Like much of the Western world last week, I read Amy Chua's "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior" and immediately wanted to call my very American mom and thank her. But I'd promised my 5-year-son we'd have a "Scooby-Doo" marathon and from there the day just kind of got away from me.
Over the next few days, I found myself glued to my computer screen, shirking all parenting duties, as I read every rebuttal to Chua's article I could with the kind of discipline that would put even Chua's daughters' practicing of the violin to shame.
Since when does everyone -- Chinese, Western or otherwise -- have to espouse or follow a parenting philosophy?
Can't you just be kind and encouraging with your kid, discipline him when required and heat up the chicken nuggets at the appropriate time?
OK, being a parent requires more than that, particularly if your child vomits a lot. And I guess now I may be guilty too of wading into the Important Thoughts on Parenting waters. But at least my thoughts are: STOP THINKING ABOUT IT.
From the moment our children are born, we're expected to have several parenting guides on our night tables, with similar websites bookmarked.
And other than these books' unfortunate habit of making you feel that your kid is the last one in his age group to roll over (as if rolling over is a skill that will ever come in handy for him at home, in the workplace, etc.), these guides are probably a good thing.
Most of us are so far removed from our instinctual animal selves that we don't feel comfortable burping our baby without getting confirmation from either a licensed doctor or some mom who burped her kid in 2003 and felt the need to share it on a comment board.
But once you're confident that you're capable of keeping safe a tiny human being who requires only food, love and, currently, a Nintendo DS, it's best to put down the reading material, turn off the "Will this make my child happy and/or successful?" question-asking part of your brain and just . . . be the best parent you can be.
As Kevin Costner tells Tim Robbins in "Bull Durham": "You just got lesson number one: Don't think. It can only hurt the ball club."
Your family is your ball club. (Unless you're also on a real ball club, at which point the analogy falls apart.)
One of the main questions that Chua's article and some subsequent rebuttals raised was what parenting style produces "better" adults -- you know, the kind of people who are happy and high-achieving and, um, don't write articles insulting millions of other people's parenting styles, etc.
The answer should be: Who cares?
While everyone knows there are no guarantees when it comes to raising children, chances are that if you're a decent, hardworking, only slightly overweight person, your kid will someday be one, too. That goes for Western parents and Chua's version of Chinese ones, too.
So, unless the last thing you want is for your child to be like you, go grab a moderately healthy snack from the pantry, cuddle up with your kid and let Shaggy and Scooby help you impart some solid life lessons.
And then afterward ground him for getting crumbs on the couch.
(Mark Bazer is a writer living a few blocks away from Chicago. He also hosts "The Interview Show," a Chicago-based talk show available at The Huffington Post. He can be reached via www.markbazer.com.)
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