Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Kitty Mama

It's January 18 and I feel like I've been assaulted a bit as a parent, and that America's education system has been similarly raked over the coals, perhaps justifiably.

Last week I went to hear Condoleeza Rice speak at the BYU Marriott Ceneter. I had no idea how much I would like her, and how what she said would speak to me in unexpected ways. I felt uplited to achieve more in my personal life, but also that my hands were tied as a parent concerning my ability to help my children become better educated.

Ms.Rice, who I believe was undoubtedly the best thing to happen to the George W. Bush administration, was stern in her reprimands of the status quo. She said, "The number one threat to national security in America today is the disastrous state of our K-12 system." We are not competitive, she says. Not remotely competitive. Ouch. We all agree that she's right.

How do we become more competitive? She offers several ways, but it seems like my kids will be middle-aged by the time her suggestions can take hold. And then America will be a tortoise, left in the dust by the smarter, faster hares in Asia. But she made me want to do something, to at least try. What exactly I don't know.

In the meantime, there is Amy Chau, the author of "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mama," who is all over the news right now. She makes me proud that I am the wussy tortoise and she is the ruthless hare. I am a kitty Mama, and proud as a peacock about it.

She is a woman who I could not spend five minutes with. She lambasts American parenting, insisting we are coddling our children because we let them have the pleasures of childhood. We don't drill them into the ground with academics and music. Never mind that her own children nervously vomit when they worry they can't live up to her abusive standards. Never mind that Asia's young women between the ages of 15-24 have an astonishingly high suicide rate due to unrelenting pressure.

Her parenting methods work, she claims. She says this is a traditional approach to parenting in China. I doubt many Chinese parents would have the energy, grit or heart (or lack of) to parent their children with such lack of compassion and harshness. It's just too exhausting and emotionally draining. I just think she likes the publicity she's getting for being the "Tiger Mama" and the $800,000 advance she got to write the book. (That part makes be a bit envious, I must admit.)

This Kitty Mama is sickened that she's getting rich writing a book that has a message that is so at odds with the human value that espouses freedom to become anyone you want to become. Amy Chao has forced her children to become what she wants. How will her children every learn to make a decision on their own?

So she makes me want to sit on my butt and watch my kids tiptoe through the tulips, read a little, have a sleepover, watch a movie, go out to lunch, hang out in their pajamas, all the things she says we wimpy American parents do. Hey guys, eat a cheeseburger while you're watching TV!

And I want to punch her in the face and tell her that a person who is truly intelligent is the person who has emotional intelligence. Because if you can't get along with people, you will never find success in life no matter how well you play the piano or what college you graduated from.

I agree with David Brooks of the New York Times. He says that Amy Chau's the wimp, not American parents, because she isn't making her children do the truly hard things like discern the emotional cues of their peers or play on a team or work in groups to figure things out. They don't have to get along with anyone.

Those are the skills that "competitive" people have. I will think about this when I help my daughter with her 10 math problems that she had for homework last night. I will think of this when I ask my son if he has any homework and he says, "No."


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Top Ten for 2010

I am glad 2010 is over. It has brought many blessings and new and exciting things. But it has also been personally draining and exhausting. I am a goal setter, but not a goal achiever, and this is problematic in a culture that values putting off the natural woman and striving for perfection.

If you are wondering why Michael Jackson is staring at you, skip down to number 10, but y'all come back ya hear?

Here are some happy things about 2010. Yeah, Michael is one of them.

1. The best thing about 2010 was that my daughter had a year of healing, physically and mentally, and she is on her way. We didn't know what to expect. We were terrified as much as any two parents could possibly be, but she is remarkable in the progress she has made and her determination to beat her illnesses. I admire her ability to pick herself up every day and work toward getting better.

2. My brother in law Mike is alive and well. He walks with a crutch and his legs don't work like he would like them to. But he is a medical miracle. He is back at work. He survived a burst illiac artery in June which most people do not. We can't imagine life without his tension-relieving sense of humor and generous nature. It's a good thing that I didn't have to pray at our Christmas family dinner, because I would have been reduced to a pile of mashed potatoes when I think of the blessing of his life, and how we almost lost him.

3. My Mom survived breast cancer and Darren's Mom has recovered from her debilitating auto immune disease. I can't even say what it was because the words are so long. I have high hopes that my Mom's back surgery will be successful later this month, and that her health will be restored. Good luck Mom!

4.Being PTA president has been surprisngly pleasant and enjoyable. It has been rewarding and self-esteem boosting. I feel like I have done well, and can say that I have achieved the goal of doing my best for our school. I am proud of the work that I have done, and actually have some goals in this area that are achievable in the months to come. Wow, achievable goals, who would have thought?

5. Our puppy Theo brings joy and more joy even though he poops a lot and chews things up. He is adorable and fast as snot and we all love him except one person in our family. And that's OK because he has five other people who can't imagine life without him. He is a trail runner and a mountain climber (even a moose chaser) and that makes Darren happy. Darren frequently says what a cool dog he is. This is way more than I had hoped for when we got a dog. Darren was less than enthusiastic, but now we finally have somone in the family who can keep up with my ultra-fit, super outdoorsy husband.

6. Speaking of outdoorsy, I have taken up snow shoeing with Darren and I love it and am starting not to hate winter with the same vitriolic passion that I used to. We have couple unit time and I get to breathe fresh air and exercise while enjoying our beautiful surroundings. And it is so cheap and accessible and easy. One can't fail at snow-shoeing. There is virtually no skill required, (why else would I be able to do it) except it is sometimes hard to get those tennis racquets all buckled up!

7. My shoulder is healed. I can move it almost 100% and this makes me so grateful and happy. I can do anything I want to do without worry or concern, and I am attempting to do just that. It does not pop out of the socket anymore and I truly hope that I will never have to endure seven shoulder dislocations again. The surgery was a great success.

8. Zumba class is a riot and so fun and such good exercise. What an amazing discovery for me. I did it all through the summer and less in the fall, but I resolve (how I despise that word because it is most uncharitable) to keep it up this winter. The music and the energy are fantastic.

9.My kids are healthy and happy (at least it seems that way, one never really knows) and they seem to be growing up to be intelligent, kind, good people despite their mother's erratic behavior. Hooray!

10. And last but not least, my Michael Jackson Wii game (bonus white glove included) that I got for Christmas is "SICK" (to use teenage phraseology). I am thrilled and surprised that I am not a complete washed-out has-been and that I actually have some moves. I beat everyone in the family, probably because I was very "impressionable" when Michael's music was at the height of mania. It swept over me, seeped into my blood and stayed around until Michael was no longer recognizable.

I lived for "stomps" at school when I could rock out to "BAD" and "BEAT IT." And I will never forget when a crowd of my friends gathered in the fall of 1983 in the dark to watch MTV's new video "THRILLER." I secretly wondered how a white 17-year old Mormon girl from Salt Lake City could have Michael's baby someday. That was before he got all gross and freaky! Whoops, not a secret anymore!

Happy New Year!