Friday, January 28, 2011

Potty Training Trickery

I really wanted to trick teach Cyd that the potty is where pee goes. Not Fiona's bedroom rug. Not the couch. Not the bed. And especially not in the corner of the living room where all the electrical cords meet.

So I (secretly, with Fiona as my accomplice) replaced her booster seat with the potty chair for dinner, and after a fabulous meal of I don't even remember what, she peed! In the potty! By mistake, but still!
Cyd is going through a "naked" stage right now, which is perfect considering all the random peeing that's going on.

She was very confused when it happened, being so used to pee trickling down her legs and the inevitable wipe down and very non-threatening reminder that she should pee in the potty.  But we clapped and clapped and clapped and gave her chocolate chips and I was so freakin' happy as I envisioned a diaper-free future.

I really need to stop worrying about pee so much. I've used the word "pee" way too many times in this post, so I'll stop now. But come on! This is a momentous event!

Then again, it's not exactly hygienic to urinate while eating. I suck as a mother.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sometimes, a Tiger Cub Just Needs a Hug

A recent article featuring Amy Chua's "Tiger Mother" philosophy is hitting a nerve. Chua explains that Chinese children typically excel in academics and music because they are pushed to expect nothing less than perfection. It isn't enough to "do your best". Instead, the Chinese child must be THE best. This is accomplished by continual drilling, hours of practice, and constant reminders by the parents that coming in a close second is unacceptable. Parents reinforce these expectations by shaming the child for any sub-par academic performance (such as an A-). It's OK to insult your child, to use verbal abuse, such as calling the child "garbage". It's OK to make a child feel that winning a top medal is the only goal worth reaching. The child learns that it's either/or: getting the gold or being a failure, a loser.

Seriously? When I first read this article, I thought, surely, she's being satiric here. Surely, this is a very well written joke. But there was no punchline. This is how Chua is raising her own two daughters, about which she has written extensively in her new book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother".

In spite of my outrage, I found a little piece of me in that philosophy. A small part. And it bugs me. I want my daughters to be smarter than the rest because it makes me feel good about myself. There. I said it. It feeds me. I haven't read Chua's book, so I don't know if she admits this to herself. But it's true.  Fiona has just begun her academic career and I am hovering closely, ensuring she does everything she can to excel. I find myself continually reinforcing her achievements. She, surely, senses how important this is. To me.

While all of us want our children to be successful, each of us defines success in varying ways. Chua places most, if not all, emphasis on measurable aspects such as academic grades and precision in mastering a difficult violin piece. But what about creativity and thoughts that occur outside of boxes and textbooks? What about kindness and compassion and the ability to play well with others?

During parent/teacher conferences, I swell with pride when the teacher describes Fiona's progress, and shows us the chart that proves she is excelling way (WAY!) past the other students. But I nearly choke back tears of joy when the teacher goes on to rave about what a nice child she is and how her self-confidence has grown over the course of a school year.

Although I sometimes find myself pushing (strongly encouraging?) Fiona to do her best in school, I am most proud of her when I observe her being genuinely kind to her sister or when she intervenes when one of her friends is being unfairly treated by a peer. I also value and nurture the artist in her as she creates new worlds with crayons, markers and her quirky imagination. I treasure the uninhibited movements of her limbs as she constructs original choreography, composed of bounds and twirls, accompanied solely by her own internal music.

I value her entire, beautiful being and my primary goal as a parent is to ensure she does the same.
And if she gets the occasional B, I'll get over it. Really.