Initially, I was going to comment on the events in Egypt. However, the other evening, after work, a few of us were sitting around and someone brought up the oriental woman calling herself the Dragon Mom. Perhaps you recall her? A few weeks ago she hit the public in the eye with the story on 60 Minutes of her brutality and cruelty in raising her two daughters — “the Chinese way,” she called it.
Well, my colleague was all enthusiastic about this woman’s parenting techniques; after all, the Dragon Mom’s daughters went on to excel in school and in extra-curricular activities such as music. Dragon Mom accepted nothing less than straight A report cards and would drill her daughters to the point of exhaustion in math, science, and whatnot. Parties, sleepovers and other such normal activities were proscribed. As for the kids, they heap gushing praise on dear old mom. Only once, in all those years, did one of her daughters fight back; the younger one refused to have anything further to do with playing the violin (and who can blame her!).
“Childhood isn’t supposed to be fun,” said the Dragon Mom proudly. My colleague agrees and was gearing up to inflict a similarly harsh regimen on her three kids. Well, before going down the Dragon Mom’s hellish road, we should understand a few things.
First, it was all about the Dragon Mom’s own aspirations, not her kids’. Not once, in her story, did she ever stop to wonder what her kids might want out of life. Never did she pause to think that her job as a parent is to help her kids realize their own potentials, to pursue their own goals and fulfill their own dreams. Dragon Mom was all about Dragon Mom and he kids be damned.
Second, the gushing, fawning, adoration by the two daughters is simply a manifestation of the Stockholm Syndrome.
Third, instead of inculcating a love of knowledge and learning, she’s inculcated a fear of punishment. Instead of their wanting to learn for the pleasure of learning, they now learn out of dread of the consequences.
I have some close friends who never tyrannized their two kids. While they were heavily involved in their childrens’ lives, they did so with the goal of having their kids become their own persons, not simply become clones of dear old mom and dad. My friends kids also got straight As, played in the bands and did sports, but they did it while having lots of sleepovers, parties, movies, wide circles of friends and all the other things that make childhood tolerable. My friends are proof positive that the Dragon Mom has her head up her ass.
And what of the consequences to Dragon Mom? Right now, her kids are under age and, consequently under Dragon Mom’s thumb. But what happens in a few years when the kids slip the surly bonds? They will probably be emotionally stunted and incapable of making decisions and performing any form of critical analysis. Having been told what to do and what to think every moment of their lives, they’ll be easy marks for charlatans, grifters and sexual predators — that, or they’ll be so gun-shy they’ll be incapable of normal relationships.
Of course there will be the heady reality of freedom. Out from under the old battle axe’s control, they’ll cast off her fetters. Free from Dragon Mom’s suffocating control, they’ll move by their own lights. However, never having the chance to make independent judgments, they won’t know how to do so and will probably make lots of bad ones. Look for pregnancies, DWI citations, serial marriages and, worst of all, an intellectual and spiritual drift. Of course, they’ll eventually, and probably sooner than later, reject Dragon Mom and turn their backs to her — and not only Dragon Mom, but their Casper Milquetoast of a father, a man who stood idly by as his horrid wife ruined their daughters. Out on their own, the daughters will probably move as far away from Dragon Mom as they can.
I know whereof I speak. I had a Dragon Mom myself. Oh, to be sure, I always acted the dutiful and loving son, but by the time I was eight, I loathed her with every atom of my being. It took decades before I finally fired her, but fire her I did. Knowing I’d never again see her face or hear her voice, I finally had some peace.
When the call came telling me Ma was in extremis with only minutes to live, I felt nothing knowing the world would soon be cleansed of what I came to regard as a malignant presence. Ma died unmourned.