I grew up in one of those Judeo-Christian homes that apparently strike terror in the hearts of the likes of Betty Friedan, Alan Grayson and Kathryn Joyce. My parents never had sex until they got married to each other. Theirs is an enduring...

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Moms, These Days

I grew up surrounded (yes, contrary to a popular rant-line, many homeschoolers grow up, not in isolation but surrounded by people), by homeschool parents who neither smoked nor drank (alcohol), nor listened to rock and roll. They wanted their children to tuck their shirts in, comb their hair (probably slick it down and part it on the side), eschew minced oaths and appreciate classical music. And, they generally thought the world of their children.

Tiger moms? Far from it! Oh, there were a few (more, later on, while some of my brothers and sisters grew up surrounded by Asian homeschool parents). But most of our moms were far too busy nursing a baby, preparing for or recovering from a birth, collecting, assigning and correcting the entire curriculum load for a smattering of children in six grades simultaneously, and planning, shopping for and preparing all of our meals relatively from scratch.

We looked on tiger cubs with a degree of condescension, who had their music lessons handed them on a silver platter, and were TOLD to practice their instruments three hours every day. Of course they sounded good! Their parents MADE them practice! They probably did not run and fold six loads of laundry every week single handedly (a brother ran and folded the other six loads on Thursdays), do half of the family housecleaning, and either set the table for eight or nine every night, or wash dishes by hand after every meal.

Pity the middle set, who ran ten loads of laundry twice a week. At least the youngers helped fold it. There's no telling how many loads they run now. The clothes are bigger- so is the washing machine. There are still fourteen people at home.

If someone was playing classical works with competence at ten or twelve, we handily wrote them off. Maybe their moms called them TO the piano, instead of AWAY FROM it to some forgotten but necessary chore at the slightest start up of the E scale in triplets, or the G minor arpeggios in the first inversion. Somehow my brother still managed to get in a few hours of piano every day, because he simply loved it. And it shows. Put him up against any Asian trained pianist and they will happily exchange music for hours, each coming away in contented awe of the other's ability.

Me, I just used to set my alarm half an hour before my dad's, 4:30, 4:15, 3:30, whenever, and dutifully and contentedly (because I wanted to!) drill away at my piano assignments (at low volume), maybe snatching another ten minutes later in the day before Mom caught me and sent me back to washing dishes. Sometimes I did sleep through my alarm, one of those 1980s, non-digital models that make a garish roar which can raise the dead two blocks away. Sometimes I slept through a full half-hour of it.

My brothers and sisters, now, guess this would be the younger set, are growing up surrounded by homeschool parents who may smoke or drink. Some wear tattoos. They like their children to paint their nails blue, play the drums, use a skate park and look good dancing "NY2LA", by Press Play. They are really blessed if their sons, and probably their daughters too, can sport a good fro. They would be thrilled if a child of theirs made it to the X games, and they generally think the world of their children.

I guess, not a whole lot has changed.

And after chewing on the debate over the outrageous confessions of a tiger mom on Yale's payroll, in light of what I knew growing up: kids can take hard things. Requiring something hard of a child will not destroy the child.

There may be concessions to make. The child may grow up kind of fast. I did. I did not learn to dance "From New York to LA" and look good doing it, and I'm convinced it's too late for me now.

Also, could people keep out of other people's parenting? What if psychological damage has a lot more to do with the character and personality of a child and/or the parents (or possibly the fit between the two) than it has anything to do with the "parenting style" the parents choose?

Amy Chuan's girls are evidently not ruined. Your children are probably not ruined. Most ;) of my cousins (who were not homeschooled) are not ruined. My brothers and sisters and I are not ruined. None of the Duggars are ruined. And if any children are about to be ruined, condemning a parenting style is probably not going to help.