It feels like just yesterday that I held you in my arms for the first time. It amazes me to think that you are now 15 years old and a freshman in high school. I can't believe how quickly the years have flown by.
In the 15 years you have been on this earth, I'm sure you can agree that it's been pretty eventful, to say the least. From moving to the other side of the country to personal changes at home, it's been a life journey filled with many trials and triumphs, wins and losses. Believe it or not, this is what life is all about. And as you navigate high school, I hope that all your experiences will help guide you when you're faced with challenges, of which there will be many: grades, friendships, temptations, girls, and competition, just to name a few.
In many ways, we're so much alike. We're honest about how we feel — sometimes to a fault — perceptive, quick-witted and have a tendency to be aloof at times, but only because it protects our very delicate hearts from getting hurt. I will admit that you got that from me, and I sometimes feel like I'm looking in the mirror when the candor rolls off your tongue with such ease.
Photograph by Rachel Matos
However, unlike you, I was raised with a stronger presence of a Latino culture that was filled with a lot more tradition and religion. As liberal and modern as I think I turned out, I've learned that a lot of my early influences profoundly impacted my parenting style today. The style that typically ends with you saying, "mom, you don't understand." The truth is, I understand way more than you know. But that stern and strong Latina mom that lives in my DNA will always feel the need to protect you fiercely, no matter what.
Unlike you, I was raised with a stronger presence of a Latino culture that was filled with a lot more tradition and religion. As liberal and modern as I think I turned out, I've learned that a lot of my early influences profoundly impacted my parenting style today.
It's the same woman who does not let you close your bedroom door, doesn't knock when she comes in your room (and is offended even at the idea of knocking in her own home), takes matters into her own hands when no one else is up for the task, and has a few old-school habits like spoiling you rotten because you're "el nene" and always will be.
I know that not growing up in a large Latino family, but having much of it infused into the way I raise you, has left you confused many times. After all, in the grand scheme of things, I may be considered a non-conformist and radically non-traditional. The truth is, your mom is all of the above and one day, it will all make sense to you. You are a wonderful mix of Latino and Caucasian — with a lot of East Coast characteristics — living in a very culturally and financially diverse suburban California community, surrounded by families who watch over you like you are their own.
But as wonderful as this diversity is, I know that it hasn't always been easy figuring out where you belong in this world. Being a native New Yorker of Puerto Rican and Ecuadorian descent myself, I remember not truly feeling rooted in one culture either. But that's OK. We are multicultural and it's a beautiful thing. Right now, you're just a couple of stitches into the tapestry you will become as you get older.
I hope that the dynamic between you and I as mother and son, and that every mountain we climb together, gives you something to draw upon the more you settle into your teen years. The structure (what you refer to as being strict) I've passed down to you along with an eclectic artistic point of view (what you call weird, or hippie) is somewhere within you to help you navigate through life's tough decisions. I have confidence that you'll know when it's time to make good choices.
Being a native New Yorker of Puerto Rican and Ecuadorian descent myself, I remember not truly feeling rooted in one culture either. But that's OK. We are multicultural and it's a beautiful thing.
Photograph by Rachel Matos
I'm proud of you. I beam with joy when teachers and parents tell me how much they enjoy having you around, and that they feel good knowing their kids are with you. I know when you hear these compliments, you need to balance that solid side of you with a few jokes and shocking comments. I know you well. I was a high schooler once too (a million years ago).
There are many changes up ahead and I will be here with you every step of the way — even when you don't think you need me. I will be there to give you those "koala hugs" you've always loved (yep, I just shared your secret with the world) and will also be here to give you tough love when situations call for it.
May you remember these four years of high school, before you head off into college and the real world, as a time of growth and happiness.