As soon as you become a parent, you worry non-stop. There is always a lot of anxiety as to how to equip our children for their future as they grow up fast. There is also a lot of anxiety about how they are doing when they are away from home. Now with the internet and whats app, skype, you expect instantaneous response. If you do not get connected for a couple of days, your mind starts to get frenzy. So you tell yourself, maybe his phone runs out of battery. Maybe her phone runs out of credit so you calm yourself down. Maybe he or she is busy with school work...Maybe maybe maybe . Why have we not heard from them? Then a message via skype or a phone call that sounds a little frantic: "Mom I have run out money!". Then you are a little annoyed and tell them to budget their expenses as we are not some kind of money making machines. You question yourself if you had not taught them the discipline to keep their spending within their budgets. Still you are relieved to hear from them. You want them to know that you are there whenever they need a helping hand. You worry if you have taught them enough to trust their instincts and to differentiate between those who are good people and those who are not. You worry if you have instilled in them the right priorities, attitude towards life and the strength to handle things when the going gets rough. You wonder if you have equipped them enough to cope when there are rejections or disappointments and to still continue to reach for the sky by trying harder while recognizing our human failings with just the right dose of optimism.
As the children grow up, we try in vain to let go of our instinctive need to protect them from bad or undesirable elements or from making bad decisions or falling in with the wrong company etc etc etc. Whether we are strict or doting parents, we are all doing our best. Welcome to the world of parenting!
A memoir entitled "Battle of Hymn of the Tiger Mother" by Amy Chua has spun an international debate as the author, a self described "tiger mom" spilled the beans about her strict parenting ways. I must admit that I am no tiger mom. I am one of those mothers who go for coffee and yoga, one of those mothers described in the book by Amy Chua as western mothers but I am Chinese. I understand that the author qualifies herself when she describes the tough love parenting method as the Chinese parenting way; the word "Chinese" serves more as a generic term rather than referring to the method as the monopoly of the Chinese as a race.After reading the memoir by the most talked about mother, I start to wonder if I should have pushed my children harder. Yes it is a tough wide world out there. My children will have to compete with children who have a tiger mother or tiger dad. Kudos to the tiger mothers and tiger dads who have done your best as you have put in the hours and you have devoted all your leisure time and energy to making sure that your children do their homework and practise their piano and violin when mothers like me sighed a sigh of relief when my children wanted to drop ballet ( that means less ferrying!) and quit the Yamaha music classes ( I rejoiced as those classes were dreadful and pedantic. If you have not been to any of those classes, I tell you I rather suffer in a Pilate class than attend anyone of those classes ever again!).
Says the author: " What 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. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up"
There I was giving up at the first resistance shown by my children. If I were charged with giving in to the preferences of my children, should I plead guilty? Can I mitigate and argue that mothers like me allow our children to make the decisions at an early age so that they will grow up thinking for themselves rather than doing what they are told to do. We certainly were not taking the easy way out because there was never an easy way out. There will always be the nagging doubt whether we were doing the right thing. Can I mitigate and say that we just wanted to pursue our passions so that our lives could run parallel and as a result happier moms and dads? Since we knew all about the empty nest syndrome, can i therefore argue that we are only preparing ourselves ahead for the anti-climax when your children are on their own and have their own lives to lead? Guess parenting is personal and we must do what we think best for ourselves and for our child as what works for others may not work for us.
Human brains are complicated and human emotions are tricky. What happens if the child is not gifted? To the tiger moms and dads, at least you are pushing them to the best of their abilities. Think the Singapore movie " I Not Stupid". Despite the fact that these days more and more mothers are working , these women are still the ones who see to the food shopping and attend the parent teacher meeting. If I look on the bright side, I will say perhaps mothers rule after all? It is apparent that mothers in general play a key role in a child’s progress so what happens if the mother of the child has to work away from home like those women who have to leave their hometown to work as maids ? I guess the child will grow up whether you are there or not . For those of us who can be there, we shall do our best and hope that we have brought our children up alright. Stop worrying Moms and Dads!
No manual in the world can tell us how to bring up a child. I do not think the author of the "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" was trying to tell us why and how the Chinese mothers are more superior, she was just narrating her parenting roller coaster ride which was in all fairness impressive and touching. She no doubt reminds me of the protagonist in the novel by Allison Pearson "I Don't Know How She Does It" . Do these super mothers exist? I like to think that they must have thirty- six hours in a day as opposed to my twenty hours a day. So maybe time is really infinite. Have you ever not experienced the panic that compel you to race against time with all those tasks at hand and you actually make them all happen when at other less inspired or pressured time, you probably take triple the amount of time to accomplish the same tasks. For now I shall be in denial as I need my time to daydream, read my books, play tennis and write this blog....
Coffee or tennis anyone?