Sunday, May 08, 2011

Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother...A Different Take

So here it is, Mother's Day evening, and I just got off the phone after spending a couple of hours chatting with my own Mom.  Today has extra special meaning for us, as it was the day Matthew was placed in our arms forever and we walked out of the orphanage with him and into a new life for all of us.  It was also 6 years ago today that another new phase occurred in our life when we walked through the doors of our beloved church for the first time.  How could I have ever imagined the handsome, gentle young man who stands before us today?  How could I have ever imagined a walk in faith that is as rich and deep as it is today?

I also read yet another article earlier this morning about the recent book released titled "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" in which the author, Amy Chua, a Chinese American mother shares her very low opinion of American parenting styles, and proudly points to her own borderline abusive parenting style which has reaped many rewards in the form of her highly successful daughters.  According to Chua, American parents are permissive and coddle their children far too much, and low expectations produce mediocre young know the kind...basically we are talking about my kids I guess...the ones who are unlikely to attend Yale, where she teaches, will not bring home academic awards to brag about, nor will have sports achievements to point to.  Yea, she is totally talking about my kids.

I admit it, I am an utter failure at Tiger Mother Parenting. So was my own Mom.  I never went to college, never achieved success in the working world, certainly was never a sports star.  I was, and remain, rather ordinary in every possible way.  Perhaps it is my own mediocrity which leads me to parent the way I do, with little regard for eventual SAT scores or absolutely zero appreciation for what class ranking my children might one day have.  It is one of the reasons we fell so easily into homeschooling once I (again a low achiever) gathered the necessary courage to step outside the societal norm of public education.  With five kids at home and only 2 in the same grade, class rank is a pointless measuring stick, as it actually is in my opinion in non-homeschool situations anyway.

So, am I dooming my kids to a lifetime of being garbage collectors and unskilled laborers because of my own inability to grasp how terribly important it is to claw our way to the top?  Should I be spending this Mother's Day with my head hung in shame at all that I have failed to instill in my children and all that I have not pushed them to be?

Or should I recognize the truth that Amy Chua may not ever have eyes to see herself, that we have many different tools with which to measure "success", and the tools I use are not even remotely similar to the ones she uses.  Success for me has everything to do with character and heart, and nothing to do with our modern world ideals of gathering bragging rights, wealth and titles.

I would feel I were a successful mother even if our kids never attended college, but were responsible adults who had long lasting marriages and managed to raise children who also became responsible adults.  I will feel successful if our children can see the world around them with eyes that are capable of taking in the injustice in the world around them, and have the courage to step up to the plate to try to remedy the situation.  Success for us will not be measured in IQ points or ACT scores, but in hours spent serving others and years spent showing love to their husbands, wives and children.

I guess Amy Chua and I will have to agree to disagree.  It is highly likely I will never have bragging rights based upon the success of our children.  What I will have is worth much more to me...the silent tear that falls as I witness a gentle touch or hear a kind comment, I'll get a puffed up chest over watching hard work offered with no request having been made, I'll feel double blessed when I receive the compliments from others about thank you cards sweetly worded and written unprompted.

These are different kinds of accomplishments, that is true, and we might even see a college graduate or two out of our crew.  But that college graduation would be meaningless and empty without the knowledge that our children have grown up to be Heart people.  Success for the mere sake of success is meaningless. Success in pursuit of a higher calling is profoundly moving. That higher calling is what it is all about, and I am not speaking of ministry per se, but of discovering God's intent for your life and following it wherever it leads you, no matter how scary, and doing so with as much grace as you can muster.  Our man made conventional ideas of success have very little to do with the image God places before us of what success might look like.

Amy Chua would look at me and no doubt shake her head in disgust as she turned on her heel and walked the other way.  I am no Tiger Mother and I have no battle hymn.  If I have any trait attributable to some sort of animal form, the most appropriate title might be to call me "Owl Mom" who sits patiently up in a tree, imparting hard earned wisdom acquired at the School of Hard Knocks, and calling out in the night  "Whooo Whooo....Who will you be?  Whoooo?" to my children as they take stutter steps out into the world, stretching their own wings as they try on new personas and test the winds.  The only hymn would not be a battle cry, but  would most definitely be a love song, the kind that sticks in your head and replays over and over again, reminding them daily...hourly...that they are loved always and forever, regardless of their outward success.

I'd make a terrible Tiger Mother.  I think that pleases me.

Happy Mother's Day to all you mother's out there...the ones who continue to wait for children to be born or adopted, the ones whose children have long ago left the nest, the ones who have never legally or biologically parented but who have mothered many who have crossed your paths.  Thank you for being the mother's you are and continue to be.

