Call me crazy. Call me lazy. Call me the worst mother in America. But it won’t make me care about getting my kids into an Ivy League school.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you haven’t read the Wall Street Journal’s “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior.” The essay, an excerpt from Amy Chua’s memoir The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, helps Western parents understand why Chinese parents are able to produce so many “math whizzes and musical prodigies.” I urge you to read the article. I couldn’t possibly do it justice here.
Many around the internet are calling Chua’s methods abusive. And while I disagree with a good deal of her article, I applaud Chua for calling out Western parents’ tendency to inflate their kids’ egos to no good end. She makes valuable arguments about kids only feeling genuine pride when they’ve actually achieved something. I believe in keeping score. I believe in winners and losers. I believe it’s time to stop telling kids they’re the best when they’re not.
However, while everyone’s debating Chua’s methods, I’m still wondering why it matters so much where your kids go to college anyway. Frankly, I don’t think it matters where you went to college. Obviously the Ivy League opens doors. But does everyone you know with a good job and a good, healthy relationship have Harvard, Princeton, or Yale on their resumes? No school is a guarantee of long-term happiness and success.
Now of course I’d be proud if my kids went to Harvard. I’m not made of stone. But I don’t value that goal to the point where I’m willing to spend the next fifteen years drilling my kids with flashcards, supervising three-hour long violin practices, or forbidding sleepovers, school plays, and summer camp like Chua did when her kids were young. And it’s not that I think “Tiger Moms” are bad moms. I hate that term anyway–“bad” mom. I simply disagree with the underlying assumption of Chua’s essay: that my kids earning straight A’s or getting an Ivy League education will guarantee my happiness and theirs.
Why wouldn’t I want “the best” for my kids? I guess I have a different definition of “the best.” Above all else, my husband and I want our kids to be good. Not only good at something, good.
Lest you think Bryan and I don’t have our own hang ups about how our kids present themselves in the world, I should clarify. We nudge them all the time. Much to our friends’ chagrin we make our kids call adults outside of our family Mr. and Mrs. as a sign of respect. We spend a great deal of time teaching them how to treat each other, how to be a friend, a host, and a guest. We impose our values on them all the time. Aside from an obvious “imposition” like no TV on the Jewish Sabbath, keeping certain kosher laws, etc, we lecture them about gratitude several times a day. They get sick of it. We don’t care. We are their parents. It’s our job to guide them. It’s our job to help them become adults that we would want in our lives. Goodness. Goodness matters to us more than anything else, even more than academics. It’s true.
I don’t know what kind of mom this makes me. I’m certainly not a Tiger Mom. If you’ve read my manifesto calling for an extra-curricular crackdown, then you know I’m not a “soccer mom” or a “self-esteem mom” either.
I don’t have the answers. If I did, maybe I’d have a book out about parenting and I’d get to do the talk-show circuit like Amy Chua. Mr. Lauer, I’m free any time!
EDITED on 1/21/11 to share this link to THE BEST article on Chua’s book I’ve seen. “War Cry of the Values -Based Parent” by Rabbi Shumley Boteach in The Huffington Post.