I am hurting.
I know you’ve envisioned a certain kind of life for your kids. You fled with your family to the Thai refugee camps and resettled in America with nothing — no language, capital, or familiarity. Through hardships and struggle, you eventually cultivated something for yourself in America.
I know deep down you are the way you are because of the traumas of poverty, war, and the workings of the Hmong patriarchy between you and your own mom — all which you have had to navigate and continue to.
Because of your history, you attempt to vicariously live through us children, especially us daughters. Although I have tried to please you with good grades, a higher education, and staying out of extracurricular activities in college, I still disappoint you in one way or another.
Three months ago I made the decision to go home with my partner. You were furious. You told the people who came to fiv xov that my in-laws should just send the bride price money to you and dad. You didn’t want to do a wedding for me. You didn’t want anything to do with me anymore because I made a decision that was different from your desire.
I knew you would be upset, but not to that extent. I know why you continue to stay passive aggressive, though. You want us girls to only nqi tsev hais. You feel that we are entitled to it because we have a high education. You feel that people will treat us better, respect us more, or value us more if we nqi tsev hais. You love us daughters so much that you only want the best of the best for us, you want us to have what you never had. I can understand all of these things and its ties to your life — your past, present, and future.
Yet, I share opinions that differ from yours. If my sisters and I deserve to nqi tsev hais because of our high education, then why didn’t you, dad, and the aunts and uncles want those things for our nyabs, too? They both have a higher education compared to my brothers, but you all said to just bring them home. I feel bothered about this inconsistency.
Better yet, I don’t believe others will treat me better as a nyab if we nqi tsev hais. People will treat me the way I treat them or in whichever way they want to treat me. I can’t control people’s feelings about me, either. People who only respect me because of my status do not truly respect me.
A few weeks ago, Older Sister told me that you wanted to nqi tsev hais because if there was a possibility that some day my partner and I were to get a divorce, my in-laws would abandon me in the last place that they spiritually and physically brought me home.
But I ask you this: does me going home with my partner truly make me any less worthy of coming home to you and dad? You have raised us kids to be resilient and smart. You don’t have to worry about me finding my way home. The question is, will you and dad accept me home in the first place, despite how I got married?
Mom, you and I butt heads a lot because we are both Hmong womxn who are young, ambitious, and strong-headed. I am frequently caught in conflict with you, though, because you are so smart and I believe that you have the capacity to know better.
But I also recognize the dearth of resources and networks you had growing up, in comparison to me, around navigating and nurturing your emotions and experiences as a Hmong womxn. So for that, I give you a lot of grace. However, you are still accountable in some aspect for all the hurt you have inflicted and continue to inflict onto me, whether you acknowledge it or not. Our traumas cannot always excuse our toxic behaviors, no matter the past.
Mom, these last two months I have tried to call you and text you to reconcile our relationship to no avail. Older Sister said you told her you choose to not answer my calls or texts. If you want to continue playing the victim, then I have no choice but to distance myself from you. I cannot continue to spend my energy and emotions begging to be back in your life, when you are not willing to meet me half way, let alone a quarter of the way. I also respect myself enough now as an adult to know that I cannot continue to break myself apart in order to appease your ego. If I do, there will be nothing left of me in the end to healthily give to my partner and our future together.
Mom, everyone around me and you, including myself, has stood up for you and your anger as a Hmong mother. But nearly not as many people have validated my emotions; they cannot fathom the predicament that you have put me in because I am your child and I’m supposed to just nyoo koj — give in and be guilty of things that I have no reason to be guilty of.
I have felt so much anger, too, resentment, and bitterness that everyone is taking your side. I have felt so lonely and abandoned. In my entire life I have given so much empathy to you and others but have felt little in return when I needed it most. To you, our situation may feel like it’s me versus you. But to me, it has been quite literally everyone and you versus me. And I want you to know that; I am not okay and I have been hurting so much these last few months.
Mom, I am a good Hmong daughter, despite the mistakes I’ve made. You might not agree, though, because I could never live up to your idealizations of “goodness.” Since in your eyes I am always a bad Hmong daughter, then let me be that bad Hmong daughter.
Let me be that bad Hmong daughter who will break these intergenerational traumas. Let me be the bad Hmong daughter who doesn’t believe that “Well, I grew up that way and I turned out fine.” Let me be the bad Hmong daughter who fights for new traditions that center Hmong womxn and Hmong LGBTQ+ lives. Let me be the bad Hmong daughter that disappoints you in order to pave the way towards a healthier future for Little Sister, my baby nieces and nephews, and other folks in the Hmong community.
Mom, I am hurting. I am continually working on my healing, and it seems I need to extend this act of no communication between us that you seem to be encouraging as a form of punishment to me. Again, I am not going to try to be in your life if your love for me is so conditional that I have to oppress myself in order to get your attention.
When you are ready to talk to me, your adult daughter, someone who will no longer say “how high?” when you say “jump,” I will be here. I will be waiting with my newfound and practicing boundaries. This is the least I am willing to do for you, given our mismatched breadth of resources and knowledge between the generations.
Your Bad Hmong Daughter