You can do better

I’m really happy there is finally some representation of ethnic families with sitcoms like ABC’s “Blackish” and “Cristela.” Most weeks Blackish makes me laugh until I cry. Culturally, though, I relate most to Cristela.

While I don’t find Cristela’s mom’s character entirely believable as a first-generation American, I can appreciate the lessons she teaches.

Tonight’s episode especially hit home with me.

natalia

ABC’s Cristela’s mom Natalia (Terri Hoyos) defends a difficult parenting decision. (Source: Cristela FB page)

In this episode, Cristela’s mom, Natalia, reveals she had not entered Cristela, now a 20- or 30-something legal intern, into the gifted and talented program when she was a little girl because “people like us” didn’t belong in “fancy programs” like that. Basically, they would have been aiming too high, beyond their social status.

Cristela’s character eventually comes to appreciate her mother’s decision, made out of the desire to protect her. Natalia was, after all, a single mom doing the best she could for her young family.

This struggle triggered something in me I totally didn’t expect – a belated appreciation for my mom’s determination to ensure my best possible future.

It actually set off my tear ducts.

[Cue high school memory scene.]

One time, in high school, I came home with less-than-perfect grades – mostly As, with a couple of A- and a B+. I was so excited to show my mom! She would be so proud.

“You can do better.” That was her response.

What??? I can do what??? You mean, that wasn’t good enough?

I carried this disbelief, the shock and the sense that I’d disappointed my mom for – well, let’s just say it went on far too long.

What I didn’t realize then that I realize now – and, truly, especially after watching Cristela tonight – was that my mom was pushing me to aim higher.

Nothing at all wrong with protecting one’s kids from ridicule and humiliation. My mom, however, was willing to take that risk – taking me with her – of not being accepted for being different (which, by this age, I was pretty good at).

As someone who had to leave school at 12 to work and support her family, she knew working harder would grow both my character and my capacity. She knew I could do better.

My mom has never done anything less than teach me to be strong, have faith and, in the face of difficulty, get back up and dust myself off.

As we approach in a few weeks what would have been my parents’ 60th anniversary, I can’t help but be grateful for her strength and endurance since losing my dad nearly 30 years ago.

She remains my best girlfriend and biggest cheerleader. Even today, the way she lives her life is a reminder that we can always do better. So I will.

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7 thoughts on “You can do better

  1. Good point and wee written, but it sets off mixed feelings in me: the negative impact of her words stuck with you for a long time, and that can be hard. My dad told me several times “there’s no point in you taking up (photography/painting/birdwatching), people that are good at those things start when they’re young”. I loved my dad, but what a crappy model for a kid/young adult! I’m glad you turned it into a positive, and have such a great relationship with your mom.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Steve, I understand. Sorry this triggered a painful memory. I’ve been so blessed to forge a very deep relationship with my mom, especially since my dad died. So that has helped inspire me even more.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My husband had a remarkable mother: pragmatic, responsible, loving. But when he talked about majoring in art, with an eye toward working for one of the major animation studios, she said: “Do what you want, but get a teaching credential so you have something to fall back on.”
    At first thought, this seems unnecessarily harsh. What matters, I think, is what he did with that advice. He decided it meant she had no faith in his abilities, and became an art teacher who did his own art in his spare time. A VERY GOOD art teacher. Because deep down he lacked that spit into the wind strength to say “Wanna bet?”
    Nydia, seems like your mother wanted you to learn if you really want something you need to work harder. And it also looks like she succeeded. Good job!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cristela comes on Friday nights. I can’t recall a mainstream Latino-themed show since Ugly Betty (which was brilliant!) and George Lopez, which seemed to abruptly drop off the radar, I thought, after the Spring 2007 season.

      Cristela is about a Mexican American family in Dallas, struggling with what it costs to chase the American Dream. Story line and casting still need work in my view, but I really appreciate the attempt to represent U.S. Hispanic culture.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think I’ve watched a couple of FOTB episodes now, and it was pretty funny. I think they’re trying to find their themes, too. Watch Blackish sometime – it’s hilarious. Great writing and cast.

    Like

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