Well, it’s settled. I’m not a Tiger Mom. I don’t demand that my kids practice their instruments for hours on end. I don’t generally make them practice at all. I let my kids spend the night with friends. I let them go online and text. I let them have whatever it is that constitutes a boyfriend in middle school. And, gasp…I let them watch TV.
That’s it then. I failed as a mom. My kids bring home Bs now and then. One dances and one plays soccer. I shuttle them to the School for the Performing Arts every Saturday for acting class. Even worse - I shuttle back down to pick them up afterwards!
My daughter reported once that her friends were amazed that she had never been grounded.
Such a horrible mom should end up with wild, undisciplined kids, don’t you think? Slovenly ones who rarely bathe, fight all the time, talk back to authority figures and consistently show up at in-school detention because they never do homework and fail each and every test. Surely my kids will end up in a juvenile facility as they won’t learn how to control themselves since their mom didn’t rule with an iron fist.
Interestingly, in spite of making very little effort to force my kids to grow up to be upstanding citizens, they seem to have gone and done it anyway. I have a twelve-year-old whose mission in life is to protect abused animals. She insisted we volunteer at the SPCA and bring home our second rescue dog. She gets As and Bs on her report cards. She also single-handedly manages her Type 1 diabetes, testing her glucose, counting her carbs, remembers to change her pump inset every three days without fail and gives herself the right dose of insulin every single time. Her music teacher says she is one of her best piano students. This is a child who will grow up to be a success, in spite of the fact that she studies dance, watches television and only practices about 15 minutes each day. She will grow up to be successful because she already is.
Her sister is consistently on the honor roll despite having soccer practice and games throughout the week. She asks to audition for plays and practices her songs on her own. She’s now writing her first novel and when I say writing, I mean writing. She works on it daily and has over 6,000 words. As a writer myself, I know this is quite an accomplishment. After several years of piano, she asked if she could switch to guitar. She now plays Beatles songs beautifully without any prompting from me. She will grow up to be successful because she already is.
Emily did all of our laundry Saturday - without being asked. Rachel just came in from taking the recycling bins up to the curb and taking out the trash - without being asked. This was not part of their daily chores. They do those without fail and because it is expected. But they also go the extra mile because it's part of who they are. They always hand in their homework without my hovering over them, managing their study time and work. They are motivated, interested, energetic and intelligent. They live trouble-free lives with positive attitudes.
My children learned at a young age that they are expected to help out, be polite, go the extra mile, stand up against injustice, take care of their bodies and always make good choices in every situation. They learned this because we often discussed consequences of making bad choices. They want to perform well in school because it makes them feel better to bring home an A than an F. They want to live in a nice, clean home so they help to keep it that way. They want to feel good physically so, for the most part, they make good choices. They are still kids, you know.
But they discerned this on their own. My role is to guide them and to teach them with love. I cannot make them turn out the way I want. I can only guide them while they head toward the vision that they see for themselves. I can only support them in the goals they set for themselves.
So, my role, thank you very much, is more like a sheep dog than a tiger. I’ll gently nudge them toward good decisions with no loud growling, bared teeth or blood-shed but with ongoing open communication about choices and consequences.
And I’ll know soon enough if what I did was right. The proof will come when they’re living their best lives without resentments. And when I’m living mine without regrets.