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.

One comment

  • kat

    I found Amy’s article very interesting. My family is of Chinese descent but our culture is very much a mix of Chinese and Jamaican (my dad’s family and part of my mom’s family are from Jamaica). We’re not mixed – we look Chinese but my relatives/parents speak with a Jamaican accent. Confusing huh? 🙂

    In a lot of ways, I agree with Amy’s thoughts around not giving up on your children. Her methods by which she applies this belief is something that I do not agree with however, some of my mother’s family – and her, to some extent – are traditional Chinese so the very open nature of comments/opinions are what we’ve been exposed to all of our lives. My mother often speaks her mind in that she doesn’t filter much. If she thinks I’ve gained weight, she’ll tell me that I look fat or “why can you be thin like your sister?”. Do I take offense to this? no. Do I harbor any ill-feelings towards her? no. I know that she doesn’t mean it in a malicious way and I know she loves me so I let it go.

    I’m tough on my daughter the way my mom was tough on me but that’s only because it taught me to be a strong, independent person and to always rely on myself. When we were punished, we were punished and my mom always followed through; my mom never believed in empty threats and she taught us that there are consequences to our actions. Sure, I was a pretty tough teenager but I never got in trouble with the law – I was more scared of what my parents would do to me than scared of the cops!

    so yes, I do agree with you that we aren’t our parents but we take the lessons we learned from our parents and incorporate them to our own parenting. Sorry for the long-winded comment. I tend to get that way sometimes when it comes to parenting topics.