Guest Blogger

Guest Post: Do Haitian Parents Support Their Children’s Life Choices?

Olympic Swimmer Naomy Grand’Pierre & Students In Cap-Haitien. (use for illustration only)

Written by Sally Riché

Author’s note: The general idea behind this post is probably applicable to all societies, but since I’m Haitian I decided to take the examples from my society.  

I’m a 23-year-old linguist, teacher, writer, and psychology student, and although to you it may seem like an accomplishment, to my father and some of his friends; it’s a complete waste. Why? I’m not a doctor, a lawyer, a businesswoman, an engineer, nor an architect. If you’re Haitian, I know you see where I’m going with this. To our dear parents, these are usually the only careers that really matter.

I’m a former dancer. I spent 15 years of my life dancing when all I really wanted to do was play basketball. Don’t get me wrong, dancing was fun. I was all for my salsa and hip-hop classes, but ballet? I wasn’t interested in yet I didn’t have a choice. This happened to me as a kid but I know many young adults who are going through it right now, that’s why I decided to pen a paper about it.

I’d like to start by pointing out that parents all over the world sometimes tend to choose a career for their children. Even before we came into this world, our dear parents had an agenda for us. That’s pretty normal; it only becomes a problem when we don’t want to follow their plans. Since most of the time our parents are the ones paying for our education, they often force us to major in something we don’t want to. And what’s the career most Haitian parents are crazy about? You guessed right. It really is becoming a doctor.

“Coup de blues. M’ vin prezante m’ ak yon mic pandan manman m’ chita lakay ap tann mwen parèt ak yon blouz.’’ (Depression. I come with a mic while my mom’s at home waiting for me to show up with a white coat). D-Fi Powèt Revòlte. With this punchline, the young rapper speaks of an issue that a lot of young Haitians are facing. All he wants to do is sing but his mother wants him to become a doctor. I myself went through something similar; I studied Linguistics and Psychology, but my father wanted me to be an accountant or a doctor. I’ve always hated and sucked at both biology and mathematics yet that’s what he thought I should do.

Although I turned out to be a linguist, psychologist, and teacher, growing up, my biggest dream was to become a DJ. I was serious about it but I never ever mentioned it to my parents because I knew what they were going to say: “Kisa w vle etidye? Ou fou! Epa nan kay mwen an” (What would you like to major in? Are you insane?! It’s not happening while you’re living under my roof). So I never even brought it up.

I almost became a lawyer and the only reason I’m not is because I failed my entrance exam at FDSE (Faculté de Droit et des Sciences Economiques). If I had succeeded, I would have become a lawyer and not because I wanted to, but because my mom did.

As a young adult, I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot. Still, to my father and some of his friends, it’s nothing because I’m just a linguist, psychologist, and English teacher. Notice that I practice one of the most hated and underrated jobs in Haiti. “Depi se pwofesè w ye w’ap mouri pòv” (You’re going to die broke if you’re a teacher) those are the words I always hear regarding teaching; and although part of it might be true, it’s not what I’m focusing on.

I didn’t choose my job because I wanted to be rich. I chose it because I loved it. That’s what our parents fail to understand. Most of the time, they reject our choices just because they think we’re going to end up broke. If you’re an artist, you can’t possibly tell your Haitian parents that you just want to be a musician, photographer, painter… Nope. You simply cannot.Most Haitian parents don’t believe that you can survive as an artist. In addition, some Haitians don’t even take art seriously: “Depi w atis e fou w fou” (If you’re an artist, you must be crazy”). I’ve heard these words come out of Haitian adults’ mouth way too many times. So having your parents agreeing to you living off your art is something rare and amazing.

Let’s go back to me for a minute. Once, my father’s cousins told me (in my father’s presence) that my job as a psychologist would give bring me a lot of money and my father’s response was, “Woy. Nan ki peyi?” (Pfff. Where?).  “Woy! Yo etidye bagay sa yo Ayiti?” (OMG. People in Haiti study Psychology?)  

People don’t think I can make money being a psychologist in Haiti, trust me, I get where they’re coming from; fields such as Sociology, Psychology, Linguistics didn’t seem important during their time, but now I know that they are slowly making their way to the top.

While working on this article, I spoke to a few young Haitian adults around my age and I’ve heard some interesting stories: one of my closest friends is a law student who wanted to be a sociologist; one of the best female writers I know studied marketing but had friends of her family calling, asking when she was going to switch to business administration; one of my former schoolmates is a linguist who wanted to be a teacher; one of my actual schoolmates is a teacher who wanted to be a doctor; another one of my closest friends is a law student who wanted to be a politician. These are just a few of the stories.

