Or perhaps, The Battle Hymn of the Tigger Mother.
Amy Chua is already backing slowly away from her smackdown of Western parenting that was published by the Wall Street Journal a couple of weeks ago. She claims surprise that it engendered such a negative reaction and that if people only read the whole book they would see that she has given in somewhat by allowing playdates and such after her younger daughter rebelled.
And though David Brooks did address the issues of denying one's children a social life, most of the rest of the world picked up on the verbal abuse.
That's certainly what got me.
Like a lot of other grown women all over the Internet, I was on the receiving end of those insults, restrictions, and humiliations as a child. I wish I could say that they had pushed me to become a high achiever, hugely successful with a Type A personality that never let anyone stop her. But no.
For most of my life I pretty much had a big F for Failure stamped on my forehead, and it wasn't until I was in my mid-30s that my husband managed to convince me otherwise.
My upbringing is a big part of the reason I was just fine with not having any daughters. I just couldn't see being able to handle those aspects of myself that I have always had the most difficulty with. I was afraid to look at a daughter and see myself, and I was afraid not to.
Instead, I have Tigger. Tigger could so easily be related to me by blood, he fits in with my family tree of control freaks so well that it is scary sometimes. Some of the things that drive me craziest about him are the things that remind me of myself.
My mother was on me constantly for all the noises I made. I had a hard time sitting still unless I was reading a book, and even then I was probably fidgeting, making popping and clicking noises, and worrying the pages of the books I was reading (the creases and wrinkles can still be seen in my copy of Charlotte's Web that I just gave Pumpkin to read). While waiting for my turn in Scrabble I would make bubble sounds by running my tongue back and forth against my upper lip, or tap my fingers, or bite my nails. My sweet grandmother never said a word (except about the nail biting) but the rest of it drove my mother up a wall backwards.
Like me, Tigger prefers never to be alone.* He has not ever been able to entertain himself without the TV. I had to learn because I spent hours alone in my room, because it was the only way my mother could have some peace. Fortunately, I loved to read and could be hidden away for hours with my nose in a book. Tigger hates to read, but he loves his radio as much as I did back then. Sometimes the only way to stop his constant attention-demanding behavior is to isolate him, but knowing how it felt, I really hate to do that. It doesn't really solve the problem long term. Just this morning he got sent upstairs for his attitude. Of course he doesn't settle in with a book, but picks up the mini-basketball in his room and shoots hoops. Now there's no backtalk, but the bouncing and banging can be heard throughout the house.
Tigger is one of those kids you have to constantly keep an eye on. He will take advantage of any opportunity to get away with something that he's not typically allowed to do. He has, from the very beginning, gone to great lengths not to do what is asked of him, especially if he has any inkling that it's something that is good for him. I had much more fear in me than that, but I went to great lengths to avoid doing homework from the fourth grade on. He would too, but there's now the happy advantage of having his teacher post the homework assignments on her website. Gotcha!
Raising him has been an endless game of deciding which battles to pick, because it could easily all be a battle. If it's healthy, he doesn't like it; if it's warm, he doesn't want to wear it; if it will help him with his self-control, he's not interested; if it will make him smarter, he doesn't want to deal with it. I have largely stopped buying desserts lest I find that he has gone through an entire box of cookies before I'm even awake.
Like me, and my mother before me, his control freakishness is born of insecurity. Of my two kids, it is Tigger who most feels that loss that adoptees experience. He can't really put a name to it, and I'm not sure that he ever will, but I know that my unwillingness to be alone became nearly tangible after my father died.
And so I can empathize with Tigger, who lost me in a big way when we brought a second child home and Pumpkin's behaviors took up all my time, energy, and most of my sanity for a while there. Tigger's nowhere near back to getting equal time with me, but we can talk about it now, and I can let him know that I recognize his frustration. Making time for him is something I need to get better about. I think it surprised him that I made it to nearly all his soccer games this fall. I hadn't made it to any last year, because I was busy keeping Pumpkin out of trouble.
This morning some woman in church stopped to compliment me on Tigger's behavior. That she used the word "turnaround" alarmed me a bit, but I knew what she meant. Of course while she chalked it up to good parenting, I said a silent prayer of thanks to Concerta. I wish I could take more credit for the things he does well, but the fact is, without the medicine offering us some relief from his impulsivity, we would not have been able to get as far as we have. There is no greater evidence of that than the attitude problem we have with him nearly every morning and when the meds have worn off. The teenage years should be a blast.
If anything, the medication has enabled us to raise our expectations for him, because it has forced us to examine those expectations (ADHD kids, says our pediatrician, are usually very smart), and the impact they had on his expectations for himself. He was behind in reading, but this year he is back up to grade level (doesn't like it any more than before, sadly). He hates to do anything "hard" but he selected an instrument to study (the violin) that I consider rather challenging.
Our greatest struggle, as working parents, is to support him in his activities and reinforce his sometimes shaky commitment. We can do that without insulting or humiliating him.
I don't care if he becomes a doctor, or a lawyer, or the next Yo Yo Ma (yes, I know he plays the cello). What I really want for Tigger is to find something he loves and find a way to make it a successful part of his life. I don't want him to be forced to follow a path he hates, or find himself stuck in an office cube in his 40s, desperate for a way out.
I want him to remain curious, learn how to be happy, and to continue to grow his generous spirit. I want him to understand that he needs to be in control of himself before he can be in charge of others, and I want him to realize that, though acheivement is often arrived at through struggle and pain; love really shouldn't be.
*As an adult, I know cherish my alone time, even if it is just the commute in the car, but it took me a long time to get to that point.