly on my cheek and told me she would be waiting for me once school was out.

My parents constantly worked to provide. When I started middle school, there were so many extracurricular activities I wanted to join, but I couldn’t. My mom barely had just enough time to pick me up from the bus stop, feed me my favorite Peruvian dish arroz con pollo, and tuck me in at night right before she had to head to her second job; she worked 40 plus hours every week. In high school, I didn’t know what a GPA was, I didn’t know what a scholarship was, and I didn’t know how hard it was gonna get. All I knew was that I needed to get good grades so I could go to a university and get my education as my father said.

I can only speak for my dad, but that is all he would tell me to do. “Work hard and get good grades so you don’t have to struggle or do what I do.” I don’t think they understood the effort that goes into applying for colleges. This isn’t to shame them, but rather to shine some light on this matter because I often find myself wishing that my parents could have encouraged me to join extracurricular activities so I would have had stuff to put down on my essays for college applications. I wish they had known more about the tedious process of applying to college. As hard as my dad was on me, I remember him fondly sitting me down at our dinner table everyday teaching me the numbers, Alphabet, and simple phrases in English that would help me start at school. I share all these moments with you because at a time when many parents didn’t even know English, they taught themselves enough to get us on track, or worked extremely hard to put food on the table. 

It is important to remember that many parents came from a land where they knew much more to absolutely nothing when they brought us here. So when you are frustrated or feel like you’re at a standstill in your life, please think of all our parents or guardians who did the best they could to get us where we are now. 

Thank you, mom and dad.

About the Author
Francesca Donayre
I attended Cape Fear Community College and graduated in 2020 with an Associate of Arts. I am currently at at Johnston Community College working on my Paralegal degree and later will pursue a bachelors degree.