I’d like to continue by saying that sometimes, our parents also choose our hobbies. Remember, I’m I mentioned I’m a former ballet dancer who wanted to be a basketball player. How did that happen? My uncle owns a dance academy, so basically, from the moment I could walk, I started dancing and I loved it.  In the beginning, it was fun, but when I became a teenager, I didn’t feel the same about it. I loved my hip-hop and salsa classes but I hated ballet. I was a tomboy and it was too girly for me so every Monday and Wednesday I was “depressed” because I knew I would have to go through 2 hours of ballet.

I would purposely leave my dance bag home just so I could skip my classes. No need to tell you that this was a strategy I couldn’t use often because I’d get caught. So when I turned 14, I decided to tell my father that I was going to quit dancing and start basketball. Lord have mercy! It was if I told the man I was joining a gang. That day I heard the longest lecture of my life. He spent hours telling me how ungrateful I was for wanting to give up dancing.

When I turned 14, I decided to tell my father that I was going to quit dancing and start basketball. Why did I do that? It was if I told the man I was joining a gang. On that day I heard the longest lecture of my life. He spent hours telling me how ungrateful I was for wanting to give up dancing. “Apre tout sa monnonk ou fè pou ou, ou vle kite dans ?” (After everything your uncle has done for you, you want to give up dancing)?!! I was mad and frustrated; all I wanted to do was recite my favorite quote from Numb (Linkin Park): “Can’t you see that you’re smothering me? Holding too tightly, afraid to lose controlcause everything you thought I would be has fallen apart right in front of you,” but I couldn’t, so I didn’t.

I danced for 4 more years until I entered college and didn’t have time for it anymore. For those of you thinking, “Why didn’t you do both?” the answer is simple: I couldn’t. I was so unlucky that both ballet and basketball were scheduled at the same time. I could only do one, and unfortunately, it wasn’t the one wanted. Also, I have to say that until this day; from time to time, my father lectures me for quitting dance.

Aside from personal experiences, I have other stories on how our parents influence our hobbies. A good friend of mine had to join a circus when she was a kid when all she was interested in was writing; another one had to play soccer because it was his father’s passion. When our parents can’t keep us from having a hobby they don’t agree with, they take their time to bash it when we’re around. One of my friends is a top model and her mom isn’t entirely fine with it. Since she can’t do anything about it, my friend’s mom speaks of the negative aspects of modeling all the time. I also have a friend who’s a music producer and on top of thinking he’s crazy, his parents criticize his job all the time.

As I said earlier, most of the time our parents don’t agree with our choices because they’re afraid of the outcome. They don’t want us to become photographers, painters, writers, DJs, models, etc. because they’re not sure we’re going to be successful. They don’t want us to grow dreads and have tattoos because they’re scared of how society is going to see us. Their actions are well intended, and that’s why we have to show them that our choices might be the right ones.

If you really want to do something, if you think you can succeed in it, sit down with your parents and tell them about your plans. I know, they may not listen but trust me: it is worth the try. I never tried telling my father that I would be successful because I knew he wouldn’t listen. So with my mom’s support, I did what I wanted and now he’s starting to see that it’s working out pretty well for me. I know, I’m a lucky one. When one parent didn’t support me, the other one did, and I had the chance to make my dreams come true.

It is not the same for all of us. Someone once told me that his parents refused to pay for his education the moment he decided to quit med school. You know what he did? He found another way to finance his studies and now, just like me, he’s undergoing his senior year as a psychology student. I know, the odds of finding a scholarship or a job to help finance your studies (especially if you’re living in Haiti) are very low, but it’s worth the try.

Also, know that the moment you decide to take matters into your own hands, there’s a chance your relationship with your parents will suffer from it. There are fathers and sons who don’t talk to each other because the child didn’t follow the plan written for him. So when you’re going to make the decision to go against your parents and do what you want, be prepared for this outcome. In the worst case scenario, where there isn’t anything you can do, where you have to bend to your parents’ authority, find a way to be passionate about whatever it is you have to do because, at the end of the day, your future is at stake.

Do what they want, give them that degree, then do what you’ve always wanted. It might be a long shot, but unfortunately, it’s the only one some of us have.

I’ll finish this article with a quote that one of my best friends sent me: “A lot of parents will do everything for their kids except let them be themselves.” Bansky

Haitian ParentsSally Riché is a young Haitian blogger, poet, linguist, psychologist and English teacher. Born and raised in Haiti, she writes articles in which she addresses some issues in the Haitian society.

To do so, Sally uses her own experiences and those of people in her surroundings. Living in Haiti, her findings are based off testimonies given by people sharing her situation. Ms. Riché wants to do qualitative research therefore she won’t be using numbers as data for her analyses.

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