DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Parenthood

Written by: on May 27, 2015

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Hello, my name is Ashley, and I am an addicted Netflix binger. I have had this problem since Netflix originated. Over the Memorial Day weekend, my friends and family were out of town, and I was left to my television and Apple TV. Instead of working ahead in school, or readying myself for my upcoming Missions Event at work, or packing for next week’s trip to Russia, I turned on Netflix and found a wonderful new show…Parenthood. This show ran for six seasons, just recently having its series finale, but until last Friday, I had never heard of it. Being two seasons in to the drama, I can tell you the show chronicles the lives of the very large, colorful, imperfect Braverman family. Zeek Braverman is the head-strong, Vietnam-vet patriarch, and with his wife, Camille, they have four children – Adam, Sarah, Julia, and Crosby. Adam is the stereotypical oldest child, full of responsibility, and with wife Kristina, they have a daughter and a son, who eccentrically battles Asperger’s syndrome. Sarah Braverman is a single mother with two kids – the bright but rebellious Amber, and the sullen and sensitive Drew. Next in line is Julia, a type-A attorney, who is married to Mr. Mom Joel, and together they raise child-genius Sydney. Finally, Crosby is the baby of the family, struggling with commitment and coping with the newfound knowledge of his five-year old son, Jabbar. Although each sibling and family has its own share of everyday challenges to grapple with, they still manage to be there for each other in their hours of need. Within two episodes, I was in love with the Braverman family and wished I could be part of their support system.

What in the world does any of this have to do with Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua? Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is a story of parenthood, albeit from an alternative perspective and theory than I was watching on my television screen. Chua is a mom of two Chinese-Jewish-American daughters. The first daughter, Sophia, is the easy child, naturally falling in to Chua’s authoritative parenting style, but her second daughter, Lulu sends her for a loop. She’s a headstrong firecracker, unwilling to yield any power to her mother. I was reading this book while simultaneously watching Parenthood, and while the two, at first glance, appear to be on opposite ends of the spectrum, they, in fact, had much in common:

  • Both are, I believe, intended to shock or exaggerate parenting and family dynamics.I imagine a Chinese parent reading Chua’s book would extrapolate a lot of head-nodding, while an American parent watching Parenthood likewise would relate to the everyday struggles of the Braverman family. In the end, I empathized with Chua and her daughters, knowing the battles and struggles they faced, just as much as I loved and longed to be a part of the Braverman family.
  • No matter history, background, culture or upbringing, there is nothing equivalent to being a parent. Nothing prepares you for parenthood. The Bravermans did not have it all together, and did not even try to appear otherwise.
  • We all want our kids to grow up happy, strong, and self-reliant. Chua and the Bravermans are no different. American and Chinese cultures have very different ideas about the best way to do that. In the end, the Bravermans could learn a few things from Chua, and Chua could learn a few things from the Bravermans. Shouldn’t we all be able to learn from each other?

There were also moments of reading and watching where I realized the gapping holes of distance between Chinese and American parenting skills:

  • Watching Parenthood, I was shocked at the communication between parents and children. Everyone speaks at the same time. No one listens. It appears the person who speaks the loudest is the one heard in the end. Having been a youth pastor in my previous life, I can’t tell you how common that type of communication is!
  • Chua theorizes that Chinese parents have higher dreams for their children and higher regard for their children in the sense of knowing how much they can take. (Chua, 8) In my experience, American parents have become experts at making excuses for their children.
  • Chua also says American parents are weak-willed and indulgent when it comes to practicing – whether it be homework, school, a sport or musical instrument. (27) Parents bargaining with their children in Parenthood was evident!
  • Chinese parents believe they know what is best for their children and therefore override all of their children’s own desires and preferences. (53) Other than patriarch Zeek laying down the hammer from time-to-time, or Julia insisting she teach Sydney the proper way to swim, the Parenthood parents routinely submit to their children’s whims.

I will continue watching Parenthood because I am a surrogate member of the Braverman family now. But, after reading Chua’s book, I am left with personal reflection questions:

  • What would my life have been like with a mother like Chua?
  • Should self-esteem come before accomplishment, or accomplishment before self-esteem?
  • If the latter, should it be achieved by threats and constant monitoring?
  • Chua’s teenage daughters are undeniably accomplished, but at what emotional cost?
  • I have to admit I was impressed by Chua’s parenting results. Is there a balance between this Chinese authoritarian parenting methods and those of the stereotypical, hands-off, Western culture?

About the Author

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Ashley Goad

Ashley is the Global Missions Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana. She's a UNC fanatic, Haiti Enthusiast, Clean Water Activist, Solar Power Supporter... www.firstserves.org www.solarunderthesun.org www.livingwatersfortheworld.org

9 responses to “Parenthood”

  1. Ashley …
    Did you ever watch Gilmore Girls? Just saying early on that was steller! And with your endorsement I may have to watch Parenthood, especially now that our Netflix and our Comcast account seem to be happy (as in at least it’s working!). But I digress.

    I love your questions! I wonder about the role of motivation and what seems like Chua’s awareness of her own motivation and the responsibility – both her’s and her daughters. I think there is much more beneath the surface or perhaps “embedded” is a better word with lost of room to consider questions and impact, awareness and change.

    Hope you have another weekend for some restful binging. 🙂
    Blessings…

    • mm Ashley Goad says:

      Gilmore Girls! I didn’t watch it, but I remember it. The mom form Gilmore plays in Parenthood! That should be my next Netflix binge 🙂 Loved your thoughts on motivation and responsibility. Being raised by such parents, that parental style may be naturally embedded in you. I wonder, too, what role a competitive spirit plays? Great thoughts, Carol 🙂 No binging for me this weekend… Too much work!

