Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mothers and Daughters: Lessons from The Joy Luck Club

Last night, I watched a favorite movie of mine, The Joy Luck Club, with my teenage daughter. The movie, adapted from the novel by Amy Tan, tells the stories of four Chinese mothers and the daughters they raised in America. It was just as powerful as I remembered it to be.

The Joy Luck Club begins by introducing the daughters who are trying to forge their own identities in America and apart from their very traditional Chinese parents, specifically their moms. The women are both irritated by their mothers' concerns and, yet, still anxious for their approval.

One woman fears that her mother will never accept her white, very non-Chinese, fiance. Another thinks her mother will never really be proud of who she has become. Both women yearn for their moms to approve of them to be proud of them.

What they do not realize, is that they are.

The movie makes a point that resonates deep within me. As mothers (and former daughters) we must be honest about the events that have made us who we are today. We must tell our daughters about our triumphs and give them advice. But, we must also be honest and share our regrets and our failures. The hard lessons we learned - the good and the bad - will help our children understand how deeply they are loved and teach them difficult truths about life.

We are more like our moms than we realize...the connection runs deeper than we know.

As young girls, we look up to our moms. As teens, we sometimes begin to resent them. That struggle for individuality is natural, I think. But, it is also hurtful to both people involved. The Joy Luck Club paves the way for a resolution of that gap.

This is not an easy movie to watch - and parents can decide whether or not their teen is ready for the content. It tells hard stories. It does not flinch at depictions of rape or murder or grief. But, the stories here will move you deeply and open up converations with your daughter or your mom that you might need to have.

Sabrina and I in Okinawa, Japan, where we discovered our shared love of Asian culture.

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