Saturday, January 15, 2011
Destiny, or why I'm glad my mom's not a tiger
I cannot shake the haunting effect of this article I read about "Chinese mothers."
If I understood the article correctly-- knowing that it was given a healthy shot of gratuitous controversial spin by some savvy editors-- "Chinese Mothers" seems to be a euphemism for mothers who are intensely involved with, concerned about, and in full control of their children's destinies.
What haunts me so is the fact that even though every bone in my body wants to disagree with this woman, or at times even shake her, she still managed to disturb my confidence in my parenting techniques. Am I too soft? Am I putting too much faith in nature, rather than focusing on nurture?
And I resent that. I reject that.
The very fact that I work hard to churn out the best possible pieces of writing I am capable of, without my mother sitting next to me, ruler poised to slap my hand if I get up too often for coffee or chocolates, tells me that I probably do not need to keep my children in a halter at all times.
Work ethic can be learned. I think. But can it be forced? Should it be forced?
I could have used a good dose of work ethic as a teen. Work ethic came naturally, sort of, athletically, but certainly not academically. No one, aside from the A.P. English teacher who kicked me out of his class, called me on it. The lesson came in its own time. And it tasted bitter, like regret.
But, there is something to be said for destiny. Something to be said for yielding to the current.
If I hadn't been a teenage screw up, I would never had run away from the ski academy I begged my parents to send me to. If my parents had been "Chinese," they wouldn't have let me quit said academy. They'd have forced me, by whatever means necessary-- hard to imagine, considering how incredibly stubborn I was, what means those might have been-- to stay.
If I had toughed it out at said academy, I would most likely have finished college in four years, where I would have been just another second-rate college ski racer. Then, after college, I would have been a college-educated, washed- up ski racer.
If I had graduated from said ski academy, and gone on to become a college skier, I would never have learned to snowboard, or broken my ribs, in stubborn determination, in the process.
And if I had never learned to snowboard, I wouldn't have had anything cling to, anything to keep me afloat, when I dropped out of college. (There's a big section I left out in here, involving letting go of the good guy, then flagellating myself with the bad guy, who, ironically, turned me on to snowboarding, while he tossed my heart around like a toy, then left it lying where it fell. It's dizzying how many closed doors lead to open ones.)
If I and my bleeding heart hadn't dropped out of college, I never would have had the time, or the rebellious incentive, to get up and go, alone, to the ski area every morning to master snowboarding.
And then I never would have been sponsored by a major snowboarding company, who paid me to travel the world and compete in World Cup snowboarding competitions, and, ultimately, the Olympics. (Had my mom been Amy Chua, would I have won the Olympics, rather than crashing? Oh right, I wouldn't have been a snowboarder, because sports are a waste of time.)
Had I never been paid to travel the world, to compete in snowboard competitions, I never would have met and married my husband.
If I had never met, or married, my husband, the right to my left, I would not be the mother of two of the grooviest daughters I could imagine being mother too. (Sorry, we've been watching too many Brady Bunch re-runs.)
If I hadn't given birth to my groovy girls, I never would have discovered BabyCenter and somehow finagled myself a gig with them as a journal writer/blogger.
And if I had never become a mom blogger, I really have no idea who, or what, the hell I might be.
But whoever I might have been--like the high-school German teacher I briefly was-- when the opportunity came up for us to live in France, it would not have been so easy to say,
"Yes, yes. Of course. Yes! What do we have to lose?"
I can't begin to think how piano lessons would have fit into this picture. As it turned out, I did take them, for about a year. But then I quit. I have been trying to teach myself to play violin over the years. I'm still perfecting Camptown Races, but I've got Mary Had a Little Lamb down.
Nobody cares how often I practice.
Nobody but me.