Backlash To Wussification Of The US Parent?
I really didn’t want to spend more time on the ‘Chinese Mother’ issue, but because it brought up some interesting issues in the comments on Monday I thought it warranted some more thought here. Mostly, I think that Amy Chua, the author of both the book and the article in the Wall Street Journal on the paradigm of the Chinese Mother (who isn’t actually Chinese) is trying to sell books. I also think she might be doing a disservice to her cultural heritage, because some of the things she is classifying as “Chinese” seem to be just instances of emotional abuse. I don’t necessarily disagree with having high hopes or expectations for your kids, or even forcing them to do things to a certain extent that they don’t want to do, but Chua’s descriptions are insane and cross the line. I have to think she’s either writing for effect (to sell books), or else she really does not get how abusive the stories she is telling might be interpreted to be).
I have been reading, off and on, Adam Corolla’s new book (also often offensive, but for totally different reasons), In Fifty Years We’ll All Be Chicks: . . . And Other Complaints from an Angry Middle-Aged White Guy, which together with Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of The Tiger Mother forms a kind of an odd couple parenting duo. Both books are representative of a cultural backlash to the overly precious parenting and educational trends that have been in cultural vogue in recent years in the United States, and although I am definitely not on board with many of the ideas espoused by either author, I certainly understand the impulse to write a book like this, because I have felt it myself.
Generally speaking, I’m a fan of Adam Corolla’s comedy, even if I sometimes think his lack of understanding of institutional structures of power is a liability that will keep anyone from actually taking any of the points he makes seriously. There are times when I have to stop reading his book, in fact, because his facile take on, say, how patriarchal expectations of female behavior affect a woman’s ability to advance in the corporate world, for example, makes me want to throw my Kindle at the wall. But then, his outrage over the wholesale banning of peanut butter from his child’s preschool, despite the fact that there is nobody with a peanut allergy at his child’s preschool, and his dissertation about the beauty of the peanut butter sandwich for the child’s lunch — the peanut butter sandwich being the only sandwich that, in fact, improves as it ages — this, this I get! There, he has me!
Because, yeah, it doesn’t seem like a big deal at all, right? Some kids are violently allergic to peanuts, and better safe than sorry, right? And somebody always knows somebody’s brother’s cousin who didn’t know they were allergic to peanuts, and then they one day ate a peanut and then bam! dead. Right there on the preschool floor. So why not just ban peanut butter?
Well, because, fuck. Mini doesn’t like sunflower butter. And none of the other kids are eating his sandwich anyway. And there aren’t any kids who are allergic to peanuts in his class anyway, and also, for god’s sake, what in the hell with the peanuts, when did this happen? Why is everyone allergic to peanuts all of a sudden? Somehow we are able to have grocery stores and restaurants in which peanuts are not banned and everything seems to be OK, but schools, forget it. Nothing to be done there.
Are there bigger tragedies in the world? Oh yes! Most definitely. But, there are like 8 foods Mini will eat, and you’ve banned one of them, and every day when I make his lunch, I think, “Damn, I wish I could make him a PB&J.” Another one of them is grapes — but only whole grapes. And guess who is not allowed to send whole grapes to school, lest the child choke? That’s right: even though I regularly feed Mini whole grapes at home, at school, he is not allowed to have whole grapes. And he won’t eat grapes cut up. Is it unreasonable that he won’t eat grapes cut up? Yes! You are preaching to the choir. But I am not about to force my child to eat something — maybe Amy Chua would do this, but I’m not ready to cross that bridge yet.
So every day, I think: “I wish I could make him a PB&J.” and “I wish I could send whole grapes.” Every damn day I think this. Over the course of years, the rage builds up.
So what I’m saying is: I get it. I get the impulse to come out with some kind of extreme parenting viewpoint just for the hell of it. I think that’s clear, what with some of the topics I’ve written on here — to just say, “I feed my kid Lunchables and I’m proud of it!” Because, let’s face it, bitches be crazy.
It’s just that I’m not sure that “backlash” is a winning parenting strategy.