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Entries in asian parenting (12)

Tuesday
Feb012011

Acrobats

N. and I were watching Disney's Beauty and the Beast this afternoon, and there's a part where a bunch of bats come flying out of the dark, gloomy forest.

N., with a certain degree of disdain in her voice, "What are those supposed to be?"

I love how this question speaks volumes about my daughter.

See, she's not asking what they are... she's asking about what they are supposed to be.  In other words, her not knowing what they are doesn't rest on her lack of knowledge but on Disney's inability to transmit what they are supposed to be to her.

Love.  Because, that?  Is me.

Anyway, I tell her simply, "They're bats."

"What kind... acro?"

::Rimshot::

Kids are awesome.  If you don't already have one, you should totally think about getting one.  Just be advised that there are no returns or exchanges.

***


By the way, if you're just dying to know what kind of shampoo I use and why I use it, be sure to visit Buy-Her and read all about that.
Wednesday
Jan122011

I Call Someone A Bad Mother For the First Time EVER.

Let me jump on a bandwagon of the flagrant attempt to get people to buy copies of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother or the discussions surrounding "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior." I certainly bear the distinct qualification to pontificate on this matter being not only a mother of Asian origin herself, but a child who was, in fact, raised by an Asian mother.

Amy Chua lists a bunch of little items in her WSJ article that she prohibits her children from doing.

I lived with many of those prohibitions.

I definitely never had a "play date", I was not allowed to sleep over at friends' houses (with the exception of a handful of times), and though I was steadfast in my insistence to participate, I was highly discouraged from participating in school plays.  In fact, the first time I did participate in a school play, it was not known to my parents and wholly attributed to the fact that I could forge my mother's signature.

My brother and I used to participate in a lot of academic competitions, though.  That was completely okay.

Social studies, foreign language, theater, science fairs, etc.  I think I was in the seventh grade when all that started.  In ninth grade, I got second place in the science fair.  I remember my parents reaction vividly.

It was not elation.

They asked me who got first.  They told me not to worry, and that I would do better next time.  I never forgot that.  From that moment on, no matter what, if I competed in something, I was getting first.  I would bring home blue.

I remember getting a "red" (second place) in some competition during my senior year of high school.  I came home hoping that my parents would be too busy to ask me about the competition.  Luckily, they were.  I unpacked my bag and stuffed that red ribbon down at the bottom of the garbage can.  It meant nothing to me because I knew it would mean nothing to them.

I took that lesson with me into adulthood, too.  For a long time, I believed that if you weren't the best at something, you simply didn't matter.  For some people, that works.  That gets them into Harvard, I guess.  For other people, people like me, that makes you feel like everything is pointless.  I gave up on doing a lot of stuff in my twenties because I didn't think I could be the best at it.

I'm not trying to make anyone feel bad for me here.  I am a well adjusted, fairly happy adult who does all sorts of stuff that I'm just mediocre at, now.  Like, you know, writing this blog.

I'm also not saying that my parents were awful.  I love them.  I know they were doing their best.  Everything is fine.

But, I will say this, I don't think this is an ideal way to parent.

I don't think, in fact, that today it is even an acceptable way to parent.

In my parents' defense, I think they didn't know any better.

I really believe that.

They grew up in a country where this was the most acceptable, mostly widely practiced and largely unquestioned style of parenting because it was the only style.  Love and honor are intricately bound... there is relatively no distinguishing between them.  You are honored to be the child of your parents, and you honor them by, well, bringing in more honor.  Love?  Well, duh.  Of course, we all love each other.  Of course, we do.  Don't we... whye arrre you beeing so eemotional, bete*?

But Amy Chua did not grow up where my parents grew up.

In fact, given that Amy Chua grew up here in the United States, I'm kind of offended for my Asian parents that she has tried to categorize herself with them.  I don't know if this will make sense, but I feel as though Amy Chua has taken something that my parents did out of pure innocence and made it into something horrible.  Kind of like what Coca Cola did with "New Coke" back in the 80s.

Anyway, yes, in this instance, I am saying that the mother described in Amy Chua's article is not being the best mother she can be.  I don't think I've ever said that before.  I make it a point not to say bad things about the parenting of others because I have this pesky habit of being a decent person and all.

Really, I know it's awful.  It feels awful to say it, but hear me out.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I take issue with this depiction of "Chinese" mothers (Chua does actually cite that Indian mothers are similar) because I beleive her focus distracts from the real issues and causes of alienation that occur between Asian immigrants and their American children.

The disconnect is not a result of the prohibitive ways that children are raised in this environment.

While I don't agree with making a kid practice violin for two hours, I don't think that is "bad" parenting.  I think it's fine to value ambition, achievement and success.  I don't put the same premium on those values, but, lucky for my kids and their grandchildren's trust funds, my husband does.

I think it's the issue of love that bothers me here.

Love is the problem here.  How it is being used, what she thinks it means and what she is doing with it.

It is my belief that all that children want from their parents is love.  Not even "acceptance." I think they just want to be loved.  And I think the kind of parent that Amy Chua has described uses this intense and singular desire for love as a tool to motivate, shame or punish a child.  I am more than uneasy with that, I find it horrifying.

I cannot begin to imagine how calling your child garbage is (a) something to brag about or (b) even remotely acceptable as a form of motivation or discipline.

I just don't think dangling love in front of your child in order to make them jump through metaphorical hoops of your own values and ambition is a Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, or a whatever Asian country whose kids are the best at math right now way.

I simply think that it's the wrong way.

I'm a disciplinarian with my children.  Probably more so than my non-Asian origin peers, maybe even more than my Asian American peers.  I very strictly limit television, emphasize academics (yes, even with a 5 and 1 year old), and plan on "making" them take music lessons until they are just on the verge of hating me.  I also plan on stressing the importance of getting the absolute best grades they can attain.

But I also plan on communicating with them.

On listening to them... finding out what they like, who they are... who they want to be.

On letting them know that I love them... yes, no matter what.  No.matter.WHAT.

Because, in the end, what they achieve will not belong to me.  It will belong to them.

I don't think the last few lines are special, "above and beyond," or a reflection of parenting choices.

I think they're just part of the "being a good mommy" code.

*bete is a term of endearment which translates to "child"
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