Friday, January 21

my scathing blog to Amy Chau

*disclaimer: there's (a bit) more crude language exercised here than usual so please take a moment to turn on your six-second censors*

I consecutively read Amy Chau's recent article regarding Chinese mothers with Lac Su's written response. If you haven't read either of these articles (neither ridiculously lengthy nor boring), now is a good time to take a few moments to do so. And if not now, do it at some point. Then read the blog below. Seriously, you owe yourself the opportunity to be thankful you aren't a "superior" Chinese parent.

Let me just dive right in.

Amy Chau blatantly calls Chinese parenting superior to that of "Western" parents by, among other things, stating that "[w]hat Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences."

Ms. Chau, obviously you haven't ever met any "Western" children beyond stereotypes your own culture is squeamish about having thrust upon themselves. Nor have you, I can almost guarantee, ever taken a realistic look at your own children or those of your own "superior" culture. Why am I so certain? Because children, by nature, are curious, self-motivated, and industrious. Yes. Children by nature want to work - and most of them do so without prompting and "overriding" by their parents.

Ms. Chau, you point out that once a child excels then he/she gets "praise, admiration and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This in turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more."

Please, somebody tell me I'm not the only one who sees what's going on here?! Let me get this straight: the child doesn't get praised until he is perfect which can take extraordinary effort on the child's part to abandon any form of individuality and the worth found therein and once the child excels and is praised, then and only then confidence is built?! Yeah, no shit this "superior" parenting ultimately makes it easier for the parent - because up to this point the "superior" parent has squashed any self worth that may have existed and driven the child into a tenacious cycle of never being good enough.

"Rote repetition is underrated in America." Is that so? Have you ever been to a public school here in the United States?! That's exactly how the majority of public school students are taught. And it doesn't translate into "success" later in life because it's just that, rote. It's a cold, stoic, going through the motions form of memorizing. Yay, you are superior because you memorized instead of learned.

And, you're also ignorant. (In your own words, my calling you "ignorant", or even "stupid", wouldn't be an insult.) There are plenty of private as well as a number of public schools in the United States that have adopted successful models of teaching that do not emphasize rote repetition and still produce successful children. (Gasp you should!) And most of those successful schools adopt some form of the principles of Dr. Maria Montessori's method of education.

"Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best." Thank you for stereotyping and lump-summing us Westerners (yet again!) because as you obviously know we are all spineless parents who tip-toe around our children's feelings, CPS, and your little Chinese spies. (How's that for stereotyping?!) None of us ever expect our children's best to be straight As, prima ballerina, or first chair in band.

I digress though; you do have a valid point, Ms. Chau: "Western parents are extremely anxious about their children's self-esteem." Yep, you got us! Personally, as a Western mother, I am deeply concerned about my child's self-esteem. Maybe that's because I realize that each human being isn't comprised only of a brain designed to memorize and regurgitate information but instead is made up of a whole being - mind, body, and soul. Maybe it's also because when it comes to my daughter I realize the damaging effects of a society that prides itself on devaluing women, creating cookie-cutter people, ostrascizing those who do not fit the cultural mold, and that places so little value on life that it feels the need to limit the reproduction of families to "one" child.

You see, there's a reason Western parents don't call their children "stupid, worthless or a disgrace" because their child brings home an A- or (gasp!) a B from school. Because we "inferior" parents recognize that it's not necessary to attack a child's character, demean or degrade them in order to have that child comply with getting a better grade. But your answer to the grade? Priceless. Or should I say Yenless. "If a Chinese child gets a B-which would never happen [riiiiiiiiiiiight]-there would first be a screaming, hair-tearing explosion." (Bracketed content added.) Really? That's your healthy answer?! You tell 'em, Hitler.

Ms. Chau, you go on to state that "Chinese parents believe that their kids owe them everything. The reason for this is a little unclear..." Gee, ya think?! If, as a parent yourself, even you can't come up with a rational explanation for this, do you think maybe there isn't one?!

What's funny though, Ms. Chau, is that your husband Jed holds to the more Western philosophy that our children aren't permanently indebted to us parents. Jed once told you that "children don't choose their parents... They don't even choose to be born. It's parents who foist life on their kids, so it's the parents' responsibility to provide for them. Kids don't owe their parents anything." Good for you, Jed, for asserting your views. Oh, what I would give to have been a fly-on-top-of-a-big-fat-bowl-of-popcorn-in-the-room watching that conversation go down... 

Thank you, also, Ms. Chau, for pointing out that there have been studies that indicate Chinese parenting creates more successful children than that of Westerners. Well, Ms. Chau,  if success is a stoic, expressionless and repressed existence then congratufuckilations - you have succeeded. There's not a psychologist in the (Western) world who won't have a field day with your kids.

Tuesday, January 18

chaos, life would be so perfect without you

In the past few days I have managed to break two glass dishes. And neither time was I afforded the satisfaction of having thrown them. (Yes. I'm a chucker.)

