Friday, February 18, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Gerbil Mother

So, I read the Tiger Mother book. I'm not going to bother sharing my opinions on it. If you've ever read even one single entry on this blog of mine, you could probably guess just how close my children are to performing at Carnegie Hall, and, by deduction, just how much I have in common with Amy Chua. But before I suggest the book was entirely aggravating and poorly written (Oh, have I said too much?), I should admit that I have discovered a little Tiger Mom within me. And now that I've met her, I'm determining how to coexist peacefully with her.

Obviously, my tiger is much less ferocious and omnipresent than Chua's. But, when my kids are not performing tasks I know they are capable of, I hear a gentle roar in the back of my head reminding me that my kids are capable and that I should keep my expectations high and push them to achieve. Then I take the birthday cards they made for me and tear them into shreds. Just kidding. My tiger is tamer than that.

But recently, I let my tiger out of its cage.

Fifi was putting her coat on for the six-thousandth time this winter. When she got to the part where she had to zipper it up, instead of trying to zip it or even pretending to try to zip it, she just whined. "I can't doooo it. This zipper's too haaaaard." That querulous moaning may as well have been a fattened deer gaily prancing before me, taunting me, daring me to take it down. And so, I tiger-mommed that little doe.

I told her that she could do it herself and that she would do it herself. At first, I calmly walked her through the steps. Then I left her to do it on her own. She struggled and whined, but after many, many attempts, she got it. I told her I knew she could do it, and then we set out.

Over the next few days, I stayed on her to do it herself. It helped if I pretended she was the mother and that she was showing me how to zip a jacket. (Not very Tiger, I realize. But, she loved it.)  There was still more whining and complaining, but I did not step in. We did not leave the house until she zipped her jacket herself. We spent a good amount of time standing around the front door. But eventually, she got it.

After about three days, it was no longer an issue. She zipped her own coat without so much as a reminder from me.

As the temperature is rising, she's been sporting different pieces of outer wear, all of which she attempts to zip on her own. (I'll admit, there is one hand-me-down with a tricky zipper. I give her some help with that. But it's okay. I'm not really a Tiger Mom. I just pretend from time to time.) I didn't cut my daughter down as she learned this one simple task, but I also didn't coddle her. By standing back and making my daughter struggle and eventually succeed on her own, I felt like I was letting my tiger show her teeth. Luckily, that was enough to get my kid going.

With that mission accomplished, I'm off to make crafts with my kids before they attend sleepover playdates where I will publicly praise them for banging in-harmoniously on a piano for as long as they want. Gotta go, I hear Julliard knocking....

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