Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
Want to know what it’s like to be raised by a Tiger Mom? Want to know why parents–I’m guilty–need to keep our Type A, super-controlling tendencies in check? Kim Wong Keltner, author of Tiger Babies Strike Back gives us rock-solid reasons why should take time to really see our children, ease up on their schedules and love them unconditionally. Check out what Kim has to say:
“Tiger Babies Strike Back is about being raised by a Tiger Mom with high expectations whom I could never satisfy despite the highest grades, perfect test scores, and my best efforts to please her. Now I have a daughter of my own and I’m determined to raise her with more hugs, laughs, and encouragement than I ever received. This book is about being the grown-up daughter of tough immigrants, but raising an American child to be her own individual self without crushing her soul with my own wants, hopes, and egotism.
A parent can convince herself that she is pushing her kid for her own good, but I feel like my cousins and I were pitted against each other in competition so our parents could brag to each other. And we, the kids, who were just trying desperately to please them, didn’t feel loved for who we were, but we existed as trophies. You’ve heard of trophy wives? We were trophy children!
Tiger Parents are not just of Chinese descent. I’m talking about anyone whose parenting style is of the my-way-or-the-highway variety. Tiger Moms are control freaks gone wild, and they are passing off their methods as superior. And to that, I say, “Are you kidding?” What part of, “stop micro-managing me” do they not understand? I want to laugh, but really, a parent making you feel like you are not good enough no matter how hard you try is not very funny.
I am a very attentive mother to my daughter, Lucy. She is nine-and-a-half. My husband and I are attempting the slow, cumulative work of exemplifying compassion, kindness, and gratitude. It’s an incremental, drawn-out, marching-ever-forward process to teach our kid to be true to her word, and to figure out what it means to have personal integrity.
We need cleared space in our heads so that we can listen for the clues from a kid’s interior world. My daughter’s concerns are expressed like tiny yelps from Whoville, and I feel that if I’m not already listening for it, the small voice will be lost in the background noise of homework, dancing lessons, swim class, and everything else.
I believe we can help our children best by forcing ourselves to slow down. Sometimes it’s the most difficult thing to do. Really, how much more can I possibly talk about Garfield, listen to knock-knock jokes, and draw pictures of kittens? But someone has got to do it, and that someone is me. I am in the trenches with recycled bubble wrap and Elmer’s glue. It’s where I need to be. I’ve got to stay flexible, shift gears, and constantly rethink my own mental state if I’m going to preserve my kid’s bright-eyed love of life, her natural exuberance, and her ability to enjoy learning instead of just jumping through the hoops of rote memorization for school.
From the moment Lucy was born, I looked into her eyes and whispered, “I see you.” When I was a kid, that’s all I ever wanted to hear, to know in my heart. I wanted to know that someone saw who I was inside. But instead, my family focused only on practical matters. After I participated in all my activities, and obeyed all the rules, when would anyone ever see who I was, or ask what I’d like, or what I wanted? Would I ever have time just to stare into space and try to figure out exactly what that might be?
Let’s help our kids figure out who they want to be by not eclipsing their fragility with our own overwhelming desire for “success.” They will achieve their own personal bests if we can manage to just get out of their way.”
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Tuesday, February 12th, 2013
Did you read Bringing up Bebe? Last year’s controversial book written by American mom Pamela Druckerman? She suggests that French parents do certain things better than we do. They sleep train their children early. Their kids eat braised leeks. They sit on the sidelines at the playground. They do not taxi their children around to a whirlwind of activities.
Everyone is entitled to her opinion, but I personally side with Pamela. In fact, she just saved me $369 because I read her new book, Bebe Day by Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting, and decided to cancel my girls’ gymnastics class. Thank you, Pamela, for that, and for writing the guest post below. She still thinks we have a lot to learn from French mamans. For one, she says Americans parent from a point of anxiety while the French try to find more calm. Ahhh.
From Pamela: “This time last year, I got a taste of America’s love-hate relationship with the French. I’d just published a book explaining what I learned from French parents about raising kids. Not everyone liked the comparison. I suddenly found myself being introduced on the radio as a ‘polarizing figure.’ One journalist wrote that before we met, she was ‘expecting someone fairly nightmarish.’
It was odd to be cast as a defender of France. Frankly, there are bigger Francophiles out there (I think Paris could be friendlier, for starters). I moved to France not out for love of it’s architecture or literature or cheese, but because I happened to meet a fellow who lived there. I liked him – and I’d just lost my job. Three kids and a French mortgage later, we’re still here.
But I have learned a bundle from the way they raise kids. French parents tend to be pragmatic. They stick with what works. In so many important realms – from food to patience to teaching babies to sleep – they have common-sense wisdom that’s worth listening to.
One of the most important lessons I’ve picked up in Paris is that a household that pivots entirely around the children isn’t good for anyone – not even for the kids. If you give children a little more independence and free time, everyone thrives. The conventional wisdom in France is that the best parenting comes not from anxiety and guilt, but from calm.
Of course, we Americans know this already. But often, the social pressure here goes in another direction. Watching the French live out these ideas – or try to – helped solidify some of them for me, and renewed my confidence.
Once the publicity storm tapered off, I realized I wasn’t alone. I started getting letters and reading posts from ordinary American parents, who didn’t care where their parenting advice came from as long as it worked. “Today my very picky daughter ate a chicken sandwich with avocado, brie and sun-dried tomatoes, no fights no tantrums,” one wrote. Another added, “Why should I feel like a lazy parent if I don’t try and force my 18-month-old to read?”
Letters like these inspired me to write a new book, Bébé Day By Day. In it, I’ve tried to distill the 100 smartest ideas I’ve learned from the French. These run from the practical (“back off at the playground”) to the philosophical (“your baby doesn’t replace your husband”). I hope they’re thought provoking, and will arm American parents to make decisions for themselves. Champagne is optional.”
Photo of Pamela Druckerman courtesy of Benjamin Barda
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Thursday, September 13th, 2012
I haven’t yet finished the new book Why Have Kids?. But what I have read blows me away. Feminist author Jessica Valenti nails what new mothers feel and thing–but are too afraid to say.
What do you do if the birth experience bummed you out? What if you didn’t have that warm, loving motherly instinct feeling right from the start? Valenti gets real in her groundbreaking tome that’s refreshingly different from popular advice books about Tiger Moms and the French ways of Bringing Up Bebe. Valenti’s book is about the “disconnect between expectations of parenting as pure joy vs. the daily reality.”
While this isn’t a shiny, happy book about parenting, it is an enlightening one. If there’s anything about motherhood that gnaws your bone, this book is for you. She offers a brain-booting feminist look at what it means to be a mother in our culture.
Whether you agree or disagree, hash it out with Jessica Valenti during her Twitter party tonight. Check it out and let me know what you think.
What: Why Have Kids Twitter Party with Jessica Valenti
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Who: Parents with opinions everywhere (especially–but not only–post-modern feminists)
Where: Twitter hashtag #WhyHaveKids and on this TweetGrid
When: Tonight, Thursday, Sept. 13 from 8 to 9 EST
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