So tonight Logan and I talked about raising kids a little bit. (I nanny part-time.) We got to talking about how we want kids that love books and reading like his brother’s kids. (They REALLY love reading.) I got to telling him how as a kid I loved books and learning. Also how I still like learning just not as much the structure of institutionalized learning. We had a warm moment. Logan had asked in the most respectful and tenderest way he could if I felt like I was smarter than my siblings.
So back story, I think my love for books when I was a child and my love for learning has a lot to do with me being the only one of my eight siblings who went to headstart, daycare, and eventually full-day preschool. While I had been in daycare my mom and dad were working hard to get their GED on top of working. See, my parents, older brother and I immigrated to the United States when I was four months old. We’re Hmong, and we’re refugees.
Growing up I always had to translate for my parents, struggled a bit in school, and was absolutely terrible at asking for help. I always did fairly well in school because I felt like I needed to. I always resented my parents for not being the loving, supportive, encouraging, helpful parents like I saw in classmates or school friends’ parents.
In more recent years I finally understood that my parents did what they could. And to the best that they could. It’s not my fault or really my parents fault that they couldn’t read, write, or speak in English. To this day my mom understands English very well, though not fluent. She can’t really read or write but she definitely understands. My dad can speak 4 or 5 other languages but barely a lick of English. My parents are the example of the saying, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”.
My parents were never able to help me with my homework growing up. It was hard. I felt like I needed to always do well. I never asked for help. Though it was a lot of stress for a kid, it didn’t end up too bad. I went to some pretty great universities and have a degree in art and communications. I see that because I had started school early I quickly learned that education is a catalyst for success in life. I mustered up the will to do as well as I did and found the motivation to succeed in the need for compliments from teachers and peers, the “good job” stickers, and smiley faces drawn on the homework assignments that were returned to me.
I really thought my parents were terrible. They didn’t understand the struggles I had in school, in my social life, the bullying, lack of confidence, the lack of love I felt from them, and whatever else was going on in little Kaolee. Because I didn’t think my parents were good parents, and I understood learning was a catalyst for success and knowledge I made up my mind that I didn’t want to be like my parents in terms of raising my kids. I wanted to be a mom that could afford things for her kids. I wanted to be a mom that could make more time to cook for the family, encourage music, instruments, sports, and vacations. This all sounds kind of silly, but this drive branched off from the resentment I had.
For Logan’s question about feeling like I am smarter than my siblings? Sometimes I do. But, I think there was something in me that just clicked earlier on. As soon as I could travel, I did. I learned things that I wanted to. I learned things I needed to, to get to where I thought was ideal. I found ways to encourage me to keep going and to keep doing well. Sometimes I don’t think my siblings have quite made it to that point – but baby steps and milestones.
All my siblings have great potential but because so many of them never really had the help they needed in school or encouragement growing up it has effected them and their drive. And importantly confidence – the driver for personal success and dreams.
Logan and I continued to talk and I shared with him the strengths and qualities that I see in my siblings. He was pleasantly surprised by the creativity in all of us. It was a great tender moment. Especially with a topic I have only ever pondered about.