Skip to main content

Our Family Motto

Our family motto is Growing is hard, and that’s okay. I’ve had it plastered to our fridge since we got married and bought a house in the same weekend in October 2014, and I’ve used it in my ESL classroom since 2011, when I first read Carol Dwek and learned about the idea of a growth mindset. I’m an ESL teacher and I used to start every school year with an inspiration speech to my students. I’d tell them to expect my class to be hard, because it would be a waste of time if it were easy. And that’s how I came up with growing is hard and that’s okay. 

Right around that time, a friend of mine posted a photo on Instagram of new life emerging in northern Chile months after a 24-hour flash floor buried seemingly everything in mud. It’s one lone flower poking up between dry, cracked earth and when I saw it, I knew it was the perfect depiction of my motto. 


My life motto became our family motto when we started our family in 2014. It is elementary in its simplicity, but that simple phrase resonates so deeply. I sought to instill it within my students, and then within my own children, but it is also something I’ve told myself many, many times over the years, especially when we were buying our first house. I’ve earned my bachelor’s and my master’s degree, I’ve driven across the country, I’ve visited 13 countries, I’ve learned a second language fluently, I’ve given birth to two children, and still buying my first house was the hardest thing I had to do up until that point in my life. The paperwork was endless, the amount of trips I took from the bank to the mortgage broker’s office, the number of official documents I had to find copies of and provide. Not to mention saving the money for the down payment, proving receipts, paying down or paying off other debts I owed, not having any cash transactions and not using our credit card for three months. Buying a house is a logistical nightmare, and that’s after you’ve already been to three dozen open houses, viewed two dozen other houses, and had your offers outbid at least three times on what you thought were three of your dream homes. And then, just when we were ready to close on the house, we saw on the paperwork for the FHA loan that they had marked my husband as a US citizen (which he is not) and we had to start the process ALL. OVER. AGAIN. 

So many times throughout that summer I wanted to give up. It was so hard--the endless paperwork, the continual notices and verifications, the emotional rollercoaster of making such a large purchase and commitment, and then when I had to do everything all over again, I wasn’t sure if I could persevere. But I did, and after three full months, we got the keys to our new home on the day before our wedding. Not only had we achieved our goal of being home owners and had we earned the reward for our perseverance, we had also grown so much and learned so much along the way, so that now I can say we actually own three houses, and with each purchase, the experience got easier and easier. 


I would use this example for my students to show them that even grown ups are challenged to grow, and that growing is hard even when you are an adult. Then my husband and I adopted his youngest brother and sister from Guatemala in 2015 and we had an instant family. They came to this country and our home not knowing any English, so each day after school I would sit with them at the kitchen table and work through their homework and lessons with them. Whenever they would say, “This is so hard!” I’d gesture to the poster on our fridge, and make them read it to me. Soon they memorized it, and it was the first adage they learned in English, because I told it to them over and over! They went on to learn English fluently in two years, graduate from high school, and now are successful adults of their own. 

As we went on to navigate infertility, lost a baby to ectopic pregnancy, and hoped, waited, and prayed for the safe delivery of our two rainbow babies, our motto was like a prayer. Now two and four, our little ones don’t know the struggles that existed before their birth, nor have they known struggle yet in their young lives. But when they do, I will make sure they know that growing is hard and that’s okay. 

Three years ago, we took in our seven-year-old niece as an emergency foster placement for a weekend. It turned out to be for far longer than just a weekend, and as we navigated the foster care system with her, growing is hard and that’s okay continued to be our mantra. Foster children and foster families face many challenges, as they work to heal what could be years of trauma the children have had to endure. None of that was easy, but keeping our family motto at the forefront of our minds made facing the challenges doable. Three years later, we are now her permanent legal guardians. 

Growing is not supposed to be easy, it’s supposed to be hard and it’s often so hard it hurts. But that is what makes it worth it. We are continually learning and growing throughout our whole life, because that is how we improve. It is only through a growth mindset that we can achieve our big goals or our little goals. 


Popular posts from this blog

Is 5 Little Monkeys Racist?

I’ve seen a lot of Tik Toks debunking children’s nursery rhymes lately. I have two toddlers, so now whenever I hear one of those rhymes, I think about their unsavory origins. But my son loves, loves Five Little Monkeys. He’s just learning to talk, and can almost say it by himself. I’ve thought about telling him to stop singing it since I learned in the original lyrics it’s not monkeys jumping on the bed, but he just gets so much joy from singing it as he jumps up and falls down, I thought... no harm, no foul, right? As long as he thinks the song is about monkeys, it’s ok.  Until my niece came over one day, and the three toddlers were playing on an old mattress we have on the living room floor for them to jump around on. My son asked me to sing 5 Little Monkeys. At first it was cute, because they literally were jumping on the bed, but then I took a good look at the three of them.  My kids are half-Guatemalan but very fair, like I am. Whereas my niece is half-black, and her skin happens

Why You Should Travel with Little Kids

I took my first cross-country road trip when I was six-weeks-old. My parents loaded me up in an old Ford Wagoneer and drove me home from my dad's hometown of Pittsburgh, PA, to my hometown of Ojai, CA. After that, we traveled back and forth between the East Coast and the West Coast every summer of my life. A few times we flew, but most years we loaded up the car with the suitcases, the dogs, and the children and drove 3,000 miles across the country. This early exposure to travel instilled within me a joy of seeing the world, and since that first trip I have visited 34 states and 14 countries. And I hope to share that same joy with my own little ones. Traveling with children can be hard--it disrupts their nap schedules, may involve crossing timelines, and definitely pushes everyone beyond their comfort zones. But seeing different countries and different parts of our country as children gives them a greater appreciation for cultural and regional differences, and it widens their exper

Reflections on Immigrant Life and the American Dream by a New Citizen

  Buenos días estudiantes de sexto grado. Mi nombre es Audelina Barrios, and I am a former student of Fuller Middle School. Soy de Guatemala, y viví mis primeros trece años de mi vida en mi tierra natal, pero desafortunadamente perdí a mis padres cuando tenía 12 años. Mi hermano y yo fuimos huérfanos por un año hasta que tomamos la decisión de empezar nuestro viaje hacia los United States to meet our oldest siblings.  In August of 2014 we finally arrived in the land of our dreams, the United States. During our first 4 months in the US, we lived in New Jersey with my oldest sister, Rosa, and went to a school where ESL didn't even exist. I was paired up with the only Latino in the school y sin saber una palabra en inglés. I felt like an outsider because I had no other friends and like I wasn't even part of the school system.  In January 2015 my older brother Francisco and his wife, Mae, adopted us and we moved to Framingham. My first school in Framingham was Fuller Middle School