A popular meme says that in the past parents basically were responsible for just feeding their kids. Why is parenting (and when did being a parent become a verb?) so complicated?
In 10th grade, I had to choose my subjects and hence, potential careers. My parents took me to meet an engineer, doctor, lawyer and a chartered accountant. Those were my options, plus government service — my dad’s career. If I did not get the grades to secure one of those careers, I’d go to college and get married. Or just get married. Career planning was pretty simple back then. In an earlier era, it was even simpler — you just followed the profession of your father or whatever your caste or social status dictated.
Now, with the huge number of opportunities and rapidly changing workplace, raising a child who grows into a successful person is quite confusing. This is where Ms Wojcicki’s book becomes useful. She draws on her experience as a journalism teacher in the Silicon Valley, which gives her exposure to a wide variety of children. But her other credentials are just as impressive — she is the mother of Susan, Anne and Janet Wojcicki. Susan is the CEO of YouTube, Anne is the co-founder of 23AndMe, a genomics firm valued in the billions, and Janet is an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco. Pretty good, eh?
The book is intended to open your eyes to the fact that the way your parents brought you up may not be the perfect one for your child. The author explicitly calls out the unhappy experiences of her childhood and how she was determined not to repeat that with her own children.
The daughters - and the author - attribute their success to their upbringing. Esther Wojcicki breaks up her secret into a simple acronym – TRICK, which stands for Trust, Respect, Independence, Collaboration, Kindness. Each attribute has a chapter dedicated to it, elaborating on the approach. The book has plenty of real-life anecdotes to back up her approach and, given her vast experience in teaching, these make it a compelling read.
She recommends that you trust yourself, and trust your children, and rely on your instincts when it comes to parenting. She talks about discovering that the parenting philosophy of her own culture was not a good fit. This may be true for many of us in India who grew up with different parental norms. This is not a prescriptive book; she shares guidelines and the permission to trust your own expertise.
This book is sort of an Anti-Tiger Mom story. She takes potshots at Amy Chua at various points in the book too. Ms Chua’s kids are still in their 20s so one can’t comment on their success or otherwise, though media reports suggest that she remains heavily involved. Ms Wojcicki’s philosophy is to empower children with the tools for success, rather than have the parents drive their childhood.
Personally, I found the book a refreshing read and more aligned with a more hands-off philosophy that allows kids the freedom and independence to discover their own paths. As Ms Wojcicki’s experience shows us a parenting model built on TRICK is not an impediment to becoming a self-made billionaire. And a happy one at that.