Monday, January 17, 2011

War of the super moms

Chinese vs Jewish mothers square off.

I confess I am left at the starting post by these two over-achievers.

The last super-mom in my family was bubbe. Her children were ordered to excel in school. They did, all except Uncle Doc. Bubbe believed one should be either a doctor or a lawyer; nothing else was worthwhile. Accordingly, she turned out two doctors and a lawyer, batting 1,000. My mother also learned to play the piano very well, but gave it up because it was not compatible with the practice of law.

Bubbe did it all by strength of character. I can only attribute it to that Jewish hypnotic power which makes terrorists piss in their milk. She did not shout. She did not tear her own (or her children's) hair. She had all the dignity of George Washington. She simply expected--and got--excellence. It took a bit of work to get Uncle Doc in line, but he was the baby, and he still became a doctor.

Mother was a weaker character. My brother was a genius; he didn't study, he learned quite effortlessly and only applied to one college, MIT, which accepted him. As for me...that is a story for another day.

I was a complete marshmallow as a mother. It goes without saying, both my girls were smart. Daughter A loved school and loved to do her homework. She stayed in on Sunday afternoon to do special reports for extra credit. Her idea, not mine. Daughter B drifted through school, sitting quietly in a corner looking out the window. I certainly tried to get her to apply herself, but she was slippery and evasive, and I couldn't pin her down. Vague as she was, she proved to have a stronger character than I did.

They both learned to swim well, though, so don't I get credit for that? It's a more useful life skill to be able to swim than to play the piano. Nobody ever saved their life with a piano, or any other musical instrument for that matter.


Anonymous said...

Oh, Miriam, Jewish Mothers have infinitely varied arsenal of oppression than mere shrieking and brutal force. Mine, for example, applied a winning combo of shaming+fostering competitiveness. Thus I have been propelled into "A"s. Which, of course, cost me a sudden stub in self-esteem in college, when I realized that ALL around me were mini-mes and I have no edge on them. Ergo: my son was left to his own (and to his Jewish Father's) devices; he truly is a self-made man. I am lucky his idea of making himself was first - Engineering and then suddenly - Finance and not devoting himself to studies of Kabuki Theater or Persian poetry of IX cent...

Out of the perfect storm of opinions on that book excerpt by Ms Chua I'll offer you yet another article - which I more or less agree with right until the last paragraph (simply ridiculous).

miriam said...

Tat: The article is pure gold. Thanks.