She Never Said, "Honey, I'm Proud of You"

Delta Winds cover 2000Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


She Never Said, "Honey, I'm Proud of You"

Leticia Aguilar

Why is it that we all long to hear those four words: "I'm proud of you"? For some reason in my culture we don't use too many positive words of encouragement. I am thirty-two years old and have yet to hear my mother say to me, "Honey, I'm proud of who you are." It is like an empty spot in my heart waiting to be filled with those four words. I know she loves me, but loving me and being proud of me have two different meanings.

As a child, I grew up in an abusive environment, not by my parents but by close relatives on my mother's side. When we came to the United States from Mexico, I was about seven. I thought that things would be better for me but once again abuse continued to occur; this time from my father's side of the family. I had a lot of problems all through school. Barely finishing high school, I got pregnant before I got married. I was only eighteen when I married the father of my daughter, who happened to be Mexican like my father. I found myself in an abusive relationship and in a struggle to keep my marriage from falling apart. I didn't want to walk out on my husband because I knew he needed me. Through the years we've had five children. We've been through marriage counseling, parenting classes, and I even had to go through counseling myself because of the past that haunts me. Up until today we continue to make mistakes and learn from them.

My mother grew up in the same abusive environment. She married when she was young like myself and had four children. After almost thirty years of marriage, she ended her abusive relationship with my father. My mother only made it through the eighth grade in Mexico. She's had to work ever since. When we came to the United States she started to drink and found that that was her escape from all the sorrow and pain.

She looked at me and saw herself in me, following her footsteps, and she wasn't proud of me. She couldn't be proud because that would mean that she was proud of herself. I know that in her eyes I haven't done much to make her proud of me, but I have never given up.

Somehow I believe I raised good children. My oldest daughter Elisabeth, twelve, has been on honor roll for two years. And Nicole, nine, is working hard to follow her sister's footsteps. I always try to encourage my children and let them know that I am proud of them, even for the little things that they have done.

I hear my mom tell my daughter Elisabeth that she is so proud of her. I can't help but feel pain inside, but at the same time I'm happy that I finally can hear those words, even if they aren't to me. My mom is also very proud of my younger sister, Rocio. Rocio went to school, finished college and earned her degree. Then she got married to a perfect guy who happens to not be Mexican. She now has a son, Nicholas. I can tell that my mom is proud of my sister. Every time that I was pregnant my mom was disappointed, as if it were her having kids again. She would always tell me not to have any more children. I know she meant well but my life isn't her life, and that has always been hard for her to accept. She even told my kids not to call her "Grandma" but to call her "Mama." I guess she didn't want to feel old. But when Nicholas was born she told him that he could call her "Grandma." At that point I realized that she was saying that she was proud to be his Grandma. Rocio has always been the good example. I have always been the bad one.

I decided on one last attempt to make her feel proud of me. A year ago I decided to go back to school. Working as a Bilingual Aide gave me the courage and inspiration to want to be more and to help people of my culture. So this year I started on my journey at Delta to eventually become a Bilingual Teacher. I want to use the talents that God has given me, which has taken me thirty-one years to find. And even though it will take me a lot longer than other college students because I'm raising five children and working on improving my marriage, I am determined to give it my best.

In the end I hope that my mother will be proud of me, and I want her to know that even though she didn't get a degree in college, marry Mr. Perfect, or become famous, I am proud of her for trying to keep her marriage together even after all the abuse, for raising us on her own, but most of all for giving me the strength -- through her life I learned that I could go on, that I could even go back to college, that I didn't have to drink and hide my pain, that I could fight my sorrow and pain and use it to make me succeed. And considering all that happened to me as a child, which I did not choose, I want to thank her for giving me the will to want more out of life, for finally believing in myself, and for making me this strong -- "I am proud of me."