Comparing our kids to one another is the most juvenile thing we grown ups can do. But amid all the recent hubbub over so-called Chinese style parenting, I’ll take the bait.
Unlike some other kids, here are some things my daughter is allowed to do:
• spend time making friends
• open her eyes to a world that is not defined by rank, culture, race, wealth, elite performance, or my ideas about the same
• be in a school play
• complain about not getting the part she wanted
• perform in the play anyway and overcome the sting of not being “best”
• learn by her own disappointments to be kinder to others
• obey me, disobey me; gladden, frustrate, and defy me; and one day repudiate me, as she must
• watch TV on weekends, learning that when it comes to finding TV entertainment, the first hour is easy and the second and third hours are hard
• devote herself to extracurricular activities that I was never good at or afraid to try
• remind me, when she sees my face collapse in horror, that “a B is a good grade too.”
• manage her own mind, body, responsibilities, motivation and interests
• waste what precious little time she has left over
• trust me to tell the hard truth and yet be her ally when life is tough
• because life’s real lessons are much harder than playing the violin
• see that the earth beneath us is full of bones, including the bones of all those who ever made it to Carnegie Hall
• show me how relentlessly I judge her on the basis of my own distorted view of what is “best” and “right” and “good enough” and “successful”
• wipe away all my self-righteous anger and doubt in the shine of her smile
• make me wonder: if someone can remain overbearing, hidebound, small-minded, self-absorbed, greedy and unhappy having attained the pinnacle of Darwinian achievement as a Yale Law School professor, what is the point of all this? What is the goddamn point?
Every couple of years the news media bathes us in the blood of a manufactured mommy war wherein we prove to be little evolved from barbarians. Everyone believes that their way is best. Even when you change your mind, you believe your new way is best. Believing that you have all the answers is delusional. Motherhood teaches this well.
Let’s remember that debating parenting styles is a sport practiced by only the most privileged. If we look closely at what we are contesting, it amounts to an argument about Harvard versus Berkeley, law school versus medicine, and violin versus tennis. I find arguments of this kind to be arrogant, rude and ignorantly self-serving, so I apologize to tigers everywhere.
What do you think? Join the conversation on this and other civilized topics in a free, live talk, “Mindful Mothering: Parenting in the Here and Now” on TheMotherhood.com, this Thursday, Feb. 10 at 1 p.m. Eastern. Register by clicking here. Co-hosting the online conversation will be my dear friends Mindy Tsonas, Wendy Cook, Lindsey Mead and fellow authors Tracy Mayor and Katrina Kenison.