First came the medium-sized farmer mixing bowl while I was doing dishes and chatting with my daughter.

Sigh. There goes that set.

Next was the large sugar jar that fell from the cupboard while I was attempting to start breakfast and trying to save I-don't-know-what-else from falling out of the cupboard as well.

Sigh. There goes all the sugar.

The bowl at least broke in the sink. The sugar jar - all over the kitchen floor. And the sugar jar shattered first thing in the morning. You can always tell it's going to be a good day when that's what you start with. Pretty sure by that point my whole body was twitching with the "this-is-just-effing-great" motion.

Let's face it. It hasn't just been fragile items that I've broken in the past week, even when one counts the light bulb I screwed in that then burst in my hand. (Really, it's those wicked hand exercises I've been doing.) I've dropped a variety of other things that are nonbreakable and all the less thrilling to throw.

For all this dropping stuff, you'd think I was pregnant - but I'm not. In fact, just the opposite (if there is an opposite... hm, pondering the takes on that...) - my cycles couldn't be more out of whack and my body in less hormonal harmony. I don't recall any desire to board this emotional roller coaster but, somehow, I found myself on it: front row of the front car and, dammit, someone forgot to come around and check my lapbar before the train left the station.

SIGH. Or should I say: AAAAAACK! I just know there's a point where I'm supposed to throw my hands up and scream and heartily enjoy this ride but I'm pretty sure the scream that's eminating from my mind right now makes others question my sanity.

I've been told that every woman has their own version of the emotional thrill ride. I don't know what other women's coasters look like, I only know what mine looks like. Preferably my ride would be Splash Mountain because I actually do love the Zip-a-Dee-Do-Da/Ev'rybody's Got a Laughing Place medley. However, at times like these, hearing Zip-a-Dee-Do-Da over and over again in my head makes me more interested in finding someone to strangle than in finding my laughing place. (Though I am pretty sure I'd be laughing if I found someone to strangle, even if it'd be rather maniacally.)

In reality, on the inside, my roller coaster looks like sheer chaos; from a fleeting moment of bliss to that of fear, paranoia, joy, anger. The list goes on and the cycle continues. None of it rational or logical. But all of it very real and intensely experienced.

On the outside, I can only hope and pray I don't sound to my children like a screaming tea kettle. While inside I am screaming "take me off the f*%king stove already", I don't want that to be what my children hear.

Especially my daughter.

Because I don't want her to think that being a woman is anything less than wonderful or that moments (or, perhaps, days) of fleeting emotional chaos makes her any less than divinely made.

Which brings me to how I'm handling this whole e-ticket scenario. Beating myself up for not being perfectly stable, perfectly in control, perfectly Donna Reed - probably not the most healthy approach. And trying extremely hard to protect my children from my inner turmoil and thus placing undue pressure on myself to be outwardly stoic - probably not the best idea either. Seems more Joan Crawford, wire-hangers-ish and less let's-deal-with-this-and-be-okay.

Yesterday, I took my kids to Calico Basin/Red Springs to hike around a bit again. (It's a place we often visit when it's nice out - but yesterday it was glorious - middle of January and 74 degrees. Woot!) On the short drive out there, I thought about this Great Emotional Coaster and my handling of it. I decided that at that particular point in time, there wasn't much I could do to make it magically shut down or me magically immune to its nauseating effects.

What do I do then? The answer : just be here. Just be in the outdoors. Just be with my lens. Just be with my kids. And just enjoy it all.

And that's what I did. And while I found I wasn't able to turn off the flooding and saturating emotions, I was able to step outside of them and just enjoy what tangible love I had in front of me. My conversations with my daughter were different, positive, encouraging. My dealings with my son were kinder, lighter.

In my mind the sounds of rushing emotional waves did not cease, that's for sure. But that wasn't my goal. My goal was to find a bit of shelter from the storm, to recuperate, to gather myself before traversing that swift river again. Unfortunately, I have to carry my children across that river because it's not a part of me that I can just remove like a prosthesis nor can I remove myself from their lives to "save" them. But I can make healthier choices in how I deal with the chaos. And with that one small choice, this one afternoon, I did just that.

My ultimate goal is to either altogether get off this coaster without having to jump (and hope I make it) or to slow it down to a manageable pace where I can actually enjoy the repeated drumming of Zip-a-Dee-Do-Da. I'm guessing the most realistic option here is the latter.   So tomorrow I'll be discussing and discovering with my doctor how exactly I am chemically unbalanced so that we can create a more healthy approach to the upcoming sharp turns, loops, and dramatic dips that either this coaster or life is going to bring my way.

In the meantime, over the sign inside my coaster car that reminds me to "please keep all hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times" I'll be painting - in big, bold type - the words:
B E  H E R E . B E  G E N T L E . Because, right now, that's my best option for an in-ride barf bag.