Sunday, March 6, 2011

Confessions of a Jewish Mom

I realize, with some sadness, that I’m about 8 weeks past the whole Tiger Mom fiasco. As I write this, the original Tiger Mom, Amy Chua, is probably slinking back into semi-anonymity at Yale, her tiger tail tucked neatly behind her, having been practically eviscerated by the national media.

I assume that Yalies have better things to do with their lives, such as choreograph musicals and or chase James Franco around campus, before wondering what superstar legal professor Amy Chua is up to these days. Its not like one Wall Street Journal article suddenly makes someone the bee’s knees of New Haven now does it?

I will say that being a bit behind my pop culture is a bit unusual for me; I like to think that I am a fairly trendy person and seeing as I don’t do much except cruise in the internet all day I’m not really sure why it took me so long to actually sit down and read the Wall Street Journal excerpt, Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior, taken from Chua’s forthcoming book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Battle Hymn is a supposed personal memoir on why Chinese moms are better than other North American varietals of mothers.

Truthfully I am disappointed in myself. And more importantly, you know who is even more disappointed in me, my own mother.

So why my avoidance of the Amy Chua brou ha ha? Don’t think I didn’t see all of the incensed mummy headlines and turn the other cheek stat, because I did. Mumery, more like tomfoolery, and China are exactly the sort of clusterfuck combination I tend to avoid. Truthfully I find the topic of child-rearing to be deathly boring. This is probably because I’m not a mother and have many years to go until I have to drop off my adopted children at their after-school skating lessons (my current name du jour is Pippa). Even worse are mom blogs (OMG how boring are all blogs?) which, from my experience, are all sanctimoniously up in your grill about child rearing tactics and the best way to deal with diaper rash; organic, natch… This is also why I’d love my friend Judy to mummy blog. Her answer to most things mumery involves vodka and buying her kids off with Justin Bieber merchandise. That being said her kids are amazingly polite and well raised; the only caveat to this was the time I let it slip that I was distantly related to Amanda Bynes who apparently knows OMG OMG OMG OMG Orlando Bloom. At the time both were actually respectable celebrities so her daughter's excitement made some sense…

Anyway – Amy Chua - there is something we need to talk about. If you think being a Chinese mom is difficult on your children – try having a Jewish mom. In fact, I’m shocked you haven’t asked your Jewish husband about his own experiences being raised by a know-it-all Maven Mom. Chinese moms may rule with an iron fist but Jewish mothers have perfected the art of not just guilt (which has been refined over centuries by the Catholic mother) but of knowing everything and simultaneously expecting everything.

Unlike the Tiger mom a Jewish mom isn’t the drill sergeant Chua extols, the Jewish mother rules her roost by the imbued fear of unmet expectations coupled with infinite disappointment.

Jewish mothers don’t rule not by a fist; they rule by psychological warfare.

Before she left for her recent 4 month long trip through Southeast Asia my mother repeatedly let me know where her jewelry was hidden “just in case” anything happened, and of course, “you’ll have to take care of your sister.” A friends’ Jewish mother regularly receives similar texts from his mother when she boards a plane. One recent one read: “Am boarding a flight, if we crash the money is in Switzerland.”

Having been raised by a Jewish mother every time the phone rings from an unknown number I’m convinced it’s the police telling me that someone I know has died in a horrible accident. Whenever I miss a call from my sister I see the voicemail and think: Naymark, its time to man-up and get into crisis mode.

Jewish mothers rule by expectation, not guilt. Unlike a Tiger Mother, a Jewish mother would never make me play piano until my fingers hurt so I would become the best piano player – they would assume that I am already the best piano player in the world. What is more fascinating is that Jewish mothers don’t order perfection, straight A’s, and medical school, they just expect it. What is most fascinating is that almost all of this is amazingly unstated. Jewish mothers have jedi power so unbelievable powerful they can shame their progeny into becoming an accountant.

What is their secret to their success? I think it is knowledge. Jewish mothers know everything about everything and everyone and they will tell you what they know about everything. It is the subtlety of their opinions, most of which are stated as fact, but with a slight tinge of disappointment that can be the most damaging.

“She’s pretty,” a Jewish mother will say about someone’s fiancé, “If you like people who look like that.”

Or take how my mother questions me every time I buy a new article of clothing. Undoubtedly the following conversation will happen:

“That sweater looks new.”

“It is.”

“Where’s it from.”

“Club Monaco.”
“Do you really need it?”


“I mean… its just, you have that green sweater and that other blue sweater (she will proceed to itemize ALL articles of clothing I own), do you really think you should be buying more clothes?”

“It was on sale.”

“How much? What was the discount? It will probably go down further. You should have waited.”

And so that is why dearest Amy Chua I fear not your Tiger Mom - my mother and any other Jewish mother could judge you alive any day. And they also let me go to sleepover's and be in the school play. So take that!

But where is my dearest and beloved mother? She’s actually in southeast Asia; I’m hoping she doesn’t come back with any Tiger Blood in her. I wouldn’t want it any other way. <3

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