Somewhere along my life journey, I had undervalued the significance of a young child’s upbringing.
I thought that a human being’s life really started and mattered only when they became young adults. That anything before that is irrelevant, as childhood experiences are often forgotten and simply left in the past.
Boy was I wrong.
I know many of you reading my blog are young Hmong American women, pursuing your dreams, cultivating friendships, navigating multiple roles, and...falling in love.
Falling in love.
That sounds so heavenly, yom?
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day and this month where many of my Hmong sisters are celebrating #selflove, I felt it was time to share my thoughts on romantic love as a Hmong American woman.
Pagnia and _____ sitting in the tree
First comes love,
Then comes marriage,
Then comes baby in the baby carriage…
Growing up as a little girl, getting teased by others with this song made me giggle and have a little hope for romance. As embarrassing as it was, I loved the idea of romance.
But romance was just an idea.
As a young child, I often heard stories of uncles abusing aunts. Uncles cheating on aunts.
I remember sitting next to my younger cousin who was crying on the steps of my grandparents’ house, while hearing her parents fight inside.
I remember witnessing elders negotiate and deliberate a broken marriage between an aunt and uncle, and the way the aunt stood in silence with numb sadness on her face.
Although I was only a little girl, I could feel the pain, the tears, and the sadness in all these lives. I took on this pain.
As I grew up, these memories never faded and I unconsciously learned that there is no romance in marriage.
There is no romance in marriage.
And being that I’d been raised to become a nyab, this was going to be my life too, one day.
It didn’t matter how many times I got an ‘A’ on my report card. Most of my worth, determined by the adults in my life, came from being compared to female cousins, friends, and even my own sisters.
How well do I cook?
How early do I get up?
How hardworking am I?
How well can I speak to elders, in Hmong?
Being a nyab meant I would be married. And marriage has no romance, remember?
So as I got older, I associated all of this with pain. And I wanted absolutely nothing to do with it.
I put marriage on the back burner, and instead, simply pursued romance. I could at least achieve that, right?
But I discovered that I had unconsciously come to believe that so much of the pain I saw in those marriages were caused by men.
The numb sadness on my aunt’s face.
The tears flooding my younger cousin’s.
I had indirectly learned that women are not safe in marriages. If I were to marry a man, I would not be protected by him. I would need to protect myself, and the best way to do that is to remain single. I can date, but I can never go further than that.
This unconscious belief has haunted me since I was a little girl. And I know it's not a good belief to hold on to, 'cause goodness, lub ntuj yeej paub how much pain it's caused.
Today, I am reminded of how powerful the messages I received as a little girl by the adults in my childhood are for me in making important life decisions as an adult Hmong American woman.
And more importantly, I realize how necessary it is for every little girl to see healthy relationships in her life...because I know that little girl in me is still protecting herself.
YOUR TURN! What experiences as a young child have shaped your views on romantic relationships? Do you know a couple who is #relationshipgoals? What wisdom would they share with us?
Until next time...