Day 27: Against “Superior Parenting,” or an Allen Iverson Remix

What do parenting and Allen Iverson have to do with each other? Bear with me.

I am not a “Tiger Mom.”

I am not a superior french parent. (Though, I admit that my children have learned to say “please” and “thank you” from the beginning — not just because it is polite to do so, but because we want them to understand the importance of appreciating others).

I am a different parent. A parent who is different in many ways from the parent Amy Chua and Pamela Druckerman imagine. As they are writing their superior parent into being, who are they imagining as inferior? “The American parent,” yes. Indeed, if that were not the case, who would buy their books? But, what does that “American parent” look like? Underlying these assertions of preferred parenting styles is, in many ways, an American parent who is of a certain class and even, perhaps, of a certain race and family culture.

Not only that, but don’t we all know parents who do at least some of what Druckerman identifies as “french parenting” who aren’t french? Who are African-American, Latino, Native American, european, middle eastern, African, West Indian, Asian?

That said, what I actually object to most are the attempts to present a fully packaged parenting, one that, at least in the advertising and excerpting of these women’s fuller works, presents “Tiger Moms” and “french parenting” as commodities that can be bought and then replicated to the letter by those who consume their product (though, hopefully, not as a second snack).

In comes Allen Iverson. Remember his rant against “practice”?:

In this press conference, Iverson complains because he’s being criticized and penalized for failing to attend practice. He’s a “franchise player.” He’s focused on “the game” and everyone else is “talkin’ about practice.”

If you allow me a moment of poetic license, I’m going to ignore Iverson’s intent and use his words for my own purposes.

In my view, parenting isn’t about pronouncement of superior approaches. It’s not a pre-packaged, inflexible, fixed labeled item. It’s not about “the game”; it is about “practice.” And as much as “we” — parents — might really want parenting to be “a game,” handed to us with all the rules defined, all the plays mapped, all the strategies for difficult moments outlined, we’ve actually been thrown into a constant practice. An intentional practice, to be sure, but it is, for better or worse, practice nonetheless.

Practitioner Parents.

And I like to think that we are developing our children to be practitioners, too, in so many ways. One colleague shared this thought from a former music teacher with me: “I don’t teach my students to play music. I teach them to practice.” In this sense, practice isn’t this undervalued, “fake” moment. It becomes the game. It changes our notion of “the game” into a process, an atmosphere of continual growth.

Quality parenting, ultimately, isn’t about a fixed label. It’s not a packaged deal. It’s about how we practice the role we’ve been chosen to play.

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One Response to Day 27: Against “Superior Parenting,” or an Allen Iverson Remix

  1. sedefscorner says:

    The music teacher who taught his students to practice is the one who probably helped the true “talent” emerge out of the mass.

    I like to think that by being ‘Practitioner Parents” we are teaching our children to find their own unique way in the world instead to the prepackaged deal the advertised ones are offering. When raising my children, I always proceeded with the hope of them being honest, compassionate and confident people who are comfortable with their place in this world so that they could find their own true path to becoming happy individuals.

    Being a Practitioner Parent is a slow and sometimes arduous journey but eventually you end up aiding in the creation of an “original”

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