The parenting lessons of Amy Chua & Hosni Mubarak (really!)
Note: Usually, we’ll be tackling more light hearted, everyday topics, so please excuse the random politics interruption.
1. The Dictator Angle
Amy Chua’s advocacy of banning playdates, sleepovers and television in pursuit of “straight A’s” and former President Mubarak’s 30 year reign with iron-fisted control of the media and daily life are simply two forms of dictatorship: one in the house and one of a country. But the singular lesson is that the power of “the individual” is an overwhelming force too strong to suppress, whether it’s the democratic movement of a country or the individuality of a child manifesting itself. So even if I wanted to subscribe to Amy Chua’s household dictatorship methods as Baby B’s father, it’s a fruitless exercise because Baby B is bound to prevail.
2. Not so Black and White
However, simply proclaiming Amy Chua and Hosni Mubarak as yesterday’s dictators is far too easy and simplistic a path. In fact, in follow up interviews with the San Francisco Chronicle, the New York Times and many other publications, Amy Chua has made it clear that her book is not the black and white advocacy of being a Tiger Mom. In fact, it’s a self reflection of how it is in fact hard to repress the individualism of your children (as she discovered with her second daughter Louisa). Similarly, condemning President Mubarak as a worthless dictator is equally simplistic. Without his conviction to implement Sadat’s Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel, the path of Middle East politics would no doubt have been dramatically transformed. And I would argue that short of Saudi royalty, he has been the most important bridge between the Arab and Western worlds. The lesson for Baby B is probably not really a parenting lesson, but moreso one of life in general. Whether in the media or in daily conversation, people love the sensationalist headlines. Baby B – don’t just listen to “conventional wisdom” but form your own opinion. Things are not always as they seem and more often than not, information has been “packaged.” There’s almost always two sides to a coin.
3. When is Success Really Success?
Amy Chua’s daughters did get straight A’s and one of her daughter’s performed at Carnegie Hall. The people of Egypt rose as one in a powerful show of democracy that toppled a 30 year reign with minimal bloodshed. Are these successes to be celebrated?
While I actually agree with many aspects of Amy Chua’s Tiger parenting (please no flames!), I totally reject the most common Chinese parent stereotype that getting straight A’s and gaining entrance to an Ivy League school is a sign that it was all worthwhile. Similarly, I worry for the people of Egypt because the hardest days are really ahead. Overthrowing a dictatorship is relatively easy compared to solving the unemployment and economic turmoil that are at the heart of Egypt’s current problems. While an Ivy League education and an historic people’s movement are indeed notable accomplishments, history will only see them as true successes based on what happens next. Failure to make something of the Ivy league education or the democratic opportunity will relegate each to insignificant footnote status.
So Baby B – here’s what Amy Chua and Hosni Mubarak have taught me:
- To understand that your strong will and mischievous machinations are reflections of your individuality to be nurtured and not suppressed (or … when you’re wrecking havoc in the house, to remind myself that it’s simply budding individualism in its nascent stages)
- To strive to instill in you an inquisitive nature that will not take “popular” opinion at face value – to be wary of those things that are painted as universally good or bad – because they rarely are (or … that I should really embrace this stage you’re at where your simple response to everything is “why?”)
- To celebrate success, but to understand that sometimes the most celebrated moments, are really only the beginning of much longer and arduous journeys and that often the true moments of success are those that come later and are much less celebrated (or … that Amy Chua had it all wrong – Harvard simply ain’t good enough – you need to also graduate at the top of your class and find the cure for cancer to really be considered a success)
… ok, just kidding … sort of.