I vividly remember an acquaintance post this on Facebook, a conversation she overheard, between her husband and her almost 5-year-old daughter –
Father: Which country is Berlin in?
Father: Which cars are made there?
Daughter: BMW and Porsche
Father: Where is Ducati made?
Father: Any other bike is made there?
As I pen this blog I can hear my 6-year-old rhyme – “I love soup, the soup turns to poop!”
It takes a herculean effort for me not to panic. But I do it. I continue to write.
I am taming the tiger.
I cannot exactly pinpoint the moment it started because at the beginning I meant well. Before my children were born all I wanted was for them to be healthy. They were born perfect.
But even before I read the book, Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother by Amy Chua, the birth of my sons had unfortunately given birth to a Tiger Mother in me.
My twins came pre-mature. Perfect but tiny. We spent 15 days in the NICU. An odd place for the tiger to the first roar but it did – the nurse told me that the boys did not need the ventilator the first night they were born and were breathing fine on their own unlike most of the other preemies. I heard a small roar in my head.
Then the roaring started. Frequent and loud.
The nurses would weigh all the babies in the NICU. Mine was gaining weight faster than the others. 58 grams to be precise on one weigh-in but I smirked. Roar.
My twins didn’t cry when they were vaccinated. The baby who went in before mine did. Roar.
They sat up faster than my nephew did. Roar.
My twins walked faster than my friend’s twins did. Double roar.
They drank more milk. They spoke sooner. They were taller.
Gosh, I heard myself roar even as we compared notes with the other moms – mine are never constipated.
Extremely. Loud. Roar.
My children were about 2 years old when I bought a copy of the infamous Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. It left me uncomfortable… would I threaten to donate my child’s toys if he doesn't master a difficult piano composition by the next day? Would I be able to throw back at him a handmade birthday card and say “I want a better one"? Would I be able to set rules like no sleepovers, no playdates, no grade lower than an A on report cards, no choosing your extracurricular activities, and no ranking lower than No. 1 in any subject (an exception to this last directive was made for gym and drama.)?
Not me. I decided to tame the tiger.
Yet when at 3 years old my child was unable to write his P and S the right way, I cringed. It got worse when post-school, another mom would take out her child’s book and exclaim – “Wow, you got three stars and an A+”.
When at 4 my son wanted to participate in a sponsored drawing competition in school, I trained him. I made him draw the picture again and again till he got it near perfect. He wailed when he didn’t win. I told myself the judge was an idiot. Come on, I still have the certificates from all the drawing competitions I won at school.
When at 5 my son was selected for the inter-class recitation competition and he went up on stage and did his best, but the next child did better… the tiger once again came out and cursed.
When at 6 one child decided after trying to learn first, the guitar, then the drums, then the keyboard, then the guitar again only to decide no more music lessons, I swear I whacked my face hard with the tiger’s tail.
I am trying hard to tame the tiger.
Sometimes it still raises its head. My sons are the tallest kids in their class. I roar. No, genetics don’t matter. I just gloat about my sons being tall… not even sure why because it is not a virtue of any kind. In fact, I spend an awful lot having to get them new clothes and shoes every 6 months.
My sons speak impeccable English. I roar. Other children around us are bilingual. My sons won’t learn any other language – quite a shame actually but I roar.
But like I previously mentioned, I am trying to tame the tiger. I have to remind myself of the time when all I wanted for them was to be healthy and happy. Why then did that change to wanting good grades, wanting gifted talents, wanting socially acceptable behavior, wanting geniuses and prodigies…
My son continues to rhyme somewhere in the background and I let him.
I take a deep breath and repeat to myself –
Roses are red
Violets are blue
There will always be a Chinese boy
Who is better than you.