Sunday, January 9, 2011

Being a Chinese Mother

No, that's not a euphemism.

Check out this article about why Chinese mothers are superior.  Now, as you can probably surmise from my bloggy persona above, I am not Chinese.  There's nary a drop of Asian blood in me; however, I think there are things my German/Irish/Norwegian ancestors had in common with the Chinese.  It's work ethic.

Read the article.  Go on.

This past weekend the kids and I went out to my parents' place in the country.  While the kids helped my mom in her workshop and then climbed trees, I helped my dad clear brush.  Yes, just like W.  I didn't get to use the chainsaw this time (bummer), but I did use the loppers, I did climb on top of the brush pile on the truck and stomp around on it a bit (well, more like jumped up and down on it like a carnival ride) and I did do a whole lot of heavy lifting and grunting.  I did clean up some timber for use as fence rails, identified some hardwood trees as keepers and prepped others for firewood.

It. felt. great.

All the worries and frustrations of the past few weeks just fell off my shoulders as I worked alongside my dad.  Clearing brush cleared my head.  Hard physical work puts things in perspective.

A few hours later, we were done for the day.  Dad's in his 60's and has declared he now has an aversion to working after 4:00.  So, despite wanting to continue, I honored my pop's decision and returned the tools to the workshop while Dad took the kids and dog for a ride in the truck.

One thing that struck me yesterday, that this article touches on, is hard work feels good.  I hated working with mom and dad when I was a kid.  I loathed it.  Complaining, however, wasn't an option.  If I complained, I got more work.  Now, I know how to do the work and Dad did not have to fill me in on the process once.  I donned some work gloves and got to work.

That felt great.  I felt great.  I felt good about myself.  I felt capable.  Strong.  I used all the skills my parents had taught me, like tricks to making lopper work easier and better ways to stack the brush, and felt incredibly satisfied with myself when we were done.  My body felt vital.  My head felt clear.  My emotions felt calmer.

Now, I have a daughter.  Despite all the articles I've read in magazines, imploring me to be careful of her delicate flower-ness, I do not worry about her self-esteem.  I feel absolutely no additional pressure to make sure she knows she's special and beautiful and not fat just because she was born with a uterus.  The pressure I feel for her is no different than the pressure I feel about raising my sons  - to be capable, self-sufficient, contributing members of society.

You know why?  She's stronger than that "girl" thing I'm supposed to be concerned about.  She's stronger and more capable and tougher and far more precious than anything she could buy in the store, than the way her friends might treat her, the way any boy might treat her, or any words I could say to her.  If I dance around her as if she's perched atop eggshells,  I teach her she's a dainty, delicate flower who can't do much. What a wretched blow to her psyche, to be treated as if she's too precious to get real and dirty.

If I hand her a pair of loppers and expect her to get to work with us, she learns she's more than the jeans she wears, the make-up she applies, the hair she styles or any of the details of her life.  She learns a lesson in the strength the good Lord gave her.  She learns she's part of this family, part of a team, very capable of attacking any challenge before her.

I know my girl.  I know she's a force to be reckoned with and that she has strength she will never know if I don't force her to tap into it.

My job as her mother is to allow her to (and, at some point, force her) to tap into that strength.  To grow up thinking she's only as good as what she puts on or in her body or only as good as what others think would never allow her to find out how incredible and strong she is.  If I constantly "do" for her, she never learns she can "do" for herself.  If I constantly frame things to make them easier, kinder, better for her, she never learns how resilient she is.

That would be a waste.

So, that's my thought for the weekend.  Next trip out, my kids are going to join us in the work outside.  This time they helped inside.  Next time they can help outside.  Someday I'll teach them all how to change a tire, change the oil, and use those loppers.

After all, someday that chainsaw will by mine and I need them to know how to clean up some rails.  If that makes me mean, so be it.  I'll take being called a Chinese mother as a compliment.

~ G

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