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(Jewish) Mothering on My Own Terms is the Converse of “Tiger Mothering”

I had decided that I was going to stay out of the “Tiger Mother” fray, but a visit to the local public library made me change my mind.

If the number of holds at the library on Amy Chua’s “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” (83) as compared to those on Wendy Mogel’s new parenting book, “The Blessing of a B Minus: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Resilient Teenagers” (7) is any indication, then the answer to Allison Kaplan Sommer’s recent post asking whether Chinese mothers leave Jewish mothers in the dust would be a resounding “yes.” And that worries me.

In fact, Kaplan Sommer referenced a Jewlicious post that mentioned Mogel’s book. Being that it was Jewlicious, Mogel’s main point about the importance of letting kids screw up, learn from their mistakes, and find their own way (within reason) was humorously paraphrased for maximum satirical effect. I, on the other hand, am dead serious about following Mogel’s sage advice, given the fact that it is possible — if not probable — that the kind of pressure put on kids by the kind of parenting advocated by Chua has contributed in some way to the recent cluster of teen suicides that has plagued my over-achieving community of Palo Alto, California.

This morning, I saw a sign outside the high school down the block from my home advertising a talk called, “Crazy Busy: Overstretched, Overbooked and About to Snap.” I am assuming that the speaker is going to address the fact that we are turning our children into “teacups” and “crispies,” as Mogel calls them. “Teacups” are teens who are so fragile that, once they are on their own at college, can’t handle any adversity, and “crispies” are ones that are so burned out from high school that by the time they graduate they have lost all intrinsic love for learning. We’re talking “snap, crackle and pop” — but not in the fun, tasty breakfast cereal way. It’s more like “crash, burn and shatter” into a million little pieces that are very hard to reassemble.

Sure, I’m a Jewish mother. I even blog as “The Gen X Yiddishe Mamme.” So, it goes without saying that I want my children to achieve and be successful. But ultimately, it has to be on their own terms, not mine. I can only provide them with a positive role model, encouragement, and space to figure out who they are and what they want to be. There are a lot more instruments out there to try than just the piano and the violin. Independent thought, a will to explore and challenge, and healthy rebellion are music to my ears.

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