We Aren’t Our Parents
By now, you’ve probably heard about Amy Chua. She’s the woman who wrote Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior and the book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.” I’ve already written about Amy Chua’s parenting style over at DadRevolution.com. So why would I write about her again? Well, for two reasons.
The first reason is that I’ve learned some new information about the “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” article. Apparently, Amy’s editors took the excerpt that she had prepared and changed it around without consulting her. In Mother, Superior? over at SFGate.com, Amy says
"The Journal basically strung together the most controversial sections of the book. And I had no idea they’d put that kind of a title on it. But the worst thing was, they didn’t even hint that the book is about a journey, and that the person at beginning of the book is different from the person at the end — that I get my comeuppance and retreat from this very strict Chinese parenting model."
To me, this is huge. This turns her narrative from one of “I was extremely strict with my kids and you’re weak for not doing it too!” to one of “I was extremely strict with my kids and realized this was a mistake.” Even if she didn’t completely abandon “the Chinese parenting model” (as she calls it), it is always a huge step for a parent to admit to making a mistake.
Every parent is guilty of not being perfect. (And the one or two that are perfect are guilty of annoying the rest of us with their perfection.) However, we as parents need to learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of our parents. When I first read Amy’s article, I thought “Wow, I have problems with my father but nothing like this.” Now, I’m thinking that the better comparison is my mother’s mother.
Granny (as she insisted on being called as I called her that once when I was young), was quite… opinionated. She had her view and was right about it. Even if she said the sky was red and you said it was blue, you were wrong and she was right. She also made no attempt to hide that my mother’s sister was her favorite child. (Even after my aunt ran away from home and was disowned she was still the favorite.)
She also had this way of not raising her voice and yet shredding your self-esteem to pieces until you felt like you were two inches high. When my father’s dad passed away, my father – following Jewish tradition – didn’t shave for awhile. My mother’s parents came to visit and, seeing my father in a beard for the first time, said “You look ugly in that!” My father, in a display of temper-checking that would have impressed Ghandi, said “Hello to you too.”
At one point, my mother decided she had had enough. She sat her parents down and told them. She spilled her guts out about all the hurt they had caused and all of the pain she felt from their words and actions. What did my Granny do? She laughed. Apparently, she thought it was funny that my mother felt so hurt.
Some people assume it is inevitable that we become our parents, but my mother taught me differently. I saw how my Granny acted and I saw my mother actively strive to NOT be her mother. She learned from the mistakes her parents made and changed. She did an exceptional job and I’m so happy for this.
When my Granny passed away, my mother was distraught. Not just over her mother’s passing but because she was expected to speak at the funeral. For the life of her, my mother couldn’t think of one nice thing to say about her own mother. Thanks to my mother learning from her parents’ mistakes, I know that I’ll have plenty of nice things to say. (Still, I hope to not have to say them in that particular setting for a long, long, LOOOOONG time!)
My parents were far from perfect, but they did the best job they could. I’m not perfect either, but I’ll do the best I can do as well. I’ll correct the mistakes my parents made, but will also know that I’ll make my own mistakes. If I see them in time, I’ll correct these. Otherwise, I hope that NHL and JSL correct them when it is time for them to raise their own children. Amy’s daughter will hopefully do the same as well.