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Ann Cannon: Even sloth mamas care about their kids

Published February 19, 2011 8:38 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

An Open Letter to My Younger Self,

Well, I'm certainly glad the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua wasn't published when you were in the thick of raising our kids. I'm pretty sure you wouldn't have read it. No time! In those days you were barely keeping your head above water, and when you did read, you favored pure escapism — anything by Agatha Christie and the early Richard Jury mysteries by Martha Grimes before Martha got all dark and apparently bored with her own series.

I'm guessing you probably wouldn't have even glanced at Tiger Mother's lengthy (also telling) subtitle: "This is a story about a mother, two daughters and two dogs. This was supposed to be a story of how Chinese parents are better at raising kids than western ones.

"But instead, it's about a bitter clash of cultures, and how I was humbled by a 13-year-old."

None of this would have stopped you, however, from participating in the predictable verbal rock fight about Chua's provocative memoir.

Why? Because the book (which you didn't read) would have automatically made you feel defensive. You certainly weren't parenting like a Tiger Mother. No. You were parenting more along the lines of a stay-at-home dad. Good times! And why were you a stay-at-home dad? (Not that you always stayed at home.) (Or that you were a dad.) (But whatever.) You parented that way because, honey, you were wired that way. News flash! You don't suddenly get a new personality just because you get a new baby.

Still. You second-guessed yourself. A lot, actually. Am I doing right by these kids? What do they need? How can I be a better mother? Should I, in fact, be a Tiger Mother? You asked yourself these questions on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis, just like most mothers do regardless of their personal style. Why? Because most mothers care, that's why. Very few mothers deliberately set out to screw up their own kids, although it must be said mothers like that always make for interesting character studies on "Law and Order."

Anyway. I'm older now. Our kids have mostly grown up and moved on.

So have our friends' kids. And here's what I've discovered. There's more than one right way to raise a kid. A lot of it depends on the child, frankly. For some of my kids, I was the perfect mom. For others, Amy Chua might have been a better choice, plus which — bonus points! — they would have learned how to play the piano. And, in the words of Kurt Vonnegut, so it goes.

This might also be a good time to mention that while engaged parenting is important, other factors contribute to a child's "success." Whatever that word means. Genetics. Temperament. Good luck. Bad luck. No luck at all. As it turns out, those things can matter more than you wished they did.

So yeah. Hang in there and keep trying. Your kids depend upon and need you. They love you, too. Even that taciturn teenager. Just understand that there are some things in your children's lives over which you don't have much control.

Meanwhile, get off your own back, OK? Stop beating yourself up.

And stop beating up on the women who have a different style or approach than yours. Why is it that women are so hard on each other?

Are men this way? (You'd think a stay-at-home dad like me would know.)

Well, I gotta run. Please know I'm rooting for you and our kids and other mothers and other mothers' kids, too.


Ann Cannon

P.S. You're still on a diet. After all these years.

Ann Cannon can be reached at acannon@sltrib.com.




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