The Tiger Mother (with apologies to William Blake)

It goes without saying that parents everywhere want the best for their kids.

We want them to be happy, healthy and loved. We want them to be strong and successful, ethical and moral, loving and giving.

But our definitions of these things  – and how we go about guiding our children to achieve and embody them  – may differ depending on our cultures, our upbringings, and our personal beliefs and goals. And of course we parents are bound to have strong opinions about our methods as compared to those of other parents.

Witness the controversy over Amy Chua’s book, “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” and the Wall Street Journal excerpt/essay encapsulating her parenting philosophy. Now, I haven’t yet read the book, but the WSJ article had me condemning Ms. Chua’s parenting as excessive, perhaps even cruel.

It seems I’m not alone, as everyone from Harvard’s Larry Summers to author Alan Paul has responded – mostly negatively – to Chua’s hard-nosed parenting tactics and portrayal of “Western” parents as slackers. Now, I have known a few Sloth Parents, and I suspect their laissez-faire attitude might be an equally harmful extreme. In all, I have to say that Paul’s “Panda Dad” take on parenting seems the most aligned with my own philosophy.

While my household is nowhere near as organized or orderly as I’d like, I make sure my girls do their required work and adhere (mostly) to schedules. We eat relatively healthy meals and I limit tv and computer time, encouraging books over electronics. And of course, they play — and not just because I think it inspires creativity. You see, as much I want them to be successful adults, I want them to be happy children, too.

Thus, my response to the Tiger Mom phenomenon, written with a nod to William Blake’s famous tiger poem.

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The Tiger Mother

Tiger Mother, Tiger Mother
With ambition like no other,
What aspirations running wild
Could force such rearing on a child?

Morning, night and afterschool,
Why so strict? Why so cruel?
To what ends dare you aspire?
Why straight A’s your goal entire?

Why deny your precious cub
Sleepovers and drama club?
Why no painting, only math?
Why condemn a laxer path?

What of games and kid pursuits?
Surely free time bears some fruits.
Lounging’s worth as much as learning,
Giving brains the fuel for burning.

What of giggling, goofing off?
At such slacking you doth scoff,
No activity’s blessed unless
It leads to scholarly success.

But shouldn’t children get to be
Little children, running free?
Making friendships and mistakes,
For that’s a lot of what life takes.

When the graduate’s off stage,
Freed from academic cage,
Let her meet each future challenge
With both work and play in balance.

Tiger Mother, Tiger Mother
With ambition like no other,
What aspirations running wild
Could force such rearing on a child?

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©2011 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz

Mother’s Day

This one’s for all the moms, grandmas and moms-to-be out there…

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Mother’s Day

There’ll be days when nothing works
to get your little one to sleep,
and days when dirty dishes
grow with diapers in a heap.

There’ll be days when you wake late
and miss your turn at the car pool,
and days when you’re the last one
claiming your kids after school.

There’ll be days when you forget
to sign the school permission slip,
or to pack a tube of sunscreen
for their day-long field trip.

And one day those hugs and kisses
will come few and far between –
when your charming little child
has transformed to sullen teen.

And the day will come when you’ve done all
to give them all your best,
when they’re off to school and off to work
and you’ve an empty nest.

On those days, though, please remember
all the times you got it right:
when you made that awesome costume
or your babe slept through the night.

When you were the homeroom hero
bringing cupcakes oh-so-sweet;
or you cheered them up with pizza
when their soccer team got beat.

When you cradled them and cuddled them
and wiped away their tears,
when you nurtured and encouraged them
and helped them face their fears.

Yes, remember this tomorrow
and a week or month from now,
or just any time the job seems
so impossible somehow.

‘Cause although it’s just official
for a few short hours in May,
when you think about it, really,
every day is Mother’s Day.

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© 2010 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz

Precious

If you’re a parent who hasn’t yet had the pleasure of holding a substance that was ejected from your child’s body, well, don’t worry. Someday, you will.

And when it happens, I guarantee that maternal instinct will kick in and you’ll know exactly what to do.

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Precious

When my child
starts to retch,

why

do I

strive to catch

each

drop

as if it

were something

exquisite?

©2009 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz