Priorities: There’s an Exception to Every Rule

Priorities: There’s an Exception to Every Rule

In a previous post (Motivation: Parenting and Practicing), I wrote, “If we have to choose between baseball practice and a piano lesson, piano is always going to win.” While it’s true that my husband and I place a high value on the musical education of our children, we do break our own rules every once in awhile.

exceptions

pitcher

Here’s the situation: our son (age 10) is playing baseball in the district’s recreation league. Somehow, despite our complete lack of any sports knowledge, he has become an excellent pitcher this year. He team is undefeated in their division and Son is the starting pitcher. We raced back from camp on Friday just in time for him to lead his team to a win in the first game of the playoffs. Then, amazingly, they won the second game and I’m sitting here waiting to find out what time the championship game will be on Thursday. The trouble is, Thursday is his lesson day; there’s a good chance the game and the lesson will be at the same time.

But I’m going to break my own rule. I’m going to see if we can move his lesson to earlier in the day. If not, I suppose we’ll have to skip the lesson this week. Music is a clear priority in our house, but I’m not heartless. This is one time when we have to make an exception to the rule “music over sports.” As a parent I have to constantly re-assess the boundaries I create for my kids. When they don’t make sense, it’s time to change them, or at least in this case, bend them a little bit.

In my own defense, I did write that I would choose a piano lesson over a baseball practice. I didn’t say anything about a once-in-a-lifetime championship game with an undefeated local team full of excited boys. Sometimes my Tiger Mother roar is more of a purr.

Go Orange Raptors!


 

Update: The game was moved to 8pm so we were able to keep our regular lesson time AND have a family dinner before the baseball game. There was a moment in the game when Son had thrown four balls and walked a batter. He was starting to get nervous and perhaps a bit rattled. Then I saw him close his eyes and take a deep breath, just like he does before he plays in a recital. Three strike-outs later, the inning was over. I like to believe that his music training is helpful to him in these high-stress situations. The Raptors won the championship and received big red trophies.

baseball team with trophies

BW baseball (minors) champions

 

Tiger Mother book review

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

OK, I’ll admit it: I’m a (Hybrid) Tiger Mother.

I will never be a full, genuine Tiger Mother because I’m not Chinese, like Amy Chua who is the author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. My dear husband knows how to balance me out when I bare my savage teeth. And I’ll never have the time or energy to sit with my kids while they practice for three hours each and every day. But I relate to Amy Chua’s struggles as the mother of two young musicians. A previous blog post touched on this briefly and provided fodder for the Tiger Mothers out there. This post will examine Chua’s book and my feelings about it more deeply.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua should be on everyone’s book club list. Since its publication in 2011, Battle Hymn has received so much press that the term “Tiger Mother” is part of our lexicon. Among my friends, there seems to be two polarized camps: people who resonate with Amy Chua’s story and those who think she is a terrible parent. I think many people are missing the parts of this book that are meant to be read as tongue-in-cheek and self-parody.

I find the book to be an honest, often self-deprecating, look at a style of parenting that seems to contradict a lot of the popular parenting books. Top parenting books with titles like Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting and The 5 Love Languages of Children seem to suggest that the only way to be a good parent is to offer unconditional love and use soothing tones. But there is a rising volume of voices that suggest this kind of parenting leads to narcissistic kids who don’t become productive, happy members of society. Jean Twenge’s books The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement and Generation Me are in the latter category.

On her website, the self-described Tiger Mother, Amy Chua writes

“My book has been controversial. Many people have misunderstood it. If I could push a magic button and choose either happiness or success for my children, I’d choose happiness in a second. But I don’t think it’s as simple as that; it can be a tough world out there, and true self-esteem has to be earned.”

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is about Amy Chua’s struggles as a Chinese mother raising two “Chinese-Jewish-American” daughters. The older girl plays piano and the younger is a violinist. Amy Chua and I share some rules: practice is top priority, get good grades in school, be kind and respectful. When I read that Sophia and Lulu practice even when on vacation (Chua calls around to find a piano in the city they are visiting,) I was inspired. That’s a great idea!

Like the author, I don’t like sleepovers (or not-sleeping-overs) because the children turn into zombies for the next couple of days. However, I my husband and I don’t prohibit sleepovers. Amy Chua never let the gils have sleepovers while they were young, though she does allow them now. Our family is considered unusual in our small town because the kids each play one season of club sports. (No travel teams or year-round activities like most of their friends.) But the author’s girls are not allowed to play any sports at all.

Despite the strict rules, Amy Chua’s love for her children comes shining through. She wants the best for her children and she’s highly invested, in time and money, in their success, even hiring people to sit with her girls when they practice. I’d like to note that Amy Chua’s girls do not like to practice their instruments (nor do my kids, as I admit in the blog post “Parenting and Practicing.”) In Chua’s book, we read about her often resorting to screaming, threats, and bribes. I think it’s very brave of her to write about the times that she lost control or pushed too hard. It happens to everyone, but not everyone admits it… or writes about it with brutal honesty.

Amy Chua does not hold herself up as a shining example of the ideal parent. She simply says that this is one way of parenting. Western parents would be wise to examine their own decisions through a different cultural lens. Interestingly, Chua’s husband is also an author and has been thrown into that parenting spotlight with his wife.  I’m fascinated to follow Amy Chua’s story into the future. Everyone is wondering when Sophia and Lulu will write their memoirs.

daughter with flute

“I don’t want to practice” — watch out… here comes Tiger Mother!

 

 

Tiger Mothers, Unite!

Tiger Mothers, Helicopter Dads, French Parenting, Free-Rangers… We’ve managed to create some fancy labels for styles of parenting.

As soon as the kids hit the front door in the afternoon, I start working on the checklist. Heathy afternoon snack? Check. Homework? Check. Outside playtime? Check. Chores? Check. Practice? Um….

daughter

the cub of the Tiger Mother

Sometimes motivating the kids to practice is harder than asking them clean up their rooms or (gasp!) take a shower. They are in third and fourth grade now, and while I’m sure list of to-dos and the things we struggle over will change as they get older, practicing is never going away.

In our house, practicing is not negotiable.

I share many of the same ideas about raising musical kids as Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Her book sparked much debate among parents about “Chinese-style” parenting. The term Tiger Mother become shorthand for parents who push their children to high levels of performance in music (or dance or sports). In some circles, the term is derogative, implying criticism for a heavy-handed approach that disregards what the child wants. But I want to reclaim the term. I think that it implies conscious parenting, a style that nurtures confident children who understand that hard work creates success.

The parent guilt can be overwhelming so when I come across articles that reaffirm our family’s commitment to music, I eat them up like candy. Here’s one from PBS that explains some of the benefits of music education.

http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/music-arts/the-benefits-of-music-education/

As parents we try to help our kids build strong bodies and strong minds. I’d like to argue that practicing a musical instrument is just as important as eating vegetables and exercising.

Exercise, good food, and practicing a musical instrument= the perfect trifecta for smart, healthy kids.

Carry on without guilt, fellow Tigers.

(If you haven’t read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua, run out and get it today. This books has sparked much debate, but struck a deep chord [pun intended] with me. More on this in blog post Battle Hymn Book Review.)