Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mean Mommies

I finally decided to read the article written by the self-described "Tiger Mommy" to see what the big deal was.  And yeah, well she's a bitch...

However, I am not going to dismiss her tactics outright because if they are as successful as she described in getting her children to excel, then there are a lot of children in this city who might be better off with Chinese mothers.  A lot of children who end up standing in front of judges by the age of 14.  A lot of children who have children themselves.  A lot of children who get older but never seem to grow up.

In a sense, the BBW can see the virtues of adopting some of the ways of a Tiger Mom.  It is a good idea to expect academic excellence from one's children, and it might be a good idea to limit the number of extra-curricular activities a child pursues.  In all likelihood, your Busy Black Mama exhibited a few Tiger Mom attributes of her own--my mother's uncompromising approach to academic excellence can be credited (or blamed) for my adult perfectionism.  I think the Tiger Mom's explicit nod to the strictness of other ethnic parenting styles (Jamaican, Indian, etc.) is an honest acknowledgment that there are commonalities, especially among the parents of immigrants that propel their children to success in ways that the parents of native-born children might not.

But that is where my support of the Tiger Mom ends.  There is encouragement and permissiveness and then there is outright cruelty.  Parents who encourage their children to think creatively often produce adults who can think outside the box and come up with novel solutions to complex problems.  These people might not be mathematicians or rocket scientists, but they might be business owners or artists instead. Then there are the permissive parents who make excuses for their children's bad behavior--the ones who go on the Today Show and get all weepy and defensive about how the unfair coach who benched their budding Olympian had it coming.  Then there is the Tiger Mommie Dearest who is lucky her children never tried to kill her in her sleep.

For the record, I am not a mother and my opinion is probably irrelevant, but it seems to me that the best parenting is that which guides a child towards a path paved with love, discipline, and the foresight to eventually get out of the way since each of us has our own unique journey.  This is the way that most Busy Black/White/Latino/Jewish/Catholic/Buddhist/Muslim/Hood-Rich/Suburban/Country-Fried/Vegan/Carnivore/Lesbian/Straight/Stay-at-Home/CEO/Single Head-of-Household/Married/Widowed/Democrat/Republican/Tea Party/Coffee Club/Paper- or Plastic- or Reusable Shopping Bag-carrying Mamas have done since before any of these distinctions ever existed.  And most of us are just fine.

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