Sunday, January 23, 2011

Channeling the Tiger

So, some of you might have read or heard about this new book that is causing a bit of a stir: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. In it the author, Amy Chua, posits that "Chinese mothers" (i.e. Eastern mothers) are better than "Western mothers" because their children are more successful. The idea is that the Chinese mothers push their children harder, are stricter and demand more from their children than Western mothers, who are more concerned with their children's emotional development and self-esteem. Chinese mothers are hard, Western mothers are soft.
Myself, I can see some of the logic in what Ms. Chua is saying, though I don't agree with many of her actual tactics. One thing that resonated with me was Ms. Chua's premise that Chinese mothers believe that their children are strong and smart, and this is what allows them to push them so hard - they absolutely believe that the kids can take that kind of pressure. When we coddle children, when we let them slack and do not push them to do better we are in a sense telling them "This is all we expect of you. We don't think you *can* do better." And while I don't think calling children "garbage" when their work is not perfect is a useful parenting technique, I do think that some not-so-gentle pushing is sometimes exactly what they need. Take for instance this very evening: Cathryn was working on one of those "draw me" pictures, the ones that have a drawing on a grid, along with a bigger (blank) grid on which you can copy the figure. A bit intense for a 6-year-old in my opinion, but she wanted to do it. She sat down at the table next to me, started drawing, realized her drawing wasn't like the picture and proceeded to have a meltdown, proclaiming to everyone in a 10-mile radius that she was terrible at drawing, the WORST EVER, and that she would never be any good, NEVER NEVER NEVER! Oh my. My first impulse was to grab her to me and whisper soothing words about how wonderful she was as I held her close. But then the Chinese mother in me whispered something else.
"Cathryn. Drawing well takes practice, and if you want to be good you better start now!" I made her sit back down and I told she wasn't going to leave the table until her drawing was perfect. I went and got another eraser and sat next to her as she drew the picture, grid by grid. If a square wasn't perfect I made her erase it and start over. "Again! Make it right!" My voice sounded to my own ears like some maniacal drill sargent who hadn't slept for 3 days. "Does that look like the picture? Do it again!" Over and over and over. We must have sat there for almost an hour, Cathryn crying, me yelling, the paper almost torn in several spots from all the erasing.
But you know what? She finished the damn thing. And it looked GREAT. And she was so proud! Her face was beaming as she showed it to her dad. We hung it up over the fireplace, so everyone could admire it.
And as she went to bed that night she whispered in my ear "Mommy, I'm a GOOD drawer, aren't I?" "Yes you are baby. YES YOU ARE."
Go Tigers!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Do As I Say, Not As I......oh, nevermind.

Brian was unloading the dishwasher the other night when Cate came into the kitchen. Not looking where she was going she ran right smack into the dishwasher door, which was down. Giving a mighty scream she bent over to examine her injured shin. "Ouch! That smarts!" said Brian. "Sucks." mumbles Cate. "Excuse me? What did you say?" Brian asks incredulously. Cathryn turns to him and rolling her eyes says: "SUCKS dad. I think the word you are looking for is SUCKS."

That's my girl.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Jack and I are in the car, driving to pick his sisters up from school. On the stereo is the soundtrack from Rapunzel, which has been in continuous play mode since we got it from Mimi two weeks ago. As one of the love songs plays Jack asks "Is this real?" "You mean the movie?" "Yes. It's not real, is it?" "No, it's a cartoon movie about a story. It isn't real." "Yeah, because people don't steal babies in real life right mom?" Gah. How did we get here? Sometimes I really hate the world for being such an awful place, a place I can't even begin describing to my six-year-old bright-eyed boy, a place full of horrors beyond imagining. "No, people don't steal babies sweetie." "Yeah, they can just have their own if they want some!" Ugh. Again, how do I tell him about this? Will his eyes be as bright when he learns the real answers to these questions? "That's right baby, they can have their own."

My sweet little boy, I know that someday you will learn the answers to these questions, will learn that the world is full of sadness, pain and terrible things. But I hope that you keep this vision you have now, of a world full of love and caring, because we can't get there unless we can see it the way you do.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Counting Blessings

So, this could have been the week from hell. Could have. But isn't. Why not? Because, in the words of the old spiritual, "I've got love like an ocean". For reals. I am surrounded by loving family members and friends who have stepped into the breach, and allowed me the time I need to rest and get better. Mimi has been taking the children overnights and Auntie is waiting in the wings to take them if Mimi can't. My lovely friend Danielle is picking up my kids from school, bringing me soup, and taking my shift in the classroom this week. So basically, all I have had to do is rest and feel grateful. Chicken soup for the soul, indeed.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Checking In

Here's what's going on today: I have pneumonia. The kids have ear infections and bronchitis. Brian has a meeting in New Jersey. All of this would be a disaster, except we also have Mimi and Auntie who are taking the kiddos so that I can sleep. And we have drugs. Lots and lots of drugs. Also so that I can sleep.
And I have to say that as sick as I am and as tired as I am and as glad as I am to have this wonderful time to rest, there is a small part of me that wishes my babies were here right next to me.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

You Know What I Love?

That while other 6-year-olds are obsessed with Spider-Man or Bakugan or Barbies, my kids can't get enough of Richard Scarry's Busytown Mysteries. Solving mysteries with Huckle Cat and Lowly Worm - what's better than that? And that theme song? The one that is playing on continuous loop in my head? That's pretty catchy too.