July 4, 2012
Happy Birthday, America!
On the Fourth of July our Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, forming what would become known as the land of the free and the home of the brave. We’ve pretty much lived up to that hype in most areas– politics, culture, reality television.
But when it comes to parenting, we’re still a big old mess. Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother exposed our huge weakness, then Pamala Druckerman’s Bringing up Bebe went in for the kill. In short, the thinking goes, American parents are the worst parents on earth. There’s not a day that goes by that my Google Alerts doesn’t deliver me another stoic commentary on why American moms and dads are doing it all wrong, why American kids of the next generation are more or less hopeless, and why we have to change now or we might as well put away the fireworks and go home. It’s all over. Our kids are awful because we’re awful.
This Fourth of July, take a stand for American parenting. But before we can celebrate American parenting, we need to know what it is.
1) American parenting is rebellious
Our founding fathers left Great Britain because they had a better way. America’s following fathers (and mothers) do the same. We praise the rebel, the dreamer, and the outcast. We’re not about raising kids who conform and follow the rules. In true American spirit, we don’t accept goody-goody studybots and well-behaved snobs as an ultimate good. We have bigger goals. We’re about remaking society and ourselves one amazing, breathtaking, shocking risk taker at a time.
2) American parenting is inclusive
Americans take the best from every culture. That’s why America is still the go-to country for mad creativity, fierce independence, and daring self-direction. We’re not rigid and fixated. Our doubt is our greatest strength. We take the best the Chinese or the French or even the Eskimos have to offer while rejecting the truly harmful, stultifying aspects of those cultures to form our own distinctive “American” style.
3) American parenting is focused on the future, not the past
American kids aren’t raised to thoughtlessly follow ruthless tyrants (like a narcissistic mother or father). American parents understand that our children see the future in ways that old people (us) can’t. This is why we encourage them to follow their vision. Only children raised with this spirit can create a future that we can’t even imagine.
So stand up, American parents. When you light those fireworks tonight, remember that you live in a great country and are part of an amazing legacy. The legacy of rebellion, inclusion, and forward-thinking creativity. Let’s keep making America great. One thoughtful, questioning, imaginative child at a time.
(Diana Holquist is the author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Daughter, a memoir on how she raised her self-reliant, madly independent, fiercely creative daughter the American way.)
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