The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles.
A shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs
both support and freedom.
The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard.
Sometime around the new year, the Wall Street Journal dropped an atomic bomb on the online parenting world and called it “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.”
It was the first time that I’d read an account of parenting that resembled my own upbringing without it being followed by the words, “And that’s why I’m so messed up.” Even better, it did so with humor, and without shame.
For a fleeting moment, I felt a sense of solidarity, and validation. I thought Chua’s approach made a lot of sense. I wondered if I was being too soft on my own kids— and believe me when I say my kids would never in a million years think to describe me as “soft.”
And then I started reading the comments.
Whoops, turns out my childhood was criminally abusive! By loving and accepting my mom in spite of her being so hard on me, it appears I may suffer Stockholm syndrome.
Come on. I think we can all agree the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
I bring up Tiger Mom because the whole debate has made me reflect, quite a lot, on the hows and whys of the way I was raised. And how my own parenting is both a reflection of that, and a counter-reaction to it, especially now as my kids all start hitting the teen and tween years. (I will have at least one teenager in the house for the next 13 years. ENVY ME.) And how quick we are to judge those whose parenting styles differ from our own, when just about every parenting philosophy has its solid points.
It depends on the kid. It depends on the parent. Why is that so hard to accept?
She wasn’t one for dispensing advice, but these are vital lessons I learned from my Tiger Mom:
“You don’t need help; you can do it yourself.” I learned how to do my own laundry, how to clean the house, how to cook, how to clip & redeem coupons, how to make a grocery list and pack a grocery cart at a very seriously young age. And then my mother MADE ME DO THEM. All the time. She NEVER picked up my slack. Naturally at the time I assumed this was because these weren’t my real parents and they had taken me in only to do their chores; now I am every bit as strict with my own kids so that they will enter adulthood prepared, and make someone a good spouse one day.
“This is for your own good. It hurts me more than it hurts you.” Something my mom would say when I was being punished. I always assumed she was being flip and super mean, but as I take privileges away now I GET IT. It’s hard to be mean mom, to know that I’m the source of your current misery. It would be so easy to give in and drive you to the dance, or let you go to that party. (And sometimes I do, if I think you’ve learned your lesson, a flexibility my own mother never had.) But actions have consequences, someone has to be the adult and follow through, and unfortunately it looks like that lot falls to me.
“It’s OK if you hate me. That means I’m doing my job.” I never imagined I’d say these words as often as I do. And mean them.
“You are not your brother.” Now, I haven’t actually read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom yet (it’s on my Kindle, I just haven’t had time) but it’s my understanding that it actually chronicles how Chua’s Tiger Mom approach worked for ONE child, and NOT AT ALL for the other. I always hated the way my parents had different rules with my brother than they did for me, and it’s only since I’ve had to deal with multiple children that I understand. My brother and I are very different people. I was an exceedingly shy & timid child; I needed to be pushed hard or else I’d be perfectly content staying in my room alone, forever. My brother needed a different sort of discipline and encouragement, and he got it in spite of my cries of “UNFAIR!!” For a parent to figure out their children’s varying needs and adjust to that while navigating their sibling’s sense of justice and keeping things “even steven”… it’s a tricky business that thankfully I have some experience with, even if I only take away what didn’t work.
“I am not _____’s mom.” We don’t parent in a vacuum. Another tricky business, sticking to our guns while not being judgmental of other parents (and not caring how we ourselves are being judged). My mom & Amy Chua had this down pat!
“One day you will have kids of your own and you’ll understand. You’ll appreciate me then.” It’s true. I get it now, Mom. One day my kids will get it too. I hope that I’m still around when that realization breaks— my mom died before I could tell her about my newfound appreciation.
The fact is, we all have a little Tiger Mom in us.
Don’t think so? Let’s revisit the quote I opened with…
“The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles.
A shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs both support and freedom.
The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard.”
The hardest part of teaching a kid to ride bicycles, I would venture to say, is letting them fall off. Because you have to learn how to fall.
And giving them their hugs and kisses… and then stepping back and saying, “Get back on that bike.” And not taking no for an answer.
That is the essence of the Tiger Mom. Hardening my heart against you, for your own good.
It’s not easy, and it’s not so terrible, either.
Sometimes turning into my mother is not the worst thing in the world.
What parenting advice or lesson did your mother give you,
that you take to heart now as a mom?
Mother’s Day is approaching, and I hope that everyone will take the time to tell their own mothers how much they appreciate everything they’ve done for them— not just the easy lovey-dovey stuff, but the tough love that was as hard for them to give as it was to receive.
I hope we can all reach out to other moms and tell them what fine children they are raising, or how we respect a parenting decision they’ve made, even if it wouldn’t work for our family. We all second-guess ourselves all the time. We’ve all wondered if we’re screwing our kids up. Give someone a little third-person reassurance that they’re just fine. Or let a new mom or mom-to-be know that she will rock this mom gig.
Not in a half-ass, last minute kind of way, either. Tiger Mom wouldn’t approve of that. That’s why I’m nagging you a month ahead of time.
Check out the Mother’s Day greeting cards for all sorts of moms— mom friends, moms, mothers-in-law— they’ve got over at Tiny Prints. You want to tell her she’s doing a great job as a mom or thank her for being there for you? They have the card for that (including one that says Hey Mom, I Blame You. **snicker**).
100% of their photo cards, products and packaging now feature eco-friendly recycled paper, from beautiful stationery created with custom-made Signature Recycled Matte paper to green invitations printed on Forest Stewardship Council-certified Smooth Matte paper. Plus, not only are they a Certified Green Business, but Tiny Prints works with the Arbor Day Foundation to plant thousands of trees in the U.S. forests to replace all of the trees used to make their paper each year.
Tiny Prints provides simple, modern and unique stationery from Father’s Day Cards to personalized greeting cards to thank you cards, business cards, and even custom wedding invitations or photo birth announcements. Offering exclusive designs from the nation’s top designers, easy card personalization, a powerful preview engine and top-notch customer service and paper quality, their designs have been lauded by numerous television networks, publications and celebrities. With Tiny Prints by your side commemorating every holiday and momentous occasion is a cinch! They offer perfect party invitations for every occasion and memorable personalized photo-gifts like notebooks, photo books and calendars to commemorate the event.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I will receive a Tiny Prints card credit in exchange for writing about my mother’s parenting advice— stay tuned to see how I’ll use that credit to support other moms this Mother’s Day! 🙂
If you are interested in learning more about my mother’s story, you can find that here.