Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tiger Mom--Stop and Smell the Bacteria

We heard him coming. Footsteps pounding down two flights of old wood stairs in our ancient house. He pushed passed everyone lingering in the kitchen…which of course was EVERYONE because it was a late Saturday afternoon and we were hanging by the fireplace in the dining part of the kitchen and watching my mother mangle some poor large piece of meat for dinner. The oven was on and my brother flew by my mother and tossed a test tube into the oven and slammed the door. There was complete silence. “Potentially Dangerous Bacteria” announced my brother calmly as he strode back upstairs to his lab…I mean bedroom.

“See! See! He is going to kill us ALL. He is going to kill the whole town!” my other brother shouted. “ No one believes me.”

Granted…the boys had the third floor of the house and no one EVER went up there. One brother was a WWII naval buff and had, if not the largest, close to the largest, collections of model battle ships. The other brother was the mad scientist with his own models of genes, skulls, human organs and of course the microscope and test tubes etc.

My sister normally tucked in her “squirrel room” with slanted ceilings, odd corners, mountains of books and an electric typewriter humming wandered in to agree. “Did you see the dead frog he had pinned to the cutting board last week that he was dissecting and now Mum is using the same board for the roast beef as though nothing happened.” My father looked up from the Foxfire book he was reading with quizzical amusement and took another sip of coffee, as my mother, never one to be concerned about germs, waved away the apprehensions—“For heaven’s sake—I washed the cutting board—it is perfectly fine. “

Hernan (my Peruvian friend) and I sat by the fireplace with a mound of clay-like mud we had pulled from a neighbor’s ditch attempting to make pottery bowls. Inspired by My Side of the Mountain, we made flimsy shelters from small tree limbs and kite string all over the in the woods near our house and now were attempting to furnish our rustic homes….the old fashioned way.

No one in our family had time to study long hours or practice instruments way into the night. We had agendas of own. We ALL had a agendas—my mother and father included and being a private tutor to four kids who were smart enough as-is was not on the list.

What I find odd about the Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom—everyone seems to SO WORRIED about the kids…my concern is with the mother. For heaven’s sake, to quote my mother, does the woman not have anything better to do than torment her children? I am sure the children will be fine, but doesn’t poor Amy have any friends to go out with? Model ships to build? Amateur experiments with potentially dangerous bacteria? Another book to write?

Enjoy your kids and your life. Life does not have to be one long struggle. Sit back and smell the bacteria, enjoy the failed pottery attempts, absurd obsessions with models and relax.

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