All work and no play…

Today's guest post is by  Catharine “Goose" Cody.

I have the best mother ever.  I’ve always known that. But, a recent Wall Street Journal article by Amy Chua just confirmed it. 

Me and mom In her piece, entitled: ‘Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior’,  Chua describes parenting customs that are inherent in the Chinese culture, but missing in most Western homes.  For example, Chua says she never allowed her children to attend a sleepover, have play dates, act in a school play, watch television or achieve any grade lower than an A. Talk about all work and no play making Jack a dull boy!

Chua insists these strict rules are the reason why her daughters are successful.  Had she not been such a stern taskmaster, Chua writes, her kids wouldn’t be performing at Carnegie Hall or consistently finishing first in their respective classes.

That may be true. But, in my opinion, the Chua children undoubtedly missed out on some of the best parts of childhood.

My brother, Chris and I, grew up in a fairly lenient household. Our parents encouraged, rather than forced, us to pursue our dreams.  We were permitted to sleep over at a friend’s house, perform in talent shows, and even, dare I say it, bring home grades of B, and lower! 

Chris and I are turned out to be pretty normal kids (at least in my mind). And, we did very well academically.  As far as how we’re doing professionally, I’ve just graduated from Monmouth University and am a full-time production assistant at MSNBC. Chris is pursuing his passion for history, and is in the midst of attaining a master’s degree at Northeastern University.

I’ll bet that, as they mature and reflect on their childhoods, Amy Chua’s kids will feel they missed out on, well, being kids.
I can tell you that performing in grammar school talent shows was probably one of the best experiences of my life. In fact, dancing to ‘No Limit’ provided a once-in-a-lifetime high I’ll never forget.  There I was, at the tender age of eight, dancing on stage in a glitter-and-rhinestone studded costume that most surely would have made Amy Chua cringe.

Chris and I were also pretty big partiers in high school.  We had curfews, but our parents didn’t flip if we came home a little late.  It’s not that they weren’t worried about our safety, they most certainly were. Instead, they trusted us to make our own decisions.  And, that was huge.

If our parents hadn’t let us date during high school, I shudder to think what would have happened when we reached college.  Many of my friends with strict, Chua-like parents, went berserk during their freshman years and, unfortunately, fell victim to alcohol poisoning, sexually transmitted diseases and other setbacks.

My dad writes a great deal about image and reputation in his blog. And, many of us buy into the notion that one of the reasons our country is falling behind is precisely because Asian moms such as Amy Chua are raising baby Einsteins. I think the issue is much more complex. And, while Amy’s kids might be ridiculously smart, are they happy?  Or, will they be happy in the future? Maybe. But, I don’t think so.

Too much of anything is a bad thing. My biggest fear for Amy Chua’s kids is that, one day many years from now, they’ll look back and ask the ‘What if’ question. What if I hadn’t done everything my mom insisted I do and, instead, did what I wanted to do? Chris Cody and I will never be asking ourselves that question. And, thanks for that, Mom.

8 thoughts on “All work and no play…

  1. I totally agree, Aaiello. There is no “correct” way to parent. I think that as long as your kids are happy and healthy then the parent has done a great job.

  2. A great perspective, Goose. And very kind words for your folks. But as a parent, I say that there is no “right” way. I don’t like to be scrutinized as a parent, and as such I don’t judge others on their parenting abilities. As parents, we all try to do the right thing by our kids, and do them our own way. One parent’s strict is another parent’s lenient. Example: I refuse to let my 14-year-old daughter have a Facebook account, in spite of the fact that all her friends have one. She thinks I’m being draconian. I think I’m keeping her safe. Will Chua’s kids resent her for her parenting methods? Maybe, maybe not. Who’s to say? In this case, I say to each his/her own.

  3. thanks for the vote of confidence, goose. it’s nice to know that your kids are growing up well adjusted and happy, not to mention great friends with one another. it’s definitely not all due to parenting, good or bad, but that has to be a huge factor. knowing that is hugely rewarding!!

  4. well it looks like Chua is already retreating from her “chinese are superior mothers” approach. Based upon thousands of negative e-mails and blogs she’s now saying that she’ll allow her daughters to go to sleepovers and pursue extracurricular activities other than the piano or violin. maybe she’s seen the light.

  5. thanks for the comment book and blog geek! I consider myself one of the luckiest kids out there – not only do I have the best parents, but we have such a great relationship that I feel comfortable going to either with any problems I have. Chris and I are SO lucky to have grown up the way we have and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

  6. Thanks for the kind words, Book. I’m not sure Angie and I did it right, but we tried to offer a best of both worlds approach to our kids. Somehow, it all worked out pretty well in the end.

  7. Good post Catharine. You indeed are fortunate to have wonderful parents who set limits, yet let you make your own mistakes. Not easy to come by in this world of gimme gimme gimme. I tried to do the same. What will Amy Chua’s children be doing in the future? The same thing she did. I guess in that culture, successfulness equates to happiness and I believe it will be your father who can attest to the fact that this is certainly not true. He has both.