Friday, March 18, 2011

The Snort of the Non-Tiger Mother

Amy Chua recently came out with the much talked about memoir "The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother".  In it, she talks about such lovely stories as forcing her seven year old daughter to practice a piano piece for hours on end, through dinner and not allowing bathroom breaks.  She talks about calling her other daughter "garbage" when she was disappointed in her.  There is a story about rejecting a homemade birthday card from her young child because it wasn't "good enough".   Her children were not allowed to bring home anything other than A's on report cards and couldn't have playdates or sleepovers.  No television or computer, either.  I'll go on the record to say I think this broad is off her nut.  I get that memoirs squish and redistribute information to collectively narrate the over all story.  I have no doubt this woman believed, as she was raising her daughters, that she was doing what was best for them.  Her children are now almost adults and seem to be strong, intelligent and well adjusted people.  I'm sure there are lots of people following her model and trying to apply some of what they learned in her book to their own parenting style.  For the others, I would like to offer a slightly different view of parenting styles.

How to Not be a Tiger Mother

Convince yourself that because he liked classical music as an infant, your son is a musical prodigy.  Begin piano lessons at five years old and continue for three years.  Never force child to practice.  Pay through the nose.  Never get piano tuned.  When piano teacher ask why he hasn't done piano homework, throw kid under the bus and talk about how you have tried to encourage piano practice to no avail.  On the ride home, lecture him about practicing piano.  Once home, feel guilty about the lecture and agree he can practice tomorrow.  Forget all about this deal until the next time piano teacher inquires about his progress.  Again, blame the kid.

When he decides to give up piano, let him.  Agree trombone is the way to go.  Go to music store where you ask the guy to tell you all about things "tromboner".  Don't realize you've made a giant ass out of yourself until every trombone accessory is on the counter.  Buy it all because you are sure the salesman thinks you are interested in his "tromboner" and you seem to have lost ability to speak.  Again, be sure to not force him to practice. Ever.  Agree it is safer to leave thousand dollar rental unattended in school hallway because he has a sister and you're pretty sure one of them would end up with their head stuck in the big end of this thing or one of them would fuck with it in some un-fixable way and then you'd be out $1K. 

Redeem yourself by acquiring a Wii and letting both children play Rockband on it.  They may not know Beethoven, but they sure as hell know Bon Jovi and that's what matters.

Fourth grade math is the spawn of evil and you don't blame  your kid for not wanting to do it.  Sit with him and try to explain this stupid shit that you don't even remotely understand.  Tell kid the best thing to do is to stay in from recess and do it then because his teacher will be there to help.  Feel huge sense of relief on the days there is no homework because it sucks and takes away from quality farting around time with your kids.

When conferences happen, don't be afraid to use such excuses as lost backpacks or misunderstood assignments...this works like a charm.

Homemade Crafts
Unlike the Tiger Mother, us non tigers save everything.  Boxes and boxes of scraps of paper with crayon smudges are held as sacred documents in giant storage bins.  Dig these out occasionally and force children to listen to your stories about the little cute reindeer they made in preschool.  Know that even though their rolling eyes say they hate this trip down memory lane, their hearts are loving it.

Have it on.  Non stop.  Figure it's a crazy world and you are doing them a service by watching Paula Deen because it is forcing them to REALLY concentrate on their homework.  Know that when they ask you to turn it down, they don't really mean it, they're just jealous you don't have to practice your letters and with the exception of your nine's you have your multiplication tables DOWN.

This is the prize.  Use it when you need to punish, bribe or otherwise control your children.  Otherwise, prop door to computer room open with a boot so you can half assed hear what websites they are going on because you're nothing if not responsible about computer use.  Start an Office marathon.  Watch four episodes.  Realize kids have been on youtube for two hours and will most likely need to be de-programmed.  Wonder if Jim and Pam are going to have another baby.

Have them.  Have kids come to your home where you will let them do pretty much whatever they want.  Five cookies before dinner?  Sure.  Run around in the backyard without a jacket in the rain? Why not.  If both children have friends over, shoo them all outside with a stern warning not to kill each other and to let you know if anyone loses an eye.

