“Why don’t you write about the Chinese mother?” friends asked. That seemed like a good idea for a few minutes. But the buzz was getting too loud for my own voice to be heard in the blogosphere. What more could I possibly add to what thousands, yes, thousands of others were saying? By the weekend Lisa Chua had splattered herself all over the Internet explaining that her Wall Street Journal blog, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” (http://tinyurl.com/2v8fg3k), was supposed to be “ironic.” Thus she maybe removed herself from contention for Worst Mother Ever. But, wow, had she hit a nerve: over 3000 comments to the original blog, plus the TV appearances. Then came Lisa Miller’s article in The Daily Beast (http://tinyurl.com/4o4o3gl). And, OK, I get it, Lisa Chua. The Tiger Mother was not trying to make her kids’ existences living hells. She was searching for balance.
Also, Lisa: great pr for your new memoir! Way to go.
Now, if one of my kids had demonstrated that she was a musical prodigy, maybe I, like Tiger Mother, would have ripped up the birthday cards she made me, just so she’d strive harder for perfection. Actually, I doubt it. I still have the puzzle the reads, “Happy Birthday Mom,” which my daughter sent from camp when she was like 12. And rather than making my kids stand outside in frigid weather to punish them, I’d be like, “Do you need another sweater? Where are your gloves?” I am a Jewish mother through and through. Basically, Ayelet Waldman has covered all the western mother vs. Tiger mother ground in her blog (http://tinyurl.com/4rm4pgu) in the Wall Street Journal, and in a generous way, I must add. (Yeah, this is the same Ayelet Waldman who once electrified the parenting world by putting her shit on blast about loving her husband more than she loved her kids). Ms. Waldman is a bit younger than I am, and, yeah, most of my Baby Boomer readers are, too, but what she says about parenting still resonates: we turn into the kind of tigresses our children need. (No, not mama grizzlies, who, out there in the wilderness are actually quite bad mothers by any human standard.)
(I must digress for a moment for an encomium to Ethel Mama, my sister-in-law’s late mother. The quintessential Jewish mother, Ethel Mama had a single response to anything her grandchildren, her friend’s grandchildren, my kids, etc. did: “Wonderful. Just wonderful.” If the A was a B or even a D, she was always there: “Next time you’ll study harder; next time you’ll get more help from the teacher.)
So instead of the Chinese mother, I’m going to write about the eyebrow-waxing-mom from Toddlers & Tiaras. Watch this clip via the Huffington Post: http://tinyurl.com/6fc2hcw. The bottle-blond mom actually says to the camera, “they’re called beauty pageants for a reason” as her six-year-old screams, “don’t tear it, don’t tear it.” Our candidate for “monster mother of the century” even informs the audience, reality-show style, that her little girl had a “bad experience” with eyebrow waxing. The wax was too hot and her skin tore off. Both the stylist and the mother lie to the child—“you’re done”—when they still have the second side to tear off. Curiously, they bribe her with candy, for which the child pants. The kid actually sticks out her tongue and pants like a dog. So maybe this child is regularly deprived of candy to maintain he svelte five-year-old figure. Or maybe she just really likes candy. She’s still crying at the end of the clip, in pain. Getting your eyebrows waxed HURTS. The sting continues for several moments after. I know that from experience. I would never expect a little kid to endure an eyebrow wax, even if he or she suffered from Tajikistan unibrow syndrome (http://tinyurl.com/6j5uogs).
OK, eyebrow-wax-mom—even if you haven’t been there and done that—shouldn’t you be moved by your child’s tears? Isn’t that why this video has gone viral? It’s not that there’s anyone (except for fellow Toddlers & Tiaras adult female competitors, i.e., the mothers) rooting you on in the comments section. You are no Tiger Mother with those sick of Western permissiveness in your corner. You are one of those animals who eat her young.
Yes, I am old enough to be eyebrow-wax-mom’s mother, and note how worked up I am still. That’s because I am a baby-boomer mother, as I have written time and time again. I worry. Sure I expend some energy over other people’s kids. But a lot is over my own, more than they know, more than they are comfortable.
So here are some things my adult children of a Generation B-Squared (Jewish) mother are never allowed to do.
Never pick up furniture from the street. That gorgeous armoire may be crawling with bedbugs. And how do you expect to see them at night when you come across it in the gutter?
Never buy a used carpet. It may harbor carpet bugs. Yes, carpet bugs are real and they take real exterminators to get rid of and that costs more money than you can afford.
Never use the argument that picking up items in second hand shops is “sustainable” living. It’s a bug invitation.
Never complain that I’m nagging if you don’t take the above advice. Yes, I will nag. In fact, I will get upset.
And then, we’ll move on, the way we always do. I worry. But I trust them. Sort of. Well, a lot. But I would never have made them stand out in bad weather for bad grades or let a drop of eye-brow wax mar their preschool brows. So, for that, why not a promise: no used furniture, no used clothes. And eat some vegetables and fruit.
[An addendum here on 5/12/11. Please see this wonderful blog from Betty Ming Liu on the Amy Chua's strange lack of believability, let alone gravitas. http://bettymingliu.com/2011/05/amy-chua-cant-be-trusted/]