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My Parents Are Proud Of Me Even Though I've Never Heard Them Say It

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RUSSELL SABIO
Russell Sabio
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born and raised

My parents never told me they were proud of me as a kid -- not in those words at least.

I knew it was something parents said to their children, a thing friends said to each other, and I wanted someone to say it to me.

I remember seeing it happen on Dawson's Creek once, and subsequently crying the ugly cry. It was a scene in season four when Dawson tells Pacey he's proud of him after his friend decides to run away and work on a boat.

I watched the scene unfold on the playground, too. The mother of Julie*, an old classmate, whispered the words "I'm proud of you" to her once as they embraced over the wired fence of our school's parking lot. It was sweet and I was jealous.

Act 1, Scene 4, Line 45: A shy 10-year-old boy stands in the middle of an asphalt playground, listening to the foreign slogan boom in his ear like beats on a drum.

Russell: "Why aren't my parents proud of me?"

Dark storm clouds collect above him, in the most pathetic instances of pathetic fallacy. Curtain.

I'm being dramatic, but it's the way smaller, more-naïve Russell viewed his life at times -- as if he were a character on Dawson's Creek.

I thought that love had to be shouted from the rooftops; that fights ought be resolved with deep conversations about feelings -- and so I craved that type of relationship from my parents.

russell sabio age
This is me at two or three. Maybe four. I had nicer bangs than Dawson Leery. (Photo: Russell Sabio)

But here's a thing that children of Filipino immigrants understand: this type of emotion sharing isn't the norm in most households. It's uncommon for parents to tell their children they're proud of them; in fact, the language doesn't even really support the phrase.

If you put the slogan "proud of you" in Google Translate, you'll get "proud ako sayo" returned to you in Tagalog, the language most Filipinos speak.

You'll notice that there's no translation for the word "proud." Here's the thing, Google, there technically is -- but you are right in knowing that the word got lost as the language became anglicized. Taglish, the integration of English in Tagalog, is common in many areas of the Philippines and is the language most often heard in the media.

"It's not heard or said often, but there is a direct translation (for the phrase)," Felicitas Santos-Vargas says. She's on the board of directors of the Filipino Heritage School of Saskatoon and teaches Tagalog language classes through the organization.

"Ipinagmamalaki kita" -- two words I've never heard in my life.

It's "Ipinagmamalaki kita" -- two words I've never heard in my life and a phrase even my mom struggled to derive when I asked her to translate it for me.

Vargas says that in many instances, Filipinos choose to use English words in place of their Tagalog replacements, and "proud" may be an example.

"The history of our language is very much anglicized... People in the Philippines will say 'I'm proud of you' even if there is a direct translation for the word."

But if you ask Caroline Mangosing, co-founder of the Kapisanan Philippine Centre For Arts And Culture, a youth-focused organization that frequently hosts Tagalog language classes, she'll tell you a direct translation of the word doesn't exist.

"Ipinagmamalaki kita" is rarely used in conversation with kids. When it is, it's most often said on a larger scale, she says -- in the instance of a politician speaking to his constituents, for example.

Santos agrees that the phrase has a deeper, more emotional connotation when it's said in Tagalog. As if it were poetry or lyrics in a song.

But here's another thing -- it's not culturally acceptable to emote to children, Santos and Mangosing say. Filipino kids know this, and I know this.

A parent can't tell you they're proud of you if the word doesn't actually exist in their mother tongue and if the culture they were brought up in doesn't support it.

There are many reasons this may be the case, experts say. It's possibly an after effect of colonization, a result of a strict "respect your elders" upbringing where the reciprocal respect isn't guaranteed or another sort of deep-rooted sociological finding from Freud or Jung.

All of it is really negligible when you note Pacey's (my) epiphany: A parent can't tell you they're proud of you if the word doesn't actually exist in their mother tongue and if the culture they were brought up in doesn't support it.

How can Dawson tell you he's proud of you when he doesn't even know how the words sound?

My parents didn't call me on the pier as wind swept through their bangs, but it didn't mean they didn't feel pride.

russell sabio dog
Please note my unibrow. (Photo: Russell Sabio)

Here's what I now know to be true.

I felt my mother's pride for me every time she bid me farewell at the crosswalk by my school. I would kiss her goodbye, take in her sweet scent and give her a big hug before walking towards the brick building.

Some days I would run back into her arms -- too afraid to leave her side -- but on days when I felt like all I needed was to see her rose-blushed cheeks at a distance, she would be there looking at me, encouraging me with a confident smile. Smiling because she knew that her son was facing his fears -- that her son made further to school than he did yesterday.

I realized my dad was proud of me when he admitted that he searched my name online to watch a show I was co-host on. He said it in front of dinner guests as he queued the video on his laptop screen so that they could watch said show.

So there I was, watching my parents watch me on a computer screen with a room full of strangers, arriving at a very Dawson's Creek realization. Every kiss, every backhanded compliment and every tear my parents tried to hide on birthdays and graduations were indications of my parents' love for me.

It wasn't anything like a Capeside scene or anything Julie's mom would have done -- these are more vivid than that, iterations of pride that almost seem tactile. My parents never told me they were proud of me, but I know that they felt it. The words for it were simply lost in translation.

*Name has been changed

Born And Raised is an ongoing series by The Huffington Post Canada that shares the experiences of second-generation Canadians. Part reflection, part storytelling, this series on the children of immigrants explores what it means to be born and raised in Canada. We want to hear your stories -- join the conversation on Twitter at #BornandRaised or send us an email at bornandraised@huffingtonpost.com.

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