Do I have to write about the Tiger Lady? I do? Really? Ok, fine.
Much has already been said about Amy Chua and her Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and all the excerpting she’s done from it to promote it. She talks about non-Western styles of parenting that are heavy on academic drilling and low on fun. Some people say she’s onto something, some people say she’s a child abuser, some people say she’s looking for all of us to buy her book so she can get really, really rich off of making her kids practice piano and never have playdates so they can spend all their time being the very best at everything they do. Except gym class. They don’t have to be the best at gym class.
I have no opinion about any of this.
Seriously. I don’t know the Tiger Lady or her kids or her husband. I know only what I read in the Wall Street Journal and I really don’t care about any of it. It’s not how I’m raising my own son, that’s for sure. Hell, I don’t even have a place for a piano in my house much less a burning desire to make my son practice it for hours on end. But if that’s what works for Tiger Lady and her kids, ok. Fine. Not my business. Some people have lobbed abuse accusations at the Tiger Lady for her description of the things she said to her kid while forcing her to learn a difficult piano passage and maybe there are grounds for that. But is she worse than Tiger Woods’s dad was making him hit balls hour after hour? Is she worse than those pageant moms on Toddlers and Tiaras? Is she an abuser or another variant on Mama Rose of Gypsy fame? I don’t know. And I’m not losing any sleep over it.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’d like her very much. I thought the Tiger Lady sounded smug, didactic, and annoying in her article and I would not accept a lunch invitation from her. But she probably thinks I’m wimpy, permissive, and undisciplined and she’d probably turn up her nose at a invite from me as well.
It’s a free country. Which means I’m free to not give a damn about what anyone else is doing.
I don’t really care about how anyone else is raising their kids, short of true abuse or neglect or totally egregious behavior such as putting your children on reality tv or that new MTV show that’s got under-age teens doing really graphic sex scenes. I don’t care if you co-sleep or park your kids in the guest house. I don’t care if you bottle feed or nurse until they’re starting college. I don’t care if you use a time-out chair, withhold privileges, or just have long, deep talks with your kids when they misbehave. Don’t care! I might not accept playdates if I think your kids behave badly but mostly, I don’t care.
And, unlike the Tiger Lady, I’m not arrogant enough to think you care about how I’m raising my child, which is why you don’t see a lot of parenting advice or anecdotes rolling around on this here blog.
(I will tell you that M&Ms are not really helping with potty training. They only help inasmuch as they provide leverage to get the boy to stop what he’s doing long enough to go potty but they’re not interesting enough to make him pay attention to his own bladder in the hopes of getting some. I’m thinking of adding a special “pull-up fund” to his college account. Though he’s way more potty trained at daycare than at home so maybe that will translate into being house-broken in the freshman dorms as well.)
(Wait, I distinctly remember watching a drunk guy wet his pants right in front of me in my freshman dorm. S0, scratch that last thought.)
The main point is, we all spend a lot of time judging other people for how they parent and the result is people like Tiger Lady capitalizing on it in the form of radical parenting books. She’s counting on people who think she has a good idea to buy her books and flock to her signings. She’s also counting on people who think everything about her sucks to show up at her events and yell at her and generate press. She’s a parenting shock-jock, the Howard Stern of mommy manuals. And just like I can’t worked up about Howard Stern, I can’t get worked up about her either. I’ve got my own kid to raise my own way.
While the Tiger Lady is listening to her kids play flawless duets for piano and violin, I’ll be surrounded my Matchbox cars and toy train tracks, with my son jumping from game to game, making noise and not being perfect. I hope she’ll be having as much fun as I will.