  2. Ashley,

    Loved your post! Thanks for sharing and for tying together Chua and Parenthood. I especially liked what you said about learning, “In the end, the Bravermans could learn a few things from Chua, and Chua could learn a few things from the Bravermans. Shouldn’t we all be able to learn from each other?” This is so true. So why don’t we do that more frequently? If we were all open to learning from one another, what a different world this would be. Instead, if someone does something that we don’t agree with, off go the bombs to do their dirty work of shutting up the opposition! So sad that we have come to this point.

    I personally loved this week’s reading for many reasons. It really gripped me and I couldn’t put the book down until I knew how it would end. Frankly, I thought it would end differently; I did not expect Chua to compromise. But because she did, the book ended well. I am curious how Sophia and LuLu will raise their children? What do you think?

    • mm Ashley Goad says:

      Bill! I loved the book, too. I’d never have picked it up, but I’m so glad it was assigned. Sure, it gives us an insight into the family dynamics of the culture we will be visiting in September, but mostly, it was a very well-written, honest account of life and the struggle to be a good parent. Carol used the word “embedded” in her comment above. Do we naturally revert to the style in which we were raised? Is that parenting style embedded within us? I tend to think Sophia will imitate her mother, and Lulu will be completely different. Sophia may think she is who she is because of her mother, and Lulu may think she is who she is IN SPITE of her mother. I’d love a follow-up book by the two of them!

  3. mm John Woodward says:

    Ashley, first, I must say how sad I am that you had to spend Memorial Day weekend in front of TV! You could have come to South Dakota with me and seen really interesting family dynamics! (Can’t tell you how sad the situation is for families on the Reservatio — especially when the entire society is being held together by grandmothers!). But, Chua (and your post) provide us a wonderful opportunity to think through this whole topic of parenthood. It is the most challenging thing we are called to do, especially when it involves the lives of very real people (which scared the Dickens out of me when I first had a child!). But, one of your comments I thought was interesting: “Chua theorizes that Chinese parents have higher dreams for their children and higher regard for their children in the sense of knowing how much they can take…” I think you are right, but I am wondering if what Chua here misses is the fact that American parents have just as much dreams for their children, it is just different kinds of dreams. Here I think the clash of cultures comes in. It might look like the Chinese have higher goals because we look at musical talent and academic achievement as high, but would not the life of compassion, service and sacrifice be just as lofty of goals? My parents dream for me was for independence and self-sufficiency, and a happy family life…again, are these not loft goals? So, it really is interesting to just think of what we view as really important or successful from culture to culture, and from family to family! Here again, we have more questions (you are sound more like Deve with all those questions in your post), than we will ever come to agreement. But that is what makes cultures so interesting!

    Really great post, Ashley. Maybe you should watch more TV and study less! (Maybe a bad idea?)

    • mm Ashley Goad says:

      John!!!!! First, don’t feel sorry for me at all! Do you know how much I needed a weekend on my couch?! 🙂 Second, I was absolutely channeling Deve with the questions. (Did you notice he didn’t use any this week??) Third, one thing I’ve come to realize in reading through our cohort’s commentary of this book is how we really do all have the same goals – to love our children completely and to give them the tools they need to succeed. The avenues for doing so, based on culture and a variety of other influences, are the different. That’s not to say we cannot learn from each other, and while there may not ever be “best practices” simply because there are so many variables, we can still learn and listen! … Ah, you always make me think, John!

  4. Richard Volzke says:

    Ashley,
    Parenthood and Chua’s book – nice comparison. Back in my childhood, we watched the Walton’s? The way the Walton’s children were raised is total opposite of Chua’s example. At one time, the Walton’s exemplified American parenting. That was a long, long time ago. As I have stated in other replies, I believe that we need encourage our kids to seek God’s will for their lives and treat others as God commands. It doesn’t seem to matter what ethnic background, too many have lost this perspective. Yes, there are certain cultures that are known to raise children to successful positions in the world’s eyes. I struggled with Chua’s view of success, as anything other than this definition was considered negative. What would happen if one of her children wanted to go into ministry? Would this be considered successful enough? I believe that all parents and cultures want their children to be successful. The difference may be in the way that success is defined.
    Richard

    • Ashley says:

      Richard, that’s it! Success. How do we define success? That is a common difference. My Haitian friends would define success much differently than I would. Chua would define success much differently than Papa Walton. That is a great differentiation, and a rather cornerstone one! Thanks so much for pointing that out.

  5. Hey Ashley, I am shocked and appalled that you would waste your time with frivolous entertainment and neglect the opportunity to press in and do your work. Seriously, I am glad to know that I am not the only one who gives into the entertainment “knocking” at my door. Ugh! Our weak flesh! I need an exorcism. Well at least you had a perfect comparison opportunity with the Braverman family and the Chua family. Quite the contrast and learning from both families. Indeed, we need a balance between the two. Unfortunately, with the removal of “Father Knows Best,” and the replacement with the Braverman family, America gets far too much of only one cultural impression. I agree with you that a little Chinese parenting would be good for the Braverman family as well as so many families in America. As a former youth pastor like yourself I was truly shocked and appalled at how many parents would allow their children to teat them in public and the parent would allow it. Ugh! Let the Tiger lose I say!! Thanks Ashley always great to read your post.

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