I’m going to confess something here that I’ve never told anyone, because I’ve learned that the best way to spill secrets that you don’t want anyone to know about is to do it on the internet. It’s a logical choice, because the internet is a well-known for being a non-judgmental bastion of support where no one ever calls you terrible names or makes you cry, right?
I’ve always been drawn to the parenting style of “Tiger Mothering”.
While it’s true that one of my favorite hobbies is making children cry, that’s not the only reason that I’ve dabbled with the idea of forcing my daughter to be a well-rounded individual who is always teetering on the brink of complete emotional collapse with the permanent sheen of unspent tears in her eyes.
No, it has more to do with my own upbringing, which was what I’ll refer to as Tiger Mother Lite, or maybe North American Mid-sized Wildcat Mothering. My parents were extremely loving, supportive individuals, but they had the challenging task of taking 12 kids from various crappy backgrounds and turning them into semi-functional adults. Naturally this involved getting us out of the house and keeping our little urchin hand busy with all manner of activities. These activities weren’t just meant to ensure that we were well-rounded, they also made effective positive discipline.
For instance, if you need to get an angry adolescent from the Bronx to stop stealing boxes of pasta from the pantry, enrolling that girl in a 4-H program where she’ll learn to apply salve to the post-birth horrorscape of a goat’s vulva is an excellent deterrent. Probably.
Later, I realized that this served another purpose. One of the things that I admire about my parents was their ability to be completely pragmatic without being total assholes about it. None of us were particularly privileged, so my parents knew that in order for us to get out of our respective situations, we needed to not only play the violin, be in the FFA, and captain the chess club, we needed to do it all really well. Thus, someone, somewhere was always screeching out an awful version of “Für Elise” for hours on end or practicing seamless back tucks in the rec room until they mastered it. This gave us all a wealth of stuff to add to our college applications right under our slightly exaggerated but mostly identical “overcoming adversity” essays.
It’s for this reason that I initially thought I could do a slightly less emotionally abusive version of Tiger Parenting; my parents did it, and I came out okay, plus my kid, who is already better than everyone else’s, could be even betterer.
Well, forget that. Seriously. I am way too lazy for this mess. I’m just going to have to settle for being semi-bitch mom, the lady that makes her kids do chores and stuff, because out-and-out Tiger Mothering is straight up exhausting. Oh, and while we’re at it? Expensive as hell.
Girl scouts, for instance. I remember girl scouts as that thing I got kicked out of after one weekend for teaching Daisies how to play poker with candy. I might have been a little less bratty about it if I knew that my parents were shelling out good money for double-knit polyester uniforms and cookies.
I found this out after my daughter signed up for it last year. After throwing about $150 down on the uniform and a bunch of supplies like handbooks, my daughter lost interest pretty much immediately when she realized that there was no camping or bear-wrestling involved. Just a lot of selling and tea parties at her age.
Now, I love the Girl Scouts, and I will always buy their delicious abortion cookies, but I will not sell them. Once my kid figured that out and realized she’d be shilling them herself, she decided she was done. I wasn’t even mad. I just slowly slinked off, leaving the other troop moms to argue about whether anything besides Lenox should be allowed at the Teddy Bear Tea.
Ditto soccer and violin. I’ve gotten as far as writing “Register for Soccer League” on my calendar for three seasons in a row, each time totally meaning to do it and then realizing that between the uniform, registration fee, and bulk-sized packages of capri suns and gushers for after game snacks, I’m looking at a deficit of like $300 for a child who hasn’t woken up before 11 on a Saturday since she was in diapers. There is no way we’d make it to a single game.
The violin I played as a child has now been restrung, retuned, and well rosined, just waiting for a prodigy, but it hasn’t been touched because while we were in the shop doing the necessary maintenance, my kid spotted a neon-blue ukulele that I won’t be buying. I could force her to play the violin, but that raises another problem: kids suck at violin. Seriously. Have you ever heard a little kid pick up a violin and not immediately gotten a massive migraine? No, you haven’t, because kids suck at violin. I don’t have the patience to force her to stick with it until she doesn’t suck, and I’m sure it’s not healthy to take 800 milligrams of ibuprofen everyday, so boom, impasse.
Now, it’s not that my child lacks dedication. She is totally dedicated to stuff like drawing and writing and running a full-service guinea pig fair that she actually got some poor sucker neighborhood kids to pay her a dollar for. It’s just that in these traditional venues of childhood well-roundedness, I’ve learned an important lesson:
If you’re lazy or broke, never shell out money or time on something unless your kid has displayed an interest in said thing for at least a few consecutive weeks.
The fact is, Tiger Mothering is not for the lazy. It’s work, and not just for your fragile-psyched child. It’s work for you. It’s schedules and recitals and standing over your child’s shoulder saying, “is that the best you can do?” Plus someone has to bedazzle that jean jacket that says “Traeylynn’s #1 Fan” for little Traeylynn’s gymnastic meet.
And I don’t know about you, but while everyone else is running their seven-year-olds to Karate, Volleyball, Spanish, and Indigenous Basketweaving, I’m kind of cool with hanging out at home with my kid, making 400 perler bead dolphins and watching Adventure Time.
Which is why it came as a surprise to me that my daughter finally took an interest in something for longer than 15 seconds. I’m kind of dreading the fact that, by potentially signing her up for it, I’m going to have to put a bra on, but her activity of choice is so cool that I almost don’t care.
Roller Derby. Thanks to an “auntie” who was on the LA Derby Dolls, the only thing my child can talk about anymore is jammers and bouts and checking. She’s chosen a name, “Slasherella” and actually practices by herself on the back deck.
So really, its perfect. She likes it, so I won’t have to stop watching Breaking Amish to make her do it, and I’m already off the hook for practice: apparently I’m not as good of a checking dummy as her auntie is.
I can’t be a Tiger Mom, but I can do the next best thing: I can bedazzle a giant tiger on the back of a jean jacket to show my support.
Just, you know, later.