Hmong kids grow up way too fast. It is because our parents expect us to just let go of our childish ways (by the time puberty hits) and take on a whole bunch of responsibilities that they themselves are either too busy for or don’t want to have. Hmong parents have the mindset that since they gave birth to you, it is your duty to provide for them in any way possible. They never consider your age or maturity level before bestowing responsibilities unto you. They just expect you to grow up and become an adult overnight.
I was babysitting my siblings and was left home alone starting at age 8. Others would consider this child neglect, and would report it to CPS. However, mind you that this is the Hmong I’m talking about. Hmong parents don’t think that leaving an “able” child home alone is neglect.
I was translating and interpreting by the time I was 10. The minor things, like going to parent-teacher conferences and talking to the sales person was fine. It was when my mom dragged me to her doctor or social worker’s office that I drew blanks every time the occupational jargons came up. And Hmong parents don’t take, “I don’t understand what that person is saying” as an answer. If you say that, then they just call you stupid and worthless and say, “Why did I bring you anyway? I could’ve came by myself.”
I was forging my mom’s signature when I turned 12. Every time I came home from school with paperwork, my mom would tell me, “Just read it and sign my name. I don’t understand what they’re trying to say, and you’re the one who understands English, so you read it and sign it.”
My mom expected me to cook and clean the whole house by the time I was 15. If I didn’t, then she called me lazy and said that I was never going to find a decent Hmong husband.
And if you’re the oldest of a gazillion kids (like I am), you have the most responsibility in the home. You help your younger siblings get ready for school in the morning and help them with their homework after school. If they did something wrong, it wasn’t because they were naughty. No… It was because you didn’t bother to watch them properly, so you were the one who got in trouble. And if you and your brother or sister got into a physical fight—it didn’t matter who started it—it was your fault because you are older and should’ve known better.
Don’t even get me started on driving. Once you learned how to drive, your parents throw you the responsibility of being the family chauffeur. And it didn’t matter if you only have your driver’s permit. To Hmong parents, a permit is as good as a driver’s license. I mean, if you passed the written test to get your permit, you must know how to operate a car and know all the rules of the road, right? And if you start work and/or college, Hmong parents would tell you that you need to make your schedule fit around your younger siblings’. And when you can’t, your parents would say that you’re worthless.
And if your parents own a business, say good-bye to your minimal social life as it is.
Basically, if you’re a Hmong kid, you just have no time to be yourself. Why? Because you have to satisfy all the demands around you. And you can’t say no. You want to, but you’re not allowed to. Hmong families value family interdependence. And when one person breaks away from the group, they label you “bad.” Hmong parents believe that since they “shed blood” for you, it is your duty to be a filial child and take on your responsibilities.