herald

Sunday 19 August 2018

Sinead Ryan: Crazy mom turning parenting into a chinese torture

WHEN I used to go into 'Mean Mom' mode (Get off the PlayStation; homework done or no TV, etc) I felt guilty. Kind, nurturing Mom went out the window.

But I'm not bothered any more. I'm in the ha'penny place, apparently, compared to Chinese mothers, who produce army-like, super-bright and talented kids where nothing less than straight As is acceptable.

So says author Amy Chua, who has written a book about how to parent your child for success, and do you know what -- I'm not even going to tell you the name of it because in my book, she's just Crazy Mom.

However, as the Chinese are set to take over the world industrially, you have to prick up your ears, despite the horror of it.

Amy's poor daughters suffer what you could only term child abuse -- worse than any neglectful, couldn't-care-less mother. Neither teenager, for example, has ever gone to a sleepover in a friend's house. Okay, I hear you: they can be fraught with stranger-danger. Well, they're not allowed watch TV or play computer games either. Or join in the school play, because it's deemed frivolous.

So far, so hot-housing. But here's the sinister bit. Lulu and Sophia are not allowed anything less than an A on a test and are expected to be first in every subject, except Drama and Art because, well, mother doesn't rate airy-fairy stuff. They play piano and violin to concert standard and she bullies, degrades and yells at them if they try to do anything fun.

She's such a barmy example of a parent that I'm going to show an interview she gave a Sunday paper to my own -- by comparison, unruly, out of hand and undisciplined (ie normal) -- kids so that they know Mean Mom is a walk in the park compared to who they might have been born to.

I've clearly let down my kids, though, because hers were reading Sartre at three years old (I'm not even that into him at 43, but don't let on), managing mathematical set theory and knew 100 Chinese characters. Honestly, mine are so disadvantaged. There isn't a day that goes by when I'm not asked to quote a French philosopher or explain quantum mechanics at my local coffee morning.

Chua, understandably, is never surprised when other mothers (otherwise known as normal people) get on her case over things like her kids' self esteem or happiness. "Happiness is not a concept I tend to dwell on", says this edifying beacon of motherhood. "Chinese parenting does not address happiness".

Mind you, unlike me, Chua is living with the absolute certainty that her daughters will "spend their lives repaying their parents by obeying them and making them proud".

When mine, hopefully, do their best, get into a college course they enjoy and have a nice group of friends, I'll sit back and pine for what might have been.

I'll tear my hair out when I hear them laughing and having fun; the angst I'll feel when they get a lousy B grade -- it'll be all my fault.

And when they're passing on my parenting skills to their own children, well, there'll be nothing for it but spit in disgust at them.

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