Growing up, I never went to a slumber party. OK, I went to parties, but I never slept over. I’d don pink pajamas and giggled with my friends during a game of M.A.S.H. until bedtime. Right when I was getting teased about living in a shack (the ‘S’ in M.A.S.H) or marrying Joey from New Kids on the Block, the telephone rang. It was Mami, demanding that I come home. Mami was to be respected so I’d oblige, reluctantly bidding my friends farewell. Then I’d toss in turn in my bed, wishing I was whispering in the dark about future boyfriends and watching Madonna videos on MTV.
This is the innocent, girly fun that I missed as a child because Mami forbade her children from sleeping over at anyone’s home. Mami trusted no one with her offspring, not even her relatives. (I didn’t even stay the night at my primos!) Mami was and still is overprotective and, when wallowing in disappointment or celebrating our choices, she often says, “Mis hijos son mi existencia.”
And Mami really means it.
Mami will take a bullet for my brother, my sister or me. She’d rob a bank if she needed to bail us out of financial ruin. Whatever we need, she provides. Whatever she can do to protect us she will do. That includes ruining my childhood dreams of pillow fights and 24-hour Paula Abdul dance-a-thons.
Though I used to be angry with Mami for ruining my fun, I’m starting to get it. Now that I’m a tia, I see what it is to love a child unconditionally. My niece, Itty Bitty, as I like to call her, isn’t even my child. But she’s my blood. I find myself imagining how much bodily harm I’d do if anyone hurt her. While I’m changing her caca diaper and she’s kicking with joy and gaa goo-ing about something, I say to her in baby talk, “If anyone hurts you, Tia is going to go to jail! Yes she is! Yes she is! I love you, Itty Bitty!” When she’s waddling over to me like a penguin, smile spreading across her face, I envision the kind of the mother I will be.
As much as I hate to admit it, I will be mother just like Mami.
My future daughters and sons (I will not discriminate) will obey my rules. My daughter will not be allowed to wear makeup until age 15 (Mami’s rule). My son will not be allowed to hang in front of the stoop or in bodegas (Mami’s rule). No one of the opposite sex will step into my child’s bedroom, not even when they’re in high school (Mami’s rule). My kin will not play in open fire hydrants (Mami’s rule). I will know their friends and meet their friend’s parent(s) and forbid them to share clothes with anyone other than their siblings (Mami’s rule). And of course, there will be no slumber parties. While my daughter is creating a dance routine for a Justin Bieber song (or whoever the “It” artist is at the time), I will pick up my phone, dial her number and, in a firm tone, demand her to come home. She may hate me in that moment. She may roll her eyes and complain about how unfair and annoying I am while she puts on her coat and bids her girlfriends farewell. I am okay with that because my kids will be my existencia.
Sujeiry Gonzalez is the author of Love Trips: A Collection of Relationship Stumbles. Her comedic personality, unique voice and talent have led her to pen relationship highs and lows for Latina magazine, MiGente, SiTV and Llero.net. Find her stories, videos and much more on LoveSujeiry.com.