If you are alive and able to understand the English language, over the weekend you probably read Yale Law School professor Amy Chua’s Wall Street Journal article, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.” That’s the one in which she details the reign of terror to which she subjected her daughters, Sophia and Lulu, denying them the comforts that are an American child’s birthright, like watching too much TV, playing videogames, playing a tree stump in the school play, and having friends.
Instead, Chua forced them to play piano and violin until they—gasp!—became good at the instruments, and browbeat them into getting straight A’s in school. Also, she called them “garbage” to their faces if they gave her any lip.
I probably don’t need to tell you that this is not the DadWagon approach to parenting. There’s little chance Theodore, Nathan or I would spend hours enforcing mandatory piano practice, mostly because we’re drunk whenever the kids are home. Also, our kids already know they’re garbage—we don’t need to remind them.
The thing is, we have wives, girlfriends, and ex-wives, who are, in total, 87.5% Asian. (Correct?) While we Barcalounge the evenings away, we could get them to frighten our demon spawn into achieving the bare competence needed to survive in the modern world. All it would take is a mere nudge from us, and those babymamas—all first- or second-generation immigrants—would revert to their Old World standards of high expectations and easy emotional abuse. Get ready, Harvard—Sasha’s coming your way!
Or not. It’s pretty easy to criticize Amy Chua’s approach to parenting—”garbage,” really? to their faces?—but I have little doubt her children will get Ph.D.’s or M.D.’s and become, at least outwardly, successes. Maybe they’ll need extensive therapy, maybe they’ll commit suicide, or maybe they’ll be okay.
But to my mind, right now they look, well, boring. Another couple of Chinese-Jewish (their dad is Jed Rubenfeld) kids who play piano and get good grades—stereotypes. And while I wish them all the material success in the world, it’s hard to see them as anything but automatons. They may become doctors or lawyers, but so what? I’d rather my Sasha be an interesting individual first, then a successful individual. Of course, I’m not Chinese.
My wife, however, is—or nearly is. Jean was born and raised in Taiwan, and while her parents did push her to learn piano and memorize Tang Dynasty poems (which she then had to perform at dinner parties), I don’t think they terrorized her into submission. Yes, she had to complete a biology degree at Johns Hopkins before they’d let her go to fashion school, but they did relent. They even let her marry a non-Taiwanese freelance writer!
Still, I worry. I worry that one day some switch in her brain will flip and she’ll turn into Amy Chua, a take-no-prisoners monster demanding pointless grades and mastery of arbitrary skills (what, no cello?). And if it could happen in my family, it could happen in yours!
Moral of the story: Don’t marry an Asian woman. (Leave them all to us!)