Eat in front of the TV more often than not...Spongebob is a favorite dinner time companion, especially if cheeseburgers are involved.  Then you can all pretend to be eating Krabbie Patties at the Krusty Krab.

This requires several bellows and 'no more computer' threats. After what seems to be an eternity, they WILL eventually wear out and crash.

Give them all you have and accept them for who they are.  Not who you want them to be. Huge difference.  I have a son who will be at least 6'3" and built like a brick shithouse.  I had to accept a long time ago that he will not be doing the "Hi Mom" thing in the camera when he wins the Super Bowl. More than likely, he will do something that requires tremendous empathy and compassion, for those are his strengths.  I have a daughter who thinks most dresses are again, no "Hi Mom" as she's crowned Miss America.  However, I've no doubt her intelligence will take her amazing places.

So, Ms. Chua, you parent your way, I'll parent mine. We both have reasons for how and why we do what we do.  You method seems to be geared toward creating children that represent who you are.  My method is geared toward letting my kids figure out for themselves who they are...and that would never, ever, involve depriving them of food, water or bathroom breaks so that they could memorize a piano piece to make ME happy.  Don't misunderstand me.  I would take a bullet for my kids.  I am their strongest advocate.  I also have zero problem with laying down the law when necessary and both kids can discern between the "I'm starting to get annoyed, knock it off" tone and the "You little shits have gotten on my last nerve, that's it!" tone.  Maybe the difference is you are pruning your children like a bonsai and I'm letting mine grow the way nature intended.  Sure, yours is more uniform and contained...but mine are free.  Free to excel, free to love, free to fuck up, free to change their mind, free to be angry, free to live the life they want. Oh, and ten bucks says your kids end up on a shrinks couch with mother issues way before mine do.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Weight Watchers

As many of you know, I took a big leap of faith and jumped into the weight loss abyss a few months ago.  I had a fabulous idea about collecting pledges for pounds lost and donating the the money to a food bank.  This was such a good idea.  It still is.  I am still working toward the goal, however it is clear my 41 year old metabolism has a very different idea about how long it will take....but that's ok, because after a few months and 11 pounds, I decided to join Weight Watchers. If Jennifer Hudson can do it, so can I!  What about Jenny McCarthy?  I will be the next success story....maybe WW will feature me on their website...there I will be, smiling and happy with a caption "Andrea lost 50 pounds with Weight Watchers...You can, too!  Get Started Today!"  These are the kinds of thoughts that run in and out of my brain...random, inane and based on nothing even close to reality...however, to those of you who may be considering Weight Watchers, I'd like to share with you my experience thus far in an effort to spread my vast knowledge and idiocy....

My Guide to Weight Watchers and the Subsequent Fall out of Doing it All Wrong.

The night before you start, bake a ton of cookies.  Chocolate chip AND peanut butter.  Excuse this because both kids have friends over and you love being the mom who cooks the good stuff....add some sliders and you are golden....these kids will never want to leave your house...bask in the glory when you hear child's friend tell daughter how lucky she is.  Do a head waggle - self back pat combo when no one's looking....

The next day, take daughter and her little friend to cheerleading camp.  Admire / smirk at the teen age girls in super short shorts with UNBELIEVABLE bodies.  Wonder if ANY of them realize how amazing their bodies are because you see a few gals who had figures similar to yours in high school, when you thought you were gargantuan.  At 138 pounds.  Vow that your daughter will appreciate her figure but not obsess about it.  Promise self you will throw away scale so she doesn't think the number has any significance. Again, head-waggle.  You are heading in the right direction with both your diet and mentality.

After dropping them off, head to Weight Watchers meeting.  See someone you know pulling in.  Haul ass as fast as you can away from parking lot.  She doesn't need to know what you're up to.  Circle block.  Talk yourself off the ledge and remind yourself you are a grown up who can face running into someone you barely know at a WW meeting.  Notice she is leaving!  Feel exhilarated because you're a chickenshit who didn't want to do the whole "oh, yeah, time to take off a few pounds...heh heh" conversation with her because she's skinny and you aren't and that equals only one of you talking about losing weight and it's you and that is a big ball of suck.

