Written by Ashley Lopez
Growing up I’ve always been pretty independent. I knew when I graduated high school I wanted to move out for college. I wanted to be away from home and live my own life. The women in my life were also independent. My mother grew up in the United States, countries away from both of her parents raising two girls. My grandma lived in Peru and has lived alone for years, but has never complained and has always been able to support herself. My grandma that lived in the states, though she had my grandpa by her side, had a strong mentality that yelled “my way or the highway.” She always got her way. My godmother, her daughter, was the same way.
My parents are divorced and my family dynamics are different than others. I often compare my family to my friends’ and boyfriend’s families. Though, my family is big, we were never united. I grew up seeing some aunts and uncles, but it was never consistent. I grew up seeing my grandma for 6 months at a time and then she’d leave to go back to Peru and I had to learn to accept it. I had to learn to say bye to people.
I did grow up in a broken family. Having divorced parents. Learning that married couples cheat on each other. Watching family members fight. Listening to my family talk about their cousins, sometimes in a negative light. But, in the end, I had my four women that molded me to be strong, independent, to not rely on anyone and to make sure I can take care of myself. And that’s exactly what I did.
Come my 21st year of life, I met my boyfriend, Luis. Now he’s great. He’s really something. He’ll tell you that I bring him out of his comfort zone, but the truth is, he brings me out of mine. I’ve always heard that Mexican families are so big, united, loving, etc. but dating him made me witness it first-hand. I never met anyone before him that talked to their mom so much, put their problems aside just to help their family, drive 1 hour to babysit their sister and move their schedule around to do so and someone who cherished family more than anything in the world.
Half of Luis’ family lives in southern California and the other half lives in northern California (most of his family is in California). The biggest awe factor for me was that everyone would drive the 5-6 hours just to see each other when my family barely drove 2 hours to do so. His family does this drive so many times a year, whether it’s for a quinceañera, a baptism, a first communion, a surprise party, a baby shower, a gender reveal party, a BBQ, a holiday, a just to be together party. All of these parties are so extravagant to me because of the food, live music (I’m not kidding), but most of all, pure joy.
When I started dating him, I used to be jealous of his family. I used to think that I’d never come before them. That he’d never choose me. I don’t know why I cared so much; I chose myself enough for him too. The first time he introduced me to his family, like his cousins, aunts, uncles—the whole shebang, I was so nervous. I still remember that day as if it was yesterday. I remember being shocked at not necessarily the amount of people there, but how genuinely happy they all were to be together.
What on earth had I just walked into? A family, not just immediate, but all extended family too who actually liked each other. This was one for the books. After a while of dating Luis, I became more accustom to his cultures and values. I began opening my heart little by little. I’m not going to lie—it took a lot of time for me to feel comfortable. As each family party presented itself, the shock of seeing the union and love slowly diminished. This love was real. As I grew closer to his cousins, I couldn’t believe they liked me too.
This became evident when one of his cousins invited me to her bachelorette party. A weekend getaway. I was literally shook. I couldn’t believe she wanted me there. Of course, my brain that won’t stop overanalyzing everything came along with me to the party. I can’t tell you how anxious I was when I got there. I cried in the bathroom the first night because I felt so out of place there. I felt like I didn’t belong there with Luis’ family, without him there. Could this be true? Did they love me too? After I got out of my head, with the help of my dear friend/cousin, Julisa, I was able to enjoy myself and appreciate the moment.
God knows how many family parties I’ve been to with Luis where I felt nervous. For the longest time I didn’t understand why. Why couldn’t I just stop with the pre-party jitters? When I knew, I KNEW that I would have a good time. Everything would be okay and we’d all be together again.
After years of dating Luis, I finally understand my questioning. I was simply raised completely different. He was raised to lean on family. I was raised to lean on myself. To support myself. Sometimes it gets hard to not ask for help. Or not have a big support system. I get worried when I ask Luis for help. But, as the years pass by, I am so blessed to know and love his family, his values, his culture and I am no longer jealous of his family because they are mine too. I am Luis’ family too and that means he’d do anything for me, too. I am now mature enough to know it’s not always about me. Most importantly, I am now understanding and open to unconditional family love.
After all this, it’s obvious that Luis and I are going to have our differences in values and the decisions we make. At times I don’t understand where he’s coming from and the same goes for him. We won’t agree on a lot of things when we start a family, but the one thing we will agree on, that he taught me, is that our kids will always have a support system.
In the end, I am grateful. I’m thankful my mother showed me how to be alone and accept it, how to love myself enough, how to take care of myself and I’m so happy to have had my grandmas guide me towards independence because exploring different cultural and family dynamics is beautiful. Knowing and having not only my family, but Luis’ family too is the best thing that has ever happened to me.
Thanks for reading, xo.
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