Moving Back Home 1: Context

The expectations of immigrant parents is vastly different than those of American parents. So you can’t count on your friend Ashley to understand why being able to prepare dinner for your family and work a full-time job really isn’t a big deal. She just won’t get it.

Another thing you just can’t explain is why moving out of your parents house after college just isn’t something that’s done; believe me, I’ve tried. To me it seems like it all comes down to the expectations and hopes our parents set for  us (their children) when they first migrated to America.

In my case, my parents migrated from Pakistan in their early 20s. As they clung onto their memories of their homeland, they also hoped for a better life for their future kids. Their sons and daughters would be at the best educational institutes, know the culture of their ancestors, and be able to understand and live up to the expectations of their Pakistani heritage. That was the hope.

But over time what they saw for their children started to change. Removal from a “Muslim” country gave my parents a better understanding of their inherit religion, Islam. They parted ways with Pakistani traditions that were unIslamic and kept practices that aligned itself with a Muslim lifestyle.

Their realization welcomed a refined version of expectations for their children. My parents tried their hardest to cultivate environments where we would grow up knowing and practicing the Sunnah of the Prophet SAW. As years passed and social media began casting its magic on our character, the respect, the rules, and the habits that our parents tried so hard to preserve began to unwind.

In 2010, when my older sister found herself registering for her first semester at UC Berkeley my parent’s dream for their children to pursue higher education came true. In 2012, my parents were overjoyed to hear the great news that I too was enrolling into a four year university. Having both sisters going to the same university gave them a sense of ease. In 2016, as one daughter was moving back home and the third daughter was leaving, yet again to the same Bear territory that forced the added mileage to our Toyota Camry, another wave of happiness and joy filled our home with smiles.

My parents were reluctant to allow my older sister to move out of the house for college but alas, they put their hope first. They prayed that the values and rules they instilled in us would stay tightly woven to our hearts. Only time would tell if that would actually be the case.

From the very beginning my parents have had high expectations of us. They expect us to go to a renowned university, to cling closely to our faith, and have the same mentality and attitude they practiced as Pakistani adults. They see greatness for us, they push us to be leaders, to defend our faith, to be strong, and speak up against wrong. Our parents molded us to be, what they hoped, the ideal citizen. After 23 years under their love, I’ve come to realize their secret to have seemingly successful children, when we became teenagers they rarely praised us.

Sitting together at an event as other aunties and uncles sung praises of their children, my parents would smile and consistently say “MashaAllah”. If my siblings and I were around during these conversations, instead of my parents showing us off to the world, if there was something to learn from another child’s action they’d say to us in front of the group, “See Sana, you should do this too”.  From the very beginning my parents never sung our praises in front of others.

They ingrained in us the idea that the work we were doing was to make our own self better. The volunteering, the pursuit of knowledge, practicing obedience with our elders were all actions that would refine our character to be better Muslims. It’s only after 10 months of moving back home that I’ve finally come to realize this. But as a teenager, I did everything that I could to hear those 5 special words from my parents. The showed their love and happiness through frequent hugs and kisses, but I was adamant about hearing those 5 very important words.

When I graduated from high school there was a moment my father and I had to ourselves. Where he looked straight into my eyes and said, “Keep up the good work, always remember Allah. I’m proud of you Sana beta”.

In May 2016, right after my UC Berkeley General Commencement my sister and brother-in-law drove me home to Stockton. From head to toe, I was fully dressed in my graduation attire and could not wait to embrace my parents with tears of happiness and relief. After four brutal years of Applied Mathematics studies I felt nothing but ease knowing that I would be moving back home.

As we rang the doorbell, I was greeted by my Ammi. I embraced my mother and felt the security and happiness of being in her arms. She gave me hundreds of kisses and even more duas.

As I saw my Baba, one of my best friends, coming down the stairs eyes wide with surprise as he saw me in my graduation gown, he embraced me in my favorite big baba bear hug and said the words that made me smile from ear to ear,“I am proud of you”.


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