Out With Tiger Mom, In With Leopard Mom
Tuesday, April 15, 2014 • 11:00am
I can admit it. I’m an overachiever. I’m a perfectionist. I aspire to do more than is humanly possible, and I often am quite disappointed in myself when time and time again I’m proven to be just that: human.
Quite frankly, I am who I am. I doubt I will ever change, and honestly I don’t aim to anytime soon. I like who I am, and I’ve learned to accept the things I cannot change in myself.
When it comes to motherhood, it is hard to know just how much of that to leave in, and how much of it to leave out. On the one hand, I do like the person I’ve become over the years, and if my kids turned out a lot like me, I don’t think that’d be so terrible. On the other hand, as a mother, you always want more, better, improvement in your kids. You don’t want them to be carbon copies of you. You hope they take that next step, and aspire to be even more, even greater, than the parents that produced them. Bottom line: I just want those two gorgeous offspring to be happy people.
I don’t want my kids to be bogged down with my self-doubt or anxiety. I don’t want them to worry if they did things just right. I don’t want them to lie awake at night wondering if they could have written that article from a better angle or fret that last night’s dinner lacked pizzazz.
Instead, I hope they make smart decisions. I hope they are confident in those choices. I hope they are, well, better.
At the same time, I struggle watching them get overwhelmed. I don’t want them taking on too much. For example, I limit them to one sport per season. I want them to be active but not too rushed around. I also give them summers off. We don’t do camps or sports. They have the summer to be kids and enjoy their friends and swim and play and relax.
Come school’s start, it is time to hit the books, get straight As, join the choir, submit a science project, play an instrument, practice sports, and … by the way, how did you let this B slip in there?
I guess some would call that being a Tiger Mom. I think it’s more like I’m a “Leopard Mom” really. I can’t change my spots. I don’t know how. I know I gave my kids some of those spots, and I hope they stick … just not too many of them.
When my son comes to me begging to quit one of his many musical activities, I cringe, thinking he is a quitter, lazy, what habits is this forming? But I try to take a deep breath, thank him for his honesty and realize that a sport, two clubs and three musical activities can be overwhelming. He shouldn’t be ashamed to admit it. I was proud of him ultimately for doing so. But, I won’t lie; it makes a little part inside of me suddenly goes completely insane.
I just want the very best for them, and to me, that means not quitting. When the going gets tough, the tough get tougher. They don’t quit.
I panic and start to think he’ll never get into a good college. I think that means he’ll ultimately be living in my basement for life, without a decent job. I figure being a quitter means he’ll never really put the hard work in that’s required for a decent marriage. Hell, if he just keeps quitting things, he’ll never even have a long-term relationship.
Mid-internal anxiety attack, I realized I must not have spoken for several minutes. My son just stared at me, smiling. His hazel eyes shine. His freckled cheeks round into a grin. It’s a crooked-tooth, completely happy grin.
“I promise, mom,” he says. “I’ll give it my all in everything else. It’ll be OK.”
Maybe it is just that good-looking face. Maybe I’m a gullible parent. Either way, I smile back. Somehow, that 8-year-old has the magic to bring me back to reality. He, and often his sister, age 6, continue to remind me that they are just fine, Mom’s spots and all.
Which … in turn … though I seldom admit it, must mean I’m doing something right somewhere in there. Sure, they have a little bit of mom’s brand of crazy, but they are going to be just fine.
Melissa S. Treacy is the co-owner and publisher of Treacy Media Holdings, operator of The Alternative Press of Lower Providence and North Penn. She resides in Lower Providence with her son, 9, and daughter, 6, and husband and co-owner James Treacy. Melissa graduated summa cum laude from Pennsylvania State University with a bachelor's degree in journalism. She previously was employed by Montgomery Newspapers, as a reporter and then managing editor for the Spring-Ford Reporter and Valley Item. She then worked for Broad Street Publishing as an executive editor for My Community Trend, a Sunday suburban community insert to the Philadelphia Inquirer. After the Inquirer, Melissa was the Regional Editor for Montgomery County Patch.com sites, a chain of hyperlocal community news sites operated by AOL. She enjoys coaching her children's sports teams, playing with her half rot/half black lab Kaya, cooking new recipes and hanging out with her Rogers Road neighborhood. Contact her anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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