Thank you to my own mom, who in so many ways influenced me and helped me become the mother I am.


angela said...

I too look at that kind of achievement as belonging to a culture that I don't understand. Being a military brat I do understand differences, and learning how to express themselves well, trust other people appropriately and set boundaries...that would be what I see as successful at this point. Even some adults need you to be a mom model for them. Blessings.

Anonymous said...

The story of a “failure”

Made a living with his hands – his trade, a common carpenter..

Many people looked down on him, mocked him, despised him. Some thought he was crazy.

As an adult, homeless and dependant on the hospitality of others.

Tried as criminal and sentenced to death.

Died a pauper, without even the clothes on his back.

Did not confirm to the world’s measure of how to live.

Kept true to his mission. Kept his focus steady, followed God’s leading for His life, spoke truth and wisdom, loved well. and sacrificed his own well-being for others.

Truly, God’s standards for success do not match the world’s standards of success.

Peggy in Virginia

Anonymous said...

Thank God you are a heart and soul mom. Each of your children is already a resounding success, and each member of Team LaJoy is making rippling waves of love throughout the world. Lookout Washington and New York, you are about to be conquered.

Love and traveling mercies,

Anonymous said...

Well said, though you are a tiger in many ways, Cindy. You will fight to the end for your kids' right to be who they were meant to be...and not what the world would try to make them. You will fight fiercely to protect them from being judged or limited by others in any way. You are strong and "fierce" in your own way, as mothers are meant to be, "battling" for their kids to be allowed to be their best!

Four of our kids are gone from home now. Still four to go. Of our older girls, one is a middle school guidance counselor, one a college grad recently turned stay at home wife and mother, one received her masters in special educaton on Saturday, and one an elementary education major and a hall advisor on her campus where she will be a junior next fall. Accomplishments, yes. But like you and Dominick, my hubby and I are much more proud of the hearts they have for others. One loving the students she mentors, counsels, and cares deeply about. Working creatively to encourage them they are each priceless young people who deserve a chance, loving all the ethnic and individual diversity in her school where hers is the minority race. One loving and treasuring the time she can take for her husband and new little one, being deliberate about her parenting and madly in love with both, reaching out to others in their church, helping with high school youth group. Another ready to teach kids with diverse and challenging learning styles, comfortable in helping people of all ages who need that extra help to navigate life. And the youngest grown one being a help and encouragement to her residence, also helping with HS youth, trying to be faithful with all God puts in her life to accomplish.

Bragging? No, just so thankful God has worked in each of their hearts, that they also know that success is loving others as God has commanded, cheering on the "under dog", as God Himself cares for the humble and meek. We are humbled and thankful that they learned how to work hard to achieve their goals, recognizing
God's work and blessings in their lives. And ever thankful for the love and support they give each other and the four still at home, who can't begin to know how blessed they are to have the older four caring and cheering them on from the sidelines.

Our last four struggle more with school, have yet to catch the "dedication bug". But our prayers are the same for them, as I see yours are for your children...that they become caring adults, able to manage what God blesses them with or to know where to go for help if they're struggling, disciplined to always try their hardest and be thankful for all God allows them to accomplish in any way for Him.

Sorry so long and about my kids, but it was by way of illustrating your same point. Regardless of the path our children choose, we pray they are walking with God and loving others as He would have us love. My favorite Bible verse is probably Phil. 2:3 for the fact that if I could "do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit", I would truly be living life as God calls me to. That's what we're striving for and p;raying for here.

Nancy in the Midwest

Anonymous said...

Heaven not Harvard!

Michelle said...

I haven't read the book, but I did see an interview with her and she said that her book was a journey to the realization that her tiger parenting was too strict and she was really critical of herself and her choices in the interview.

I think you can look around and see examples of American parents being too permissive. I look around and I am disgusted by the 80 lb 3 year olds drinking mountain dew and bossing their parents around.
When I think of the pathologically permissive parenting I witness almost daily...I DON'T think of you!

Anonymous said...

Love, Limits and Faith – surrounding our children with these will help them mature into adults who value people over things, caring over status, heart and soul over external accomplishments, emotional wisdom over social position.

Loved everybody’s comments, especially “Heaven over Harvard.” At the end of our days here, it's not money, status, or public acclaim that we take on with us.

Peggy in Virginia

Hilary Marquis said...

I love this post! You are right, we are not tigers :) I think someone once told me that we need a different measuring stick to guage our childrens' successes. They don't fit the mold that children can cram into. Your kids are going to do important things, and you don't need a degree from an ivy league school to be successful! The Lord does not measure success according to man's standards.