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Lessons From a Dragon Mom

By Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, EdD

momjoWhile you may have realized that you are no Tiger Mom, you may have also decided that you are not a Dragon Mom either. These parents are portrayed by Emily Rapp in an essay in The New York Times, “Notes from a Dragon Mom,” as, “fierce, loyal and loving as hell.” Their experiences have taught them, “how to parent for the here and now, for the sake of parenting, for the humanity implicit in the act itself, though this runs counter to traditional wisdom and advice.”

Rapp describes Amy Chua’s Tiger Mom in “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” as “animated by the idea that good, careful investments in your children will pay off in the form of happy endings, rich futures.” Rapp writes that she is not a tiger mom; she is a dragon mom because her child has a terminal illness and is likely to die before his third birthday; she knows he has no future.

Some people say that the Tiger Mom and the Dragon Mom can’t be compared because Rapp and Chua are in completely different situations and each has a parenting style suited to their own child. They say that the Dragon Mom’s way of raising a child with a life expectancy of three years can’t be the right way to raise a “normal” child. But Rapp ends her essay with her belief that she has learned something valuable for all parents, “Parenting, I’ve come to understand, is about loving my child today. Now. In fact, for any parent, anywhere, that’s all there is.”

Rapp’s message is that living for the future is an illusion: “parents who, particularly in this country, are expected to be superhuman, to raise children who outpace all their peers, don’t want to see what we see. The long truth about their children, about themselves: that none of it is forever.”

In the words of Ram Dass, we need to “Be here now,” or listen to the lesson John Lennon taught his child Sean,

“Before you cross the street,
      take my hand
Life is what happens to you
      while you’re busy making other plans.”

The Tiger Mom herself, Amy Chua, gives this piece of advice to new parents in a Good Morning America interview with Juju Chang: “Listen to your child. You have to know and listen to your child. I wonder if that is what it all comes down to.”

Those of us whose children do not have terminal illnesses live with the belief that our children have a future for which we must prepare them. But the reality is that this is not always true. My friend Maria raised her child for a long future and then one day when she was 12, a cancer was discovered in the child’s body that spread with a ferociousness that took her life before her 13th birthday. Maria prepared herself to lose her little girl, loved her to the end of her life, and then let her go. She lives on, somehow, comforted by the belief that while she raised her child preparing her for the future, she never neglected living fully and loving her each day.

Posted on April 17, 2012 by Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, EdD

Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, EdD is a professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, and Fielding Graduate University. He is the author of a blog on multicultural families, as well as numerous articles and books including, Multicultural Encounters, and When Half is Whole. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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(www.ParentInvolvementMatters.org does not handle reprint requests. For permission to reprint articles, please contact the author directly.)

Permalink   Comments (1)   Send to a Friend

Tags: *Diverse Families, *Parent Engagement at Home , Multiracial, Parents as teachers, Special Needs/LD

Posted April 17, 2012 by rick ackerly
Very important message. Thank you. 


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