Mark and I were still awake last night when Nightline did an interview with Amy Chua who has come to fame recently for her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. A review of the book was printed in the New York Times last week.
I am a woman who takes parenting very seriously. I try to be intentional and seek to approach this important work from a place that allows me to see that these four sweet children are gifts and that I have a limited time to help them grow toward the people they are going to become. Sometimes I do okay at that, sometimes I fail miserably. I have to admit, I listened to the interview carefully. The thought of a book that might tell the story of another momma like me will pique my interest every time.
I listened carefully to the stories shared by Ms. Chua, to the questions asked her by JuJu Chan. In short order, I became uncomfortable. There are a lot of ways to approach parenting... a lot of ways that can work... but when Ms. Chua spoke about expecting better hand-made birthday cards from her children, it made me a little sad. But, I needed to keep listening.
A lot of the conversation around Ms. Chua's book focuses on the difference between Asian and Western parenting. There ARE differences between these approaches but the truth is that there are differences between how I parent and how my friends parent and how my family living in and out of this country parent. We all approach this work in a way that is individual and unique. I have hopes and dreams for my family that really might not matter to you. So, I parent to meet those goals. You have your own thoughts about it all and seek to do the same thing.
In addition to this, I carry with me experiences from my own life that inform the decisions I make for my family. There are things I know, things I have lived, things that I feel are important for my children to either understand better or be protected from. You can judge my work here but because you have not lived my experiences, you may misunderstand my motives. We do that a lot to one another... I have done it, too. But in judging the mothering of another, we miss the opportunity to learn from what she is doing. We miss the chance to see a place where our own life with our families can be strengthened, stretched, supplemented by what someone else might know.
The Tiger Mother concept made me uncomfortable, this is the truth. But, as I felt a wall rise in my mind, I was missing a chance to learn something new. In this case, she was FAR more structured in her mothering than I am in mine. While I do not want to torture my children through music rehearsals, I do think that I could approach that in a way that is more "no nonsense" than I currently do. Necessary tasks happen in her home in a way that they do not in mine. Where I experience frustration, she has created an organizational, disciplined approach that works better than our family's way. I can learn from this and yet important point and let some other aspects go.
As we learn about other approaches, we can pick and choose elements that would benefit our families. Releasing our need to judge may allow us to see things in a different light. I can look at the story told by Ms. Chua and release some of it while incorporating other pieces into our life at home. I can respect her work and also remember that there are things that I believe are important to us. I can take her words as a challenge to adjust but remember that raising my kids in a warm environment matters, as well. My kids need to grow and develop into the people they will become, but I know that life is not a checklist of experiences as much as a journey stored-up. As they learn and struggle and mature, I may need to be strict but I also want to be loving. Pieces of Tiger Mothering might enhance what I offer my kids.
That said, I want to remember that it is HARD to grow up. It is hard to learn, to have limited choices, to be less powerful than the grown-ups that are always around. It is hard to become independent, hard to grow in faith, hard to find your way in a world that can be confusing at best. As my four sweet babies walk this path, a part of me wants to hold their feet to the fire and expect them to do well. But, as my four sweet babies walk this path, I also want to open my arms and pull them in close and love on them as they work it through.
In the end, the way I choose to parent my children has an awful lot to do with what I want them to know of the world. I cannot change the struggle they will face. I cannot save them from that pain. Both of these things have a purpose in their lives and keeping them from it essentially keeps them from themselves, from who they will grow to be. But, I can effect how they see it. I can effect how they feel when they find themselves lost and afraid. I can help my children know that when the path is rocky, when life is not what they thought it would be, they have somewhere to go to process that. I can help them to know that, on their very worse day, they do not have to walk alone. I can shower them with love and teach them daily about the The One Who Loves Them Best.
Last night, I learned that I do not want to be a true Tiger Mother, at least not to the extent that Ms. Chua is. That said, I am glad it worked for her and I am thankful for the nuggets of truth tucked into that book that can help me to do a better job. I am not sure what animal I would claim to describe the work I do... though in the end, I think I would rather not be limited by the characteristics of one creature. I would rather think of it terms of what is needful.... what my children need most right now. Today it might be "Teddy Bear", tomorrow it might be "Tiger"... and next week it might be another animal altogether. As a mom to my four, I want the freedom to give them what I believe they need right now. I want to offer structure, opportunity, education and affection. I want to look into their eyes and feel prepared to engage them where they are. Because not only do I love my kids, but I love being their momma, too. I love their sleep faces in the morning, their silly play in the day and their freshly-washed heads at night. I love catching glimpses of their gifts and watching them wrestle their weaknesses. I love the day-to-day walking through this world, the feel of their hands in mine, the knowledge that we do it together.
And I love that they know all of that... that they can go to sleep tonight knowing I am in it with them, for the good and the bad, for the easy and the hard, for the laughter and tears. They do not walk alone.
Hmmm... I guess that explains it best. Today, I choose to be a human momma to my human babies. I choose to be a creature who values and nurtures relationship... not to the exclusion of structure or discipline... but in a way that allows those things to blossom. I choose to discipline and teach my babies with my arm around their shoulders and a tear in both our eyes. Because it is that very thing that sets us apart from so many other creatures.
I have a lot yet left to learn... but I am grateful to have this place to stand. I am momma, hear me roar? Naaaah... Not me.
Blessings on your day.
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