Last year, Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother was all any of us could talk about. And, when I say "talk about," I really mean "stress over."
Were we too relaxed? Were we pushovers? Were we not giving our sons and daughters the tools, the talents, the discipline, the résumé-building activities that they so desperately needed to get into the Ivy Leagues?
We look down on hovering "Helicopter Parents," and with good reason. But are we slackers? I let my daughter drop out of piano lessons after two years. Two years, during which time I spent $35 every week for a thirty-minute lesson after which I had to listen to her instructor tell me (every week) that she would never get better if she didn't practice.
And, I let her take French regardless of the fact that Latin would equate to higher PSAT scores. And, I don't sufficiently freak out when she brings home an A-. My daughter watches popular TV. She reads popular books. I encourage sleepover parties.
Of course, I hope my daughter will be accepted at Harvard, Yale and Princeton (full scholarships would be nice too). But the world will not end if she isn't. In fact, at fourteen, she has her eye set on the Equestrian Business major at a far less prestigious college. My hope is that we'll meet somewhere in the middle. For now, I bite my tongue; we'll be touring schools soon enough.
So, if my daughter is less than she might be, I guess I have myself to blame. I am not a Tiger Mother. However, I am something equally dangerous.
I am Sleeping Tiger Mother.
Be warned. If you threaten my daughter, I will quickly wake up. And all that pent-up ferocious energy that was not spent ensuring that piano was practiced will be expended somewhere else. In your face.
For example, my daughter competed in a two-phase horse show yesterday. She and her new pony pulled off a perfect round of stadium jumping after a rather lackluster dressage test. (Dressage, my daughter argues, is like watching paint dry. It's all about precision. And, if I were a Tiger Mother, she would no doubt practice more and perform better. But, I digress.)
When the final scores were posted, my daughter came in fifth place in her class. She was pleased, but I noticed that the young man who was taking home fourth place had the same combined score.
This, obviously, is enough to wake Sleeping Tiger Mother. I marched into the office of the officials and asked, respectfully of course, why the identical scores earned disparate ribbons. It turns out that in the event of a tie, there is a specific subset of dressage results that are used to determine the order. Okay, fine. I was very polite and thanked them for their time and the explanation. My daughter was happy to get me out of there without a scene.
Another example occurred a couple of weeks ago. Our middle school has a new principal who is taking a look at the traditional year-end activities with the aim of saving some money in today's tough economy. Suddenly, when the eighth grade harbor cruise was in jeopardy, Sleeping Tiger Mother woke again.
My daughter's class has had a roller coaster ride since third grade. They have had five principals in as many years. They were displaced because of a long overdue renovation and spent 6th grade in trailers. They've already missed annual "Nights of Excellence," end-of-year "Field Days," and a Boston scavenger hunt. This particular "big cat" didn't think it was fair that they should have yet another celebration pulled out from under them.
So, I roared.
For the record, I am not now and have never been a high-maintenance mom. I don't use public forums (like PTA meetings) to pursue my personal agenda (or air my own laundry). If my daughter gets a low grade on a test or a paper, I don't rush to call or email the teacher. As long as things are fair, I'll stick to my den and snooze. Just be very careful if you wake me up; I have long, sharp teeth.
One more thing. My daughter and her friends are really looking forward to their harbor cruise.