Much of the reason for Amy Chua ’s notoriety earlier this year was because of the provocative headline the Wall Street Journal put on the story about her “Tiger Mom” book: Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.
Given what a bad taste that left in the mouth of many, we can only anticipate the parental backlash that’s bound to accompany a current Redbook essay written by an author who goes by the pseudonym Jennifer Rabiner. The headline --“Why I Don’t Like My Child” -- speaks for itself.
Rabiner writes, perhaps a bit too honestly, about the dislike she’s had for her daughter Sophie (also a made-up name) since "day one." She describes her infant as “skinny and weak” and says “She nursed poorly, and she cried so hard that she vomited – daily.”
Rabiner details the shortcomings of her daughter (and even compares her to her perfect second daughter Lilah, who she felt “overwhelming Mommy Love” for). Meanwhile, Sophie was “strange” as a toddler; she could not make friends; she was scared to ride down a slide; she was “hopelessly incapable of being normal.”
In one especially disturbing passage, she describes how, no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t connect with Sophie.
Even when I tried to help her — by going over the moves that tripped her up in dance class and urging her to stop transferring her boogers from nose to mouth — I only did so because I wanted her to be accepted and liked, which was my agenda, not hers. Sadly, my efforts only made her feel more self-conscious and anxious. And I continued to feel exasperated and annoyed. Why was my own daughter so difficult for me to parent? I gradually got used to the feeling, but I never made peace with it.
Now (before we tag Rabiner as Mommie Dearest and move on), she does admit she felt guilty about being “repelled by her own child,” and the essay explores her journey of learning how to recast the way she felt about Sophie. Through suggestions from friends, psychological guidance and ultimately a doctor’s diagnosis -- it turned out that Sophie had a growth hormone deficiency that delayed her development -- Rabiner says she and 9-year-old Sophie are in a good place.
Thanks to the positive effect of daily hormone shots, Rabiner says:
Sophie competes on the local gymnastics team, aces her spelling tests, goes on loads of playdates, and loves to download songs for her iPod. She makes eye contact and answers direct questions. I'm pretty sure she's genuinely happy most of the time, though she's still fairly anxious…
I watch her sometimes, looking for clues of the emotional scarring I fear I've inflicted, but I see none.
Incidentally, Rabiner’s husband defends his wife in the story and says “she’s a good mom.” He says “Try as she might, Jenny couldn't "fix" Sophie, and I think that scared her. The search to find something wrong was her quest for an instruction booklet.”
What do you think about Rabiner’s essay? Do you think writing it makes her candid? Or callous?