A couple weeks ago the Wall Street Journal printed an interesting (controversial) article by author Amy Chua entitled, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” (the title itself begs rebuttal).
When you have a moment, take a peek by clicking on the link. Until then, might I be so bold as to summarize her position as one of hard work (yay!) that borders on what seems to be degradation and harassment (boo!). Listen, she’s a mom. She’s doing her best and sharing the fruit of her labor. Is her method the Willy Wonka Golden Ticket to the Chocolate Factory of Parenting Bliss? Probably not.
But it’s hard to read her writings and not feel some pangs of guilt (I’m not making my kid practice the piano hour upon hour)… or worry that maybe she’s right (what if berating your children and holding their feet to the fire is the answer?!) Especially considering the fact that we sit in the U.S. (and other parts of the world) fighting a youth entitlement upsurge. Years of coddling and over-encouraging (trophies doled to all…not just the victor) have left the youth of our country convinced the world is out to serve them. No wonder the Chinese moms have room to raise their eyebrow in judgment. Strong work ethic appears to be taking a vacation… possibly a permanent hiatus.
It probably can be linked to some of our deepest fears as parents … that our kid won’t match up. Parenting becomes some huge competition where we want to make sure Jr. ends up on top. (As if everyone could be there.) So we literally step in and set them up to be the winner. And that’s the problem – everyone can’t be the victor. Falsely setting up these kids to believe they’re the best (or need to be the best) is causing some problems when they hit the real world. The reality? That first job after college (maybe earlier for MOAT kids :) tends to be at the bottom – not the top. Quite the pill to swallow for one who assumes theirs is the Winner’s Trophy.
Welcome to the world of work… just plain old work. It’s not always glamorous. It isn’t meant to complete us. Sometimes it’s fulfilling, but certainly not always. Funny thing, though … it is rewarding. It tends to be uplifting, if we can get away from false expectations (the ones centered on erroneously deemed necessary/imminent upward ladder movement). Oh, yeah … and work is what we were created to do.
As our family has trudged our way through activity after activity on our MOAT road to self-sufficiency, the overriding message that has trumpeted itself at every turn is – there is no golden ticket. There is no, “if you do this…. then your kids will succeed … you win the “Good Parent” seal of approval”. No. The underlying truth that revealed itself has been simple. God created man (and woman) to work – no matter the age. Blind to affluence, intelligence or athletic prowess, work serves as the foundation to our purpose on earth.
Work isn’t here to serve us, to fulfill some need, to entertain or complete. It is the vehicle through which God cares for creation. (Genesis 2:15). My role as the parent is to love these kids, nurture them, and teach them how to embrace what they were created to do …. work.
But what sounds simple becomes so interesting when you throw in a little teen apathy and adolescent mood swings. Add some society induced fear… the kind where we watch each other race in to save, hover, avoid pain, finagle opportunities, arrange, manipulate… all in the name of love, but much to the detriment of independence – and welcome to the bumpy road.
One thing I think we’ve figured out as we’ve bumbled down the MOAT road of equipping our kids is: cowering to those fears, stepping in and saving, racing to do for them (so it will be done well and right) instead of letting the chips fall where they may does nothing but emasculate/weaken/castrate very capable contributors to society.
I guess the question might be… do I love them enough to let them fail? To make them work? To make them fly on their own even if it results in some unattractive, possibly embarrassing maneuvers. Do I love them enough to step aside rather than step in? Like Amy Chua’s piano piece example (which could be done without degradation) – a job completed does some major things for a kid’s psyche. So much more than endlessly streaming words of praise. Completed work puts meat on the bones.
The underlying truth: Moms want, more than anything we’ve ever done, to be successful in our role as parent. We want parenting to be a destination. But, the truth is … parenting is a journey.
I’m very grateful to be walking the road with each of you. Here’s to the day when we just might run … and to the many days we just limp along.
Oh, yeah… one more thing about work? It didn’t become “toil” until we made it about ourselves. Hmmm….