I’m sorry, mom: Why I shouldn’t be ashamed of my mom’s immigrant status

Learning to embrace my parent’s flaws

Claire Yang

“Say MO-le-cule, Mom. Molecule.”

“Mo … LE-cule?”

I sighed again. Why couldn’t she get it? It’s so simple — molecule. “Mom, there are three syllables,” I said. “It’s not that hard. Just repeat after me.”

Last Sunday, we went to Chipotle for lunch. We arrived at the front of the line, where a curmudgeonly employee glared at us from behind the glass. I remember the way my mom’s face flushed red after spitting out a gush of garbled syllables, and the way the Chipotle employee’s face sank with every passing second.

I then pushed in front of my mom, caressing my own burning face.

“We’ll have a chicken bowl, with white rice, lettuce, corn and hot salsa. That’s all. Thank you!”

See, not so hard, right? I looked over my shoulder at her, rolling my eyes. Frankly, I was fed up with correcting her pronunciation of “geometry,” exhausted by the perpetual struggle of lip-reading to see if she’s saying ACT and SAT. But I shouldn’t have been so hard on her, since for my mom, it’s not so easy.

For as long as I could remember, my mom had been a tutelary cardinal, valiantly shielding me from every threat with a flourish of her wings. I never had to fend for myself. Accustomed to being the naive little chick waddling behind Mama Duck, I was bewildered to find our roles suddenly reversed. So, amid my confusion, I took my frustration out on my mom.

Now, I realize that I should’ve been ashamed of being ashamed — she moved to America in her 20s, alone in a place so unfamiliar to her. I can’t even begin to imagine being a young adult and leaving home for a place halfway across the globe, just for the future of her children.

Of course she wasn’t going to be fluent in English, nor fully accustomed the American way of life. Aside from her duties as a mother, she had enough on her plate, and my constant battery of her mistakes certainly didn’t help her.

Just like a mother’s soft-heartedness towards her child, I should’ve been at least a little more forgiving. Besides, nobody ever gave me the right be to condescending towards my own mother. I’m sorry for my ignorance, Mom. I’m sorry for not being more understanding, Mom. I’m sorry, Mom.