This morning, my Girl was looking over her history notes while she ate her cereal. She got an extra hour of sleep because she had a doctor's appointment, just a check up (A+ on the check up except for a tiny, possible curvature of her spine that the nurse practitioner said could be, but probably isn't, very mild scoliosis. We'll get her a scan later this week. It is not a big deal. Yeesh. What a digression), so she was looking particularly perky.
We talked about grades a little bit. I don't know her exact grade-point average, but but it's higher than a 4.0. Her good friend Little A has a 4.5 grade-point average.
"I tell her she's a genius," my Girl said, "and she says, 'It's not that hard. What's hard about getting all A's?'"
My Girl admits she's an overachiever and also admits that although her daddy and I love and encourage A's, she strives because she chooses to strive, works hard for her grades, wants to be the best, though she thinks she can't be the best because unlike her lovely friend Little A, she actually has to study.
Her history teacher is a great teacher. He tries to teach the kids the stories of history in a dynamic and interesting way. He's tough. He's a hard grader. On a recent quiz, he took a half point off my girl's score because he said she left out a word. "He said I didn't use enough adjectives to describe the situation. I mean, yeesh! It was one word. 'Half a point, Mr. M?' I said. 'Come on'!" In other words, she didn't get 100 percent. She got a 96.
"You kids are too worried about your grades," he told his students when they complained.
"It's the school's fault and the teachers' faults that we care so much about grades," my Girl said. "They've taught us to want all A's, especially the honors kids. What do they expect?"
I've heard my Girl admit that she loves Mr. M even when she's really angry with him for some ridiculous (in her eyes) assignment that forces her to learn a topic from hair to toenails. She admits that she likes to learn.
In French I, her classmates are not her usual peer group, not all honors kids. She doesn't know them very well so she is as quiet as the teacher allows her to be. Mr. French is hilarious. He's an out there sort of guy, and truly likes high school kids.
Last week, all week, my Girl said, "he didn't teach us anything." But she laughed. "He said there was a bat in his house, and he couldn't sleep. He had to call one of his friends to help him get it out. He said he screamed like a little girl and ran into things, like walls, while he was trying to get away from the bat."
I was howling with laughter at this point and wished I'd been in the classroom while Mr. French was describing his bat night.
"He said, 'I don't feel like teaching you anything today. I feel like crap. Just do whatever you want.' I hate it when he does that because I don't know those people and don't have anything to say to them. I just sit there and stare at the clock. That's why I hate school. It's a big waste of my time if he's not going to teach us. But I think he's funny, and he's usually a good teacher."
She told me her friends get on her in first period when they have a lull during Algebra II and she starts writing out her French vocabulary cards for the weekly quiz she'll have on Wednesday.
"They get really mad at me and say, 'Just stop, Girl, would you stop?' But I can't because I panic."
I promise you, I'm no Amy Chua, no "Tiger Mom." Little A's mom would be closer to that than I would be (Little A is half Chinese, half Vietnamese). There's proof on this blog that not only do I allow my Girl to go to sleepovers, we have them at my house weekly. Not only is she allowed extracurricular activities, but she spends seven extra hours each week in the fall rehearsing for marching band, which takes time away from studying, which means she gets a little less sleep.
I'm not a "Tiger Mom" hater, though. I think my own mother could have been that kind of mother if she'd had more energy, felt better physically, if we'd moved around less, if her children had been less, well, blatantly rebellious and what she called "fitty."
Even though I'm not a "Tiger Mom," I'm a raising a child who works her skinny little ass off (20th percentile in weight, 25th in height. I didn't know they still did the percentile thing for teenagers) because she wants to. I do know that part of her wanting this has to do with us, her parents. We want her to excel. We want her to get "A"s. We want her always to do her best.
We also want her to be happy, to learn to navigate social situations, to relax, to play.
I doubt Amy Chua would think much of my parenting, but suspect she would rather admire my kid.
Here's what I think about parenting: How one parents is a choice and is really only that parent's business, unless a parent is abusing her child (and I don't believe Ms. Chua is/was any more than I believe my mother and father abused me for refusing to let me join the cast of a local community theatre's production of Helen Keller when I was in eighth-grade - my mother was worried about my grades, which, truth be told, were slipping because I. just. didn't. give. a. shit.).
I guess Amy Chua did make her parenting our business when the excerpt from her book ran in the Washington Post. Still, the book is a memoir, not a anti-Dr. Spock sort of parenting guide. Maybe she would think she's a superior parent to me, but that's all right. I'm not interested in any kind of Mothering Olympics. I know I'm a good mother (except when I think my Girl's father thinks I'm a bad mother. He has never said out loud that he thinks I'm a bad mother. It's my projection of what I think he thinks of me oozing out sometimes).
(note: I have not read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. I might be horrified at what the author writes when I do get around to reading it. It's overdue at the local public library, and I've forbidden myself from buying any more books until I manage to get paid for work I do.)
Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld (I think she's the older of the two daughters) recently received her Harvard acceptance, which is why she is in the news and why this is on my mind. Good for her! You know? She loves her mother and appreciates how her mother raised her.
I'm fairly sure that part of the reason I'm more easy going than my parents were is that I sometimes felt a little suffocated and wished that I could venture out into more activities. Ah, but here's another truth. I was shy and gawky and dorky and completely certain that I was idiot, ugly, untalented and not appealing enough to be welcome in any kind of "club."
I'm laughing very hard now. I don't think of myself that way now. Now? I'm attempting to turn from an underachiever into a post-middle-aged overachiever, and part of striving to become whatever the hell I want to become involves not. giving. a. shit. but in a completely different way from my childhood indifference. I no longer seem to care what people think. (or care less than I used to)
My Girl is raising herself almost as much as we are raising her. She knows exactly who she is, knows that sometimes she lets peer pressure dictate her behavior and activities, knows that ultimately, she'll become what she wants to become partly because we've allowed her to be what she already is.
I don't know if that made any sense.
I wrote this directly into the window again without composing it ahead of time. It took forever (45 minutes?), but there are a lot of words here.
Now I'm going to try to write 500 words on a specific topic I keep avoiding.
Dang. I accidentally published this post before I proofed it. Ooh, baby alliteration! published post proof
(proof positive I'm positively, pathologically nuts)