Native Born, Foreign Raised: The Frustrations And Comfort Behind Strict Parents

by Nadine Sulz

America is the land of the free, home of the brave, and the start of Miley Cyrus’s twerking career. Mostly because of that last one, however, our society has become a demoralized reflection of our generation, vulnerable to criticism and judgment. As the cherry on top, this misrepresentation can only work against us in the eyes of our parents.

On one hand, you think the idiocy and ridiculousness of celebrity news and reality TV will work in your favor. We say to our parents, “Well at least I’m not using my body as a crack house like Amanda Bynes!”

And their response is probably something like, “Yes, because we didn’t raise you that way!” Here lies the discrepancy in generations. This discrepancy only worsens when you’re first generation and they raised on traditional, old world morals in a society that’s anything but.

Being brought up in a Middle Eastern household, with both parents born and raised in Jordan, has definitely made me an outlier on the bell curve of growing up “normal.” Like most other first generation kids, my parents came to America for the opportunity at a better life, both for them and their future offspring.

My dad, without any formal education, started from the bottom (excuse the Drake reference) at a Nathan’s hot dog stand, while my mom attended college as a pregnant young woman. A stable job, a house, and three children later, they turned the American Dream into a reality. Unfortunately, their reality is a lot different from ours.

Although my parents practically came to America with nothing, they were sure to bring the morals of the mother country along with them. The thing is, the concrete jungle isn’t really the same as the desert, but say that, and you’ll end up wishing you didn’t.

The first half of my life was pretty normal: family vacations to Disney World, Saturday morning cartoons, and play-dates that consisted of choreographing dance moves to the Spice Girls.

Then, all at once, just like that, the struggles of teenage life happened. As if going through puberty wasn’t hard enough, just add in the growing restrictions of strict Arabic parents.

After middle school, I learned that I couldn’t talk on the phone with boys, sleepover anyone’s house, or be out after 8PM. After high school, I learned that I couldn’t date, still couldn’t sleepover my friends’ houses, or be out after 10PM.

Being three months away from my college graduation, not much has changed – well, in the minds of my parents, at least. They say the most important factor in any relationship is trust.

With that being said, you would think that having a 3.6GPA, a part time job, an internship, and living at home (I couldn’t live in a dorm, either), would be enough to have that trust – boy were you wrong. A lack of trust leads to a plethora of rebellion, and after years of rebellion, my life has turned into the lying game.

It’s actually tiring the amount of effort and creativity necessary to enjoy yourself with protective and strict parents. I’ve missed out on a lot because of the restrictions my parents put on me, so if your only choice is to say you’re going to the movies when you’re actually going to a party, then so be it (and believe me, that’s been the case more times than I can remember).

I compare my life to that scene in “Bend it Like Beckham” where Jess, forbidden to play soccer by her very traditional parents, hides her uniform in the bushes where she later dresses herself, along with guilt, as she secretly plays on a soccer team. My uniform in the bushes is just myself trying to enjoy life as much as I can, regardless of how I have to go about it.

The fact is that there shouldn’t be any hiding; there should be no bush. I always find myself questioning things that most people my age have never had to.

When my friends want to go away for a weekend, go to a midnight movie, or even go out after 11PM (God forbid), I’m always the one who has to think of a lie days in advance to even be considered by the jury that is my parents. And when they do allow me, because a 21-year-old apparently needs to be given permission to do anything, the combination of their terms and my paranoia almost makes it not even worth it.

Why do I always have to decline invitations? Why am I always the one staying home on a Friday night? Why me?

Don’t get me wrong, my mom probably knows more celebrity gossip than I do and my dad knows more about the government than I’ve learned in my political science class, but that doesn’t mean they have assimilated into this culture and changing societal norms more than I have.

In all fairness, since I turned 21, and am soon to be an unemployed college graduate, they have become more open, less restrictive, and more understanding. I’ll give them credit where it’s due, but this credit should’ve been due a long time ago. At this point in my life, I’ve grown accustomed to norms that they haven’t, and I can only try to understand and make the best of something I know I can’t change.

At the end of the day, even though I’m not doing keg stands in a cramped dorm or leaving my house at 11PM in heels I can’t walk in, I love my parents for caring too much and being too worried. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and if I’m waking up and going to bed under the roof and rules of my parents who can really only be criticized for loving me, I think I’ll be ok.

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