When your parents are from a different country, there is an event that generates an insurmountable rupture in the great cultural divide: the sleepover party. Trying to explain why you and your other tween friends are gathering to stay up past bedtime, experiment with makeup, and play “truth or dare” not only makes the whole endeavor appear as ridiculous as it sounds, but sadly reveals how disconnected you are from your parents.
As elaborated in her article “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” Amy Chua prohibits her daughters from participating in sleepovers as well as numerous other degenerate all-American activities in order to transform her offspring into “successful kids.” This article, as well as the book Chua is promoting, have received considerable attention, mostly negative. I find it an interesting debate since on paper I’m a “successful kid” yet my parents were far from either the Chinese or Western example Chua outlines. Their style of parenting transformed me into another adult in the home. Since I could string a sentence together in English I’ve been my mother’s translator in doctor’s offices, supermarket checkouts, and any other venue you can imagine. If I wanted dance lessons, I needed to call the ballet studio, register myself, and fill out the check. Rather than being forced to do homework, I relished in having alone time and the chance to just be an elementary school student. I’d actually cry on the last day of the school year because summer meant I’d have to be responsible all the time.
I’m not sure if this type of upbringing enabled me to get into a prestigious university, graduate with honors, etc. I do find it tedious to see a child as an experiment, but then again I’m not a parent. But I was once a child and I do know from personal experience that over-achievers are not born but made. And whether your parent is too harsh or too absent, becoming an over-achiever is a fruitless and unyielding venture. During my second year in college I decided to get counseling because I feared that I was developing an ulcer. I took on so many activities and responsibilities that I couldn’t sleep at night. Through my sessions with a caring therapist I realized that none of it mattered. Praise is overrated. Whatever recognition I had been seeking from my parents would never arrive so it was time to let that go and live for myself.
In reading the responses to Chua’s article it seems that many former over-achievers have arrived at this conclusion. And for all the children still pushing themselves to the limit I hope you can let it go, too.
This Tuesday marked the first day of the Spring Semester. It’s great to see campus packed with students again. During breaks the 40 Acres becomes a ghost town. I was looking forward to my classes this semester, but I’m enjoying them even more than I expected. On second thought, get back to me the week when I have four tests in three days.