“Tu no te goviernas!” was my mother’s favorite line. In other words, it was her way or the highway and her way was always the only way. Mami was the President of our casa and we were to obey while she governed. Which was forever and always. You know, like a dictator.
Because of my strict upbringing, I wasn’t allowed to do much as a kid. I never played in the park, which was literally across the street from my building, because a shoot out could happen at any given time. At least that’s what Mami told me. I could never attend slumber parties because I wasn’t homeless so, “why do you need to sleep somewhere else?!” My friends, however, could sleep over my place any time. Um, there not homeless either, ma.
God forbid my friends and I made last minute plans. According to Mami, she needed two weeks notice or more (she needed to process the information slowly) and, if my friends changed said plans suddenly, they had to count me the hell out. You can imagine I had few friends growing up; they all knew me as the girl who was locked indoors and couldn’t do anything fun.
I wouldn’t dare argue with Mami even when I felt like she was being unfair. (Almost always.)
I knew to only ask Mami things once and only once and leave her be when the answer was no. (Again, almost always!) Unless I wanted to feel the burn of her chancletazo.
Mami’s strict ways didn’t change much when I was a teenager. I waxed my eyebrows for the first time during my junior year of high school, and I was treated to a trip to the nail salon my senior year for prom, where I got acrylic tips for the first time. By high school, I was so fed up with it. All of my friends were allowed to explore their neighborhood, hang out with their friends and socialize. Then there was me: awkward and without a clue. I can’t wait to turn 18, I thought. When I would let Mami know about my planned 18-year-old freedom, she’d remind me that “18” was just a number; it didn’t mean shit especially since I’d still be living with her. Bubble bursted.
At 18, I still had a curfew, still couldn’t party, still couldn’t have sleepovers. I could write you a bomb ass MLA style paper though, and I’m the best note taker you’ll ever meet.
So, despite feeling like I was trapped atop a castle like Rapunzle, I can’t thank Mami enough for her dictatorship. I used to feel she kept me chained and shackled. In reality, it was her way of urging me to take my time, to enjoy being a kid, and to focus on my future and stop trying to grow up so damn fast. I get it now. I thank her now. Because the chancletazos paid off.