A parenting book review has caught my attention, and I just finished reading reactions about it a the New York Times. This started out as a comment there (not posted), but it became blog length.
At this moment I have two sixteen year old young ladies playing my late father-in-law’s upright grand piano (okay, now they have moved to the den computer, but they were there for a couple of hours). One is my daughter, The Linguist, and the other is a friend that she is showing what she has learned in a high school piano class. A class she found easy since she has been plunking around the basement piano for years, and did play the violin for seven years (starting in kindergarten, I was going to enroll her with a piano teacher I met at middle child’s preschool, but she said she wanted to play violin, so I found a violin teacher instead).
My two youngest children are both decent musicians, and are/were high school honor students. I had nothing to do with those accomplishments (other than paying for the music lessons).
I was going to be just like Amy Chua, since as a woman working in a highly technological field I knew my kids would naturally be brilliant (yes, I was an aerospace engineer/rocket scientist!). I was going to play German tapes to my baby, and send him to a bi-lingual preschool. He was going to be pushed to excel. Except that he had seizures and was not able to speak even his native language, English. My oldest child, BigBoy, is severely learning disabled.
So as I learned about the ins and outs of special education and the limits of insurance payments for speech therapy, I learned a great deal about childhood development. I read David Elkind’s book The Hurried Child and decided that childhood was a journey and not a competition.
(aside: I went to a talk by Dr. Elkind at Children’s Hospital in Seattle, I told him my son was going into a preschool because he could not speak as a three-year-old, his face looked shocked and then he said “Yes, he needs early intervention.”).
I became a much more relaxed parent.
While my oldest was in special ed. preschool and kindergarten, my younger son was in a play oriented group three times a week (where I also sent my daughter). I introduced them to sports, dance, music and swimming and some things stuck, and others didn’t. The worst was the dance class my where my daughter literally marched to a different drummer (side note: my paternal grandmother and aunt were professional dancers, just glad they were not alive for this!). The best was the swimming for MathMan because he is now a lifeguard at the pool he grew up in, and that is how he pays his rent as a starving college student. Though soccer worked for all three, and value of music lessons was achieved when my two youngest told me to switch off Brittany Spears because she was horrible.
As it turns out my younger kids did well in school. Both of my younger kids actually asked the high school counselors to move them form regular pre-calculus to honors pre-calculus because they found the pace too slow. They both chose to take AP courses, and the youngest is now in Running Start. Both of the younger two failed the math Compass test, but MathMan did pass it and eventually goet the maximum score in the AP Calculus BC test (which saved us some college money, he skipped two quarters of freshman calculus). The Linguist wants to pass it during Mid-Winter break so she can spend her year last of high school away from the high school and at the community college, where she will pick up another language (French).
Truthfully, I have no idea why.
I was prepared to be very angry at Amy Chua, until I read the actual article at here. It reads like satire.
Not being allowed to be in school dramas? Wait, what? When I have attended the school’s spring musicals, there seem to be more than a few Asian faces. This includes the year when speaking Mandarin was necessary (and they were wonderful, both with great comic timing):
So instead, Roosevelt will tackle “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” which requires a large cast that can sing and tap dance, two students who speak Mandarin
I have had the outright battles on practicing with my two youngest kids, and I can also put an extreme spin on them. I have also threatened to leave a favored toy on the sidewalk because daughter decided she did not want to carry it anymore even though her three-year-old self insisted that it leave the car. I have also had wonderful make-up cuddles when it was all sorted out.
I also know many Asian kids and have talked to their parents. The Linguist belongs to one after school group, the East Asian Club. She says it is an excuse for her friends to hang out, most of them are in her AP Japanese class (even though several are Chinese and Korean, it is the only Asian language class offered).
Trust me, the kids and the parents run the spectrum of success and work ethic. At a recent school concert The Linguist pointed to the four of her Asian friends in the orchestra, they were sprinkled around from first to second violin sections. The concertmaster (the best violinist) was not among them.
I trust no stereotype.
I feel that Amy Chua surely loves her girls, and is not really the stereotype that is portrayed in the article. She has gone through the same ups and downs many of us had in trying to get our children to practice. Of course, we only have to wait a few years before they write a very caustic “Mommy Dearest” diary.
Share your thoughts. Do you feel pressured to make your children achieve academic success? Do you want them to experience a childhood? What are academic grades to you? By the way, MathMan decided to not get full night’s sleep and consume no food before he took the PSAT, a test that determines certain sholarships test. I don’t know, I took neither the PSAT nor the SAT. My decision was based on my experience during my last year at Killeen High School when my father was based at Ft. Hood, TX. As a naive 17 year old I went into the counselors’ office and took one from each pile, a counselor accused me of being selfish and I dropped one and kept one. That is why I took the ACT instead of the SAT.
On the parenting competition angle, here is the Mom Competition blog most of us will relate to!
Update: Listen to this interview with Amy Chua. She dispelled some of the misconceptions about the book. Apparently her younger daughter really tested her methods, and asserted herself, plus as a fifteen year old has just been at a sleep-over. The book is more tongue in cheek than the reviews reveal.