Growing up in a Latino family, there’s certain things we become used to. Our little primas always raiding our closets and taking our clothes (WHY DO THEY ALWAYS DO THIS?)…our abuelo insisting he play us in Dominoes (even though he’s ALWAYS going to win)…Mami’s special Sunday dinners (that we could NEVER miss). The list could go on and on.
But the thing every person with Latino parents remembers the most about growing up are all the sayings we’re told about the value of things. About how anything we own isn’t just an object – it’s so much more, and we need to constantly remind ourselves how grateful we are for the story each thing holds.
Here are 10 phrases every Latino parent tells their kids about the real value of things.
1. “Everything can be used more than once, mija.”
— Brendii NoctGar (@rawrwithsound)
Which is why anytime you opened what you thought was butter…there were actually leftovers inside of it. Anything could be used more than once, and mami always made sure to tell us that. It taught us resourcefulness and the importance of recycling.
2. “Anything can be turned into dinner.”
Whenever a kid would complain about what was for dinner that night, our parents would always point out that there was nothing wrong with mixing and matching a little. Sure, maybe ketchup was a weird thing to put on rice and beans, but it added that extra flavor! And TBH, I still eat my rice and beans that way. It was all about unique family traditions.
3. “When I was little, we had to walk fifteen miles to school!”
Whenever we would talk about fancier cars, our parents were always quick to point out how our car wasn’t just any ordinary car. It represented how far they had come in their life, and how proud they were. They had to walk everywhere growing up and their family never had cars. So the family coche was always special and it was important for us to remember that.
3. “Mija, this house is a home.”
How many times have we heard this one?! Our house was never “just a house.” It was a home, and symbolic of everything our parents went through to make sure we always had a roof over our heads. The jobs upon jobs they worked to make sure we grew up in a place that was always more than a house…but a home.
4. “Respect that television. It’s worth three paychecks.”
Watching our favorite telenovela was never just “watching”. It was all about appreciating the fact that we had a TV, and how big of a deal that was! It meant everything to our parents, because they never had it when they were little.
5. “The couch is covered in plastic because it is important, mija!”
Classic Latino parents! If you didn’t grow up in a house covered in plastic couches, WHO WERE YOU?! SERIOUSLY. This was a staple of any Latino household and it was always because the couches were sacred spaces. They meant the most to our parents. Having a good couch meant comfort and being proud of the hard work that went into enjoying such luxuries.
6. “DON’T YOU DARE THROW OUT THE VAPORUB!”
That VapoRub was a big deal in the house growing up. It may seem little, and like it means nothing, but mom and pops swore by it constantly and it always meant so much to them. It was important that they could always take care of their kids when they were feeling sick or hurting, so the VapoRub always symbolized that – being nurtured by parents.
7. “No, we are never throwing away your Quinceanera dress.”
The great “Quince Dress” debate. Mami would never let us throw away our quince dress because of everything it represented: womanhood and growing into the person we were supposed to be. It meant everything to her, so that thing will stay at the back of a closet in the house for all of eternity.
8. “These are not just plastic bags within plastic bags, okay?!”
Every little thing in the house had a purpose, including the fact that mom always put plastic bags…within other plastic bags. Nothing went to waste, and she always reminded us of that. Something as simple as a plastic bag could do so much – you could use it as a trash bag, to store things, to take things to school and work…it showed that everything has a purpose, even things that seem otherwise.
10. “Why do you wanna eat out? We have tons of food here.”
Food is such an amazing thing for Latino families, and much like #1, our parents were NOT about us going to restaurants. It was all about enjoying the food they could prepare for us. And it was always a special time to be around one another and catch up.