Western Mediocrity is Fine with Me
Amy Chua has done something very brave; she exposed herself for all to see in the Wall Street Journal’s article Why Chinese Mothers are Superior an excerpt to her memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. She professes that she is a proud Tiger Mother, owning her superiority over western parenting again and again through example of how Chinese parents raise children compared to her western neighbors and friends. Again, she did a brave, brave thing.
Yet despite all her bravery I am sad for her and her daughters. I realize that her excerpt is merely a small glimpse at the book itself and by Chua’s own admission, meant to be tongue in cheek, poking fun at herself and her own parenting struggles and transformation as a mother; I can’t ignore the fact that she admits to berating her daughters all in the name of being successful and rising above their western raised friends. That makes me extremely and deeply sad for her daughters. I don’t doubt that Chua’s household had its share of love, hugs and smiles but it’s my belief that a child that grows up hearing how worthless they are until they get it the way mom wants or how they don’t measure up to mom’s high expectations will grow up resenting not only mom but the way of life they were forced to live.
At the same time, I respect Chua for being able to document and write so honestly about her struggle. I respect that she felt it was important to take what she has learned about being a Tiger Mother and put it out there so open and raw to the criticism that she is receiving. If she was looking to light a fire under an entire culture, she has far exceeded (as any Tiger Mother would be proud), any expectations she might have had for herself.
And while I respect Chua for her boldness; I find it disheartening that the book seems to put up another wall between mothers. It’s bad enough that our own gender has pitted stay at home against work at home mothers and which option creates a better mother; we now have Amy Chua telling us that one culture of mothers are better than another. It’s another mothering war that I don’t think needs to be waged – tongue in cheek or not. This is a difficult enough job as it is. Why create another wedge between mothers? I don’t think it’s in the best interest of either group of mothers to pit us against one another.
Perhaps I’m seeing this all wrong. I haven’t read Chua’s book. I’m not sure I have the stomach to read it actually. If reading her book brings to light how mediocre my way (or Chua’s perceived way) of parenting is in comparison to Eastern parenting ways, then I’d rather remain mediocre. I’d rather my children grow up knowing that their best is good enough and that they are who they choose to be; not who I mold them and force them to be because culture and tradition dictates it.
Let me be mediocre. Let my children be mediocre; at least they will know that while Chua and other Tiger moms only see their mediocrity and imperfection, I see perfection. I see a child who knows that they were loved, encouraged to do whatever they wanted, that they were allowed to have friends, go to sleepovers, and that mom made them do their best at everything they tried and that regardless of the outcome, verbal abuse was never part of the process.
Amy Chua and I do agree on one thing; “All decent parents want to do what's best for their children.” It’s just a shame she had to put us against one another to make that point.