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.

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