Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Chinese mothers, my parents, and the Wall Street Journal

There was recently a pretty funny article ("Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior") in the Wall Street Journal about why Chinese moms approach child-raising from a different perspective than Western moms. Essentially the author tackles the expected issues: forcing kids to study hard, not accepting bad grades, frowning on sleepovers at friend's houses, being forced to play an instrument, etc., etc

Now early on the writer, Amy Chua, makes the comment that many of these same Chinese mom traits can be applied to Indian families too. So with that I felt a few important clarifications needed to be made with my experience versus the one Chua writes about. So here are some key observations from my perspective

- I don’t think I was ever prevented from going to sleepovers, but I didn’t exactly go to many. I can count the number I went to on one hand. So it’s hard to tell whether my Parental Units were “normal” or if it they only “seemed” normal because I never really pushed the envelope. It’s sorta like in college… one of the sadder things was seeing how many kids were basically “informed” by their parents what their major would be (mostly the pre-med kids). When I told them that my parents never once questioned my major they thought it was pretty cool. And it IS pretty cool I think, but this is the thing: I wanted to major in economics and poli sci. These aren’t exactly controversial majors the parents have arguments about.

- As a corollary to the sleepover issue, I did have a seemingly unreasonable quasi curfew of 10pm (basically the time when The Parental Units started getting annoyed if I was still out). In high school I finally realized the sleepover/curfew arb (namely no issue with sleeping over, versus annoyance of staying out late) and I frequently claimed I was sleeping over at my friend Jason Woolman’s house down the street. When I would return home at 2am under the premise that “I wanted to just sleep in my own bed and wake up in my own house” it was actually weirdly endearing to my mom. I’d actually win bonus points for coming home in the middle of the night.

- Technically speaking my parents always said we’re happy with whatever grade you get, as long as you try your best.* The important disclaimer is that apparently “my best” was always getting an A.

- I don’t know how to play an instrument but randomly like 2-3 years ago my mom thought I should, so she mailed me a harmonica (mind you this is while I was like 30 years old). When mom told me of her objectives (despite initial protests such as “I don’t know how to play one,” “I don’t want to play one,” “help?”) such she ended the phone call with the ominous statement “maybe you should just take it around with you so you can play and practice when you have spare moments.” Bad move mom. Bad move. So I then embarked on a month long odyssey of taking the harmonica everywhere and texting pictures of it to my mom. So Ihad pictures of the harmonica on my car dashboard, at a bar next to a beer, next to a tree, at work, with friends, on a plane seat…Luckily mom has a sense of humor so she was mildly amused.

These are my thoughts, observations, pains, and struggles …

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