Park directly in front of meeting.  Keeping head forward, scan eyes from left to right, sort of like a spy.  Make sure no one is looking.  Take a HUGE slurp off your mocha.  Wish you had gone pee before because you are about to weigh.  Register.  Step on scale.  Step off. Get little booklet that shows your starting weight.  Really wish you had gone pee and downed a box of laxatives the night before instead of three cookies.  Have light bulb moment about COMBINING LAXATIVES WITH COOKIE DOUGH.  Decide you are having a flashback to those two days you were bulimic in high school and shake off this brilliant idea as possibly not brilliant.  Although it has all the makings of brilliance.  And stomach cramps.

Meeting has already started.  Find seat in the back.  Listen as woman talks about how she hasn't had a piece of chocolate since April.  Start to wonder what kind of cult you have just joined.  When meeting ends, meet with leader to receive additional booklets and information.  Mind starts to wander.  Listen to him babble about his weight loss and how great he feels.  Tell him about your fundraising his eyes glaze over...know he isn't listening to you because when you are done talking he simply says "hey!  did you get a sample of the cinnamon breakfast bar?  they are REALLY good and you can buy them out front!"

Sit facing each other as he goes over the plan...start daydreaming about your mocha.  Hear words like "so, you have 30 points to work with...but you also get 49 allowance points so you aren't deprived"...try to refocus....hear him talk about "power foods" and the "little green pyramids"...mind still wandering although you are putting on a good show...hear him explain about fruit being "free" and also a "power food".  Thank him for his time, waltz out, drink remainder of mocha and look up points values for chocolate chip cookies (2).  Oh, mocha?  11.  Realize we all have our crosses to bear and yours comes in the form of chocolate, milk and decaf espresso.  With extra whip cream.  And light ice.  But it's nonfat, because you are all about slimming down.

  Give this your full 60% effort.  Skim over reading materials, determine how many activity points you earn by walking for an hour on the treadmill (5)...shove booklets in drawer.

Think about what you've learned from your  half-assed reading and the short conversation with the WW guy.  Start to realize WW is the way to go...with your free green pyramid foods and your 30 points and you 49 allowance points AND the extra five activity points you can add, you will be eating until the cows come home.  The next day, order a caramel drizzle on your whip cream, because if there is one thing you accurately remember Steve or Mel or John or whatever the hell his name was said, was that you shouldn't starve yourself and that the WW wizards want you to make sure you consume your points value every day...You are KILLING this new way of eating...your fingers start to feel a little puffier in the morning but you tell yourself it's because you have abandoned the low carb way of eating and since you have all these points to eat, a huge plate of spaghetti at 10:00 pm really doesn't matter, because it's clearly all scientific and you just need to power through the puffy fingers.

Go to next meeting.  Get on the scale.  You have lost one half of a pound.  You have exercised for over an hour every day and you've lost one half of a pound.  Explain your exercise routine to weight checker who has a name badge announcing she lost 117 pounds in 18 months on WW.  Wonder if she has weird stomach skin.  Start darting eyes to her mid-section to sneak a peek.  Realize she is trying to give you tips but you are kind of obsessed about stomach skin.  Wonder if you ever got a tummy tuck what your belly button would look like, because you have a really good belly button and wouldn't want it messed with.  She's still talking.  You're still in plastic surgery la-la land.

Head home, annoyed.  Dig booklets out of bedside table.  Jennifer Hudson is scream singing her new skinny anthem in that white dress and now she's just bugging the shit out of you, not inspiring you AT ALL.  Re-read information.  Realize your mistake.  You had a choice.  You could eat as many of the free green pyramid foods OR foods totalling your point value.  Not both.  Go on the internet for more research...turns out, it's NOT mandatory to add your activity points to your daily gluttony.  Realize you are an idiot. But now you're an idiot who knows what she's doing.  Which is ALWAYS important.