Friday, January 13

Are you Tiger Mom or Swamp Mom?!

     My friend Maria Divencenzo is a local (Buffalo, N.Y) children's book author and founder of Winterlake Press. She has oodles of years of publishing experience (working for and writing for big New York publishers) and most recently published two wonderful children's books through Winterlake Press. We own both, The Scariest Dream Ever (which is really not that scary, it's pretty funny actually!) and The Star of Christmas. My children love them! 

     More than all of that though, she is a wonderful mom to four children!  Last week she posted the following on her blog...You HAVE to read it...It will allow you to sigh a great big deep breath as a mom and remove some of the pressure we all place on ourselves...

     When you're finished reading it, pop over to her blog site, Quing of the World,  and leave her a comment! Since we all know our children don't always give us the thanks we probably deserve, sometimes we need to do it for one another!! 

  I'll just add ahead of time...I'm definitely a swamp about you?! 

By: Maria DiVencenzo

Woohoo for us!

Tiger Mom is back in the news.

Now in paperback- to tell Western parents how to raise successful, high-achieving kids

Child steps out of line? Tell him he is lazy and pathetic- garbage, even. Kid gets an A minus on a test? Excoriate, punish and shame her into working harder. Children are strong enough to accept shame, and improve from it.

Tiger Mom- who admits to reacting with 'a screaming, hair-tearing explosion' if her child got a B, would work through hundreds of practice tests with her child for as long as it took to get the grade up to an A. She presided over hours of daily piano and violin practice-criticizing all mistakes. Accepting only straight As, she made certain that her daughters were No. 1 in every subject- except gym and drama.

Tiger Mom's parenting practices led to recitals at Carnegie Hall and acceptance to Harvard; to crazy successful daughters who are highly capable of, well, everything that matters. Her cubs are so successful, they don't think twice about the sleepovers, play dates, extracurricular sports, plays, musicals, TV, computer games, or instruments that they were not allowed to play or participate in.

Fun? Singing on stage?  Guitars or drums? Social stimulation? Mindless relaxation?

Nonsense! Western child's play! Useless pages in the chapters of the Western Parenting Playbook.

Ditto the chapters on Indulgent Mom. Or Fun Mom. Or Tired and Unmotivated Mom.

Tiger Mom insists that we not mistake her for our Western Helicopter Mom- the super-achieverwho hovers over her kids, protecting them from every potential obstacle or failure, micromanaging and bailing them out throughout childhood.

Tiger Mom thinks Helicopter Mom is nuts. While a Tiger mom may be maniacal with her children from ages 5 to 12 in order to produce kids who are daring and self-reliant- Helicopter mom is simply destructive. She carries her kids' gym bag to practice! Brings a forgotten lunch box to school! Hires independent college counselors to fill a sixteen year old's summer with exotic activities that will distinguish him from thousands of other perfect students as they compete for selection at top colleges and universities. 

Tiger Mom's kids don't need those independent college counselors. They can do all of that stuff for themselves.

So what are Western parents to think of Tiger Mom's Parenting Playbook?

We are supposed to be appalled by it.

Tiger Mom laments that we incorrectly respect our kids' individuality. We are too supportive and nurturing,  encouraging our children to pursue their true passions as they decide how to live their lives. She thinks we should be teaching our children to never give up, to choose hard work instead of excuses, and to hold themselves to high standards, so they can achieve anything they want in life. 

We do that. Don't we?

Tiger Mom says we work too hard to protect our kids' self-esteem. Instead, we should protect our children by preparing them for the future; arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that can't be jarred by failure.

We do that. Don't we?

Westerners may not utilize shame as motivator, or demand near perfection in academics or music performance in elementary school. But a whole lot of us are planning, working at and maneuvering our kids' childhoods in ways that will best set them up for success.

And how do we Westerners evaluate success for our kids?

"I think for a lot of parents, college admissions is like their grade report on how they did as a parent." Madeleine Rhyneer, dean of students at Willamette University observes.
College Admissions?


Sports. AP courses. Standardized tests.  Musical instruments. Voice. Languages. Art.  We spend a lot of time, effort and money determining how our child can stand out during the College Admissions process.

A late summer NY Times essay depicts how parents have stoked the process to new heights: "Students preparing to apply to college are increasingly tailoring their summer plans with the goal of creating a standout personal statement.. for the Common Application.  ...A dizzying array of summer programs have cropped up to feed the growing anxiety that summer must be used constructively. Students can study health care in Rwanda, veterinary medicine in the Caribbean or cell cloning at Brown University, or learn about Sikkim, India’s only Buddhist state."

Bruce Poch, the former dean of admissions at Pomona College, said his staff sometimes joked about the “complete disappearance of summer jobs,” as college applicants flocked to internships where they could work with friends of their parents- internships that spruce up a college application.

"Suddenly, the idea of working as a waitress or a lifeguard seems like a quaint relic of an idyllic, pre-Tiger Mom past," author Jenny Anderson muses.

So has Tiger Mom prodded our competitive, fearful Western natures into action in the twelve months since her book and parenting philosophy shocked a nation?

Nope. We did it all by ourselves. 

This past August at my daughter's convocation ceremony, the Dean of Admissions at the college profiled a few members of the incoming class. These students were as accomplished as they were brilliant: one spoke five languages, another helped build an orphanage in Haiti, one played cello with six National Orchestras, yet another started an ice cream business as a young teen.

My younger daughter- now a senior in HS who has just completed all of her college applications- listened to this staggering list of student accomplishment and gasped, "I am never going to get into college!"

Poor kid.

You see, she knew that she didn't get Tiger Mom or Helicopter Mom for a parent.

She got Swamp Mom. 
Not the Swamp Mom who provides fresh water and oxygen for life- as all good swamps do. 

Swamp Mom who,  life-logged, sometimes can't see the forest for the trees. 

Not the Swamp Mom who teems with life- moving gracefully, slowly, deliberately through time.

Swamp Mom who has lots of kids and obligations, and repeats upon the hour: "I am swamped!  You'll figure it out!"

If you google Parenting Styles, you will not find "Swamp Mom.'  (In fact, unless you are studying Developmental Psychology, you will scroll through all those pages and weep.) 

But Swamp Mom exists. 

She doesn't read manuals or parenting magazines. She loves and works and tries and listens and loses it, works and worries and loves some more.

Then she wakes up the next day, and REPEATS.  For a childhood.  Or two.  Or four.

Swamp Mom can be a treasure. Or a terror. She measures urgency by a look in a child's eye, an expression on her face, the decibel of a scream, or the discovery of blood.
Swamp Mom isn't going to sit with a child and work through hundreds of math problems that she forgot how to do long ago. She demands respect for others- instead of straight A s.

Swamp Mom won't preside over three hour lessons. She sends kids away to read, play guitar, play with friends, to mindlessly-and imaginatively- kick a ball or relax under a huge summer sky.

Swamp Mom can't take her kids to fix Haiti, so she'll drag them to the City Mission.

Swamp Mom skips summer camp so her kids can visit with- and learn from- elderly relatives.

Swamp Mom defines success as loving, being loved, and making a positive difference in the world- not by the name of a school that appears on a diploma.

Tiger Mom, Helicopter Mom, and all the other moms in the annals of parenting might think Swamp Mom is nuts. But she doesn't mind- because she sees herself in all of them. 

Swamp Mom isn't going to appear on the Today Show. Or a postage stamp.

But if you are a Swamp Mom, take heart.

Swamp Mom's kids seem happy.   

A couple of them are even going to respectable colleges.

She was swamped.  So they figured it out. 

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