I know I know, I’m a bit late commenting on this, as it’s been all over the news for the last few weeks. But I’ve been very busy going away on holiday for my husband’s big birthday, which was amazing, a week with our best friends, celebrating day and night, no kids, no work, just fun and laughter. It couldn’t have been more perfect, really. But now we’ve been back a week, back to reality, and it feels like that week happened ages ago, or in a different life. The Tiger Mom is still a big topic of conversation, and the fact that people are still talking about her, and the notorious article preceeding her book’s publication (an excerpt here) shows just how much of a stir this has caused. Of course, my first reaction to the article was outrage, disgust at this woman’s methods and pity for her kids, but then it made me think. I see tiger moms every day. She is not the only one. This area is full of pushy parents. So of course you have to ask yourself why, and why it wasn’t that way when I was a child, or why it wasn’t like that where I was a child. The children here are scheduled up to the hilt with after-school activities, weekend classes etc, and it scares me. Today’s society creates hordes of super-active little robots who are used to a constant barrage of stuff, and to constantly being entertained without much room for imaginative play and creative thought (people send their kids to creative play workshops instead). I like my kids to have time at home where they have to come up with their own entertainment, and they love playing for hours, just doing their thing. But of course that’s my view, and my ideal – the ideal of a white, middle-class woman, who lives in one of the most affluent areas in the world, and who works “for fun” rather than need (well, almost). When I joined in a conversation at a recent kids’ party about the Chinese way of bringing up children, and voiced my disapprovement, I was swiftly put into my place by one other parent, not in a critical or negative manner, but enough to make me think about my perception of things. He merely pointed out that although he completely shared my view on this, I should consider the woman’s background, upbringing, and of course also the country she was living in. The United States. Country of endless opportunities, country of the big American Dream. But for whom? The concept of the American Dream might have been realistic once, but it certainly has a very hollow sound to it these days. This country has no room for losers, for non-achievers. If you don’t succeed here, you’re nothing. There is no social system. You have to be successful, because if you’re not, you’re on the street. So who am I to judge people like Tiger Mom? I, with my solid upper middle to upper middle class upbringing, who grew up listening to classical music, eating organic food and going to piano and horseriding lessons (and taking it all for granted), who has no idea what it feels like to be a social outcast, to have nothing, who had no idea that in other countries students have to take out horrendous loans to go to university (it’s almost free in Germany), and who has to build your life from nothing but your own strength and ability. Looking back on my family, over the last few generations, and it’s peppered with doctors and lawyers, both on my dad and my mum’s sides. I might not have been born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but I certainly grew up with an inherent confidence that comes with social standing. I had a conversation about the Tiger Mom phenomenon with a friend recently, and said I hardly had any pressure regarding extracurricular activities (and now think that it wouldn’t have done any harm if I’d had some!), and she just laughed and said to me that of course I hadn’t! My background was academic, educated, so it was basically a given that I would become like that too. She said her parents signed her up for lots and lots of things, all because they wanted her to achieve more and better things in life than they had. And in today’s society, simply doing a lot of things isn’t enough any more. You have to be the best. And I totally get parents’ ambitions for their kids in terms of sports and music. If your child shows any sign of talent for either of the two, you want to push them and make them the best, so they get a scholarhip and can go to university. There aren’t many people able to afford $50,000 a year or more in student fees, and most people start their professional careers with horrendous debt. So if you can get that paid for – what’s not to like? And I’m starting to understand how the American mind works. But it still scares me, and I’m getting quite depressed about our children’s futures. I don’t want them to become performance miracle machines, but I know that it’s going to be tough to keep the balance between what’s “too much” and “too little” pressure. Sometimes I’m just so grateful for my innocent childhood in the seventies…

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