Our time in Mexico had come to an end. I was packing up the Villa while RSH was running around town taking care of last minute business. How could two people possibly make such a mess in four short days?? I kept finding random pieces of clothing, toiletries, shoes all over the room, under the bed, under a blanket…right before we left, we thought we had everything packed, and RSH did a double check, opened a drawer and voila! Half his clothes were shoved inside. Finally, with suitcases packed, I focused on my carry-on. No First Class for me this time since there would be two of us flying home, meaning double the cost to upgrade. So, I loaded my bag up with the iPad and some parenting magazines, checked for my Kiehl’s lip balm, passport, tissues, headphones, and gum. I felt something at the bottom of my bag that was stopping me from keeping everything neat and organized. I reached in and pulled out a book. Man, I had some high expectations of myself on this trip! Not only did I pack four running outfits and shoes, but I also loaded up my iPad with recommended reads, and brought a book my girlfriend gave me to borrow from my girls’ weekend before. None of which I managed to do any of.
The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chau. I remembered my friend telling me it was a super easy read, in fact she read the whole thing on the plane ride from New York City to Las Vegas. I had heard about it from other bloggers and Twitter news feeds, but hadn’t had the time to explore it myself. I put it on the top of my carry on, and committed to get at least most, if not all of it read by the end of my trip. I had to accomplish something on my list other than catching up on my sleep and spending time with my husband!
What I had heard about this book, initially, was how offended the Mommy Bloggers were by being considered New Age and weak. Instead of pushing their kids to work harder and disciplining them when they didn’t, the Western parents (as Mrs. Chau refers to them), would allow their children to make their own decisions and choices so their kids enjoy and plan their own lives versus being forced to do things they didn’t want to do (for example: play the piano or violin), thus, contributing to the creation of a new generation of ill prepared and unmotivated adults. Because of all this immediate criticism, Mrs. Chau and her daughters were on the Today Show and other television programs pleading their case, explaining how this book was intended to be more of a farce on her own parenting style, and what she learned choosing to raise her children as a Chinese Mother, indicative of the way she was raised by her own parents.
I went in with an open mind. Parenting is hard. It is so hard. It’s overwhelmingly hard. There is no right or wrong answer, there is just experience, and it takes failures and successes to have that experience. At that point, you’ve already raised your own kids, and the only thing left to do with that experience is to share it with your children as they raise their kids. And, at that point, they probably won’t take your advice because, just like us, and our parents, and theirs, there is always a new way to parent your children. And at the time, that’s the way you think is right, until it doesn’t work, or it stops working. Before I read Amy Chau’s book, I actually thought I was doing a good job at being a parent. Ugh…I was so wrong.
When you work with amazing people who have opened their minds to all the different things the world has to offer, you can learn so much. Not only did my experience working for the Guru Fitness Company expose me to the many different dieting options of Vegan, Raw and Vegetarian, the different levels of yoga, and the transformational way of thinking and dealing with people and life in general, it also opened me up to a new way of parenting. Somewhere along my path, there was a discussion about the year 2012, and how the Mayans believe there will be a shift in conscientiousness. I found this to be rather intriguing. What did this mean? I already felt it happening on some level with all this talk about transformation and how we speak and think and act and feel and relate with others in this universe. But what they were talking about in this discussion is how children will start to be born with this shift already in place. It will be natural to them to know how to utilize the many tools we have spent years trying to understand. I thought back to a time when I was in Telluride, Colorado, having a pre-pregnancy massage. My son was born, and I was pregnant with my daughter. The massage therapist came highly recommended for pre-natal, as she also worked in essential oils, yoga and was a Doula. She also did not stop talking. As she spoke through my entire massage, she was telling me about how amazing this generation is going to be, how in-tune to the universe they are already in the womb, and how intellectual and observant they will be when they are born. I don’t know why, but I really did find this part of the conversation to be fascinating, thinking about how our brains and insight evolves and adapts to the changes in our environment socially and physically, with the introduction of every new generation. She went on to talk about how this generation is going to produce the most influential and powerful leaders we have ever seen. And I couldn’t help but feel a little envious of what my children were going to experience in life that I didn’t have the opportunity to because my generation was boring and dull.
Fast forward to the discussion happening with the people from my work, and it all clicked. We were producing some of the most fascinating, intelligent, compassionate human beings that will ever walk the planet, or at least the start of them. I had decided right then and there, that going forward, I was no longer going to be the Drill Sergeant parents I had thought of my parents to be. I was going to guide, and discuss and involve my children so they could become these phenomenal people. And I worked hard at that…making sure I included them in the discussion, helping them make choices and teaching them why and what the consequences would be for those choices, encouraging them to do things they enjoyed and to complete projects, teaching them compassion and acceptance along the way. Then two things happened that altered my life and my outlook on parenting. My son turned six, and we added two more children to our family.
During my pregnancy with the twins, I was so sick. All my plans to be healthy and fit were flushed down the toilet when I was admitted into the hospital for hyperemsis- extreme nausea and dehydration. Once I was maintaining with medication, I was already too big to keep practicing yoga, and because I was carrying twins, my doctor terminated any thoughts of daily walking. I was huge and tired all the time, and I carried most of my pregnancy during the hottest months in Las Vegas, so my kids and I were home bound for most of the summer, unless it was to the Purple Penguin Snow Cone Shack or the ice cream or custard shoppe. My son had just turned 6, and though Santa brought him a wii for Christmas, being stuck in the house with his over sized mother who was usually energetic and kept them busy with swim lessons, yoga, the park, etc., forced him to explore other options to keep him busy. Thus, his love and infatuation of Super Mario Brothers and the wii was born. Shortly after, he discovered his Nintendo DS, and the games and applications available on my iPad and iPhone. We couldn’t go anywhere without him wanting to play one thing or another. Our dinners and lunches, though quiet and relaxing for me, also became a topic of concern as I was realizing that I was hearing less and less from my son and more and more from his hand held video game device. After the babies were born, I realized how much harder it was to keep him from spending all of his free time playing video games while I was indulged in nourishing the babies and finding any extra minutes to sleep.
Trust me, I weighed all the options, justified every argument…he’s learning to be a logical thinker, he is practicing his fine motor skills, blah blah blah. But I was finding that as soon as he woke up in the morning, he was playing the wii, as soon as he came home from school, he would play the wii, on his way from downstairs to upstairs, he would grab his DS, and when I sent him to his room for quiet time, I would find him quietly playing on the iPad. Enough was enough! We have established routines, but they weren’t being implemented or forced. So we started giving him boundaries…in the morning, he had to get dressed, brush his hair and teeth, eat breakfast, take his vitamins and get his school belongings together first. If there was time after, then he could play wii. When he came home from school, he had to do homework first, bath, dinner…free time meant wii time. Here’s the deal though, he’s a smart kid, and those things only held his attention for so long. He would get through them quickly, and correctly, so he had all the free time in the world to play his video games. What was wrong with that, right? Wrong, so wrong.
We introduced him to Cub Scouts and piano. I didn’t have the time to take him, so my in-laws offered, which was great, but since I wasn’t there, I didn’t know what he was learning, or needed to be doing, so it was difficult for me to enforce rules around practicing or getting badges done. In late December, he was invited to play on a basketball team with some my girlfriends’ kids who were the same age. He talked about it non-stop for weeks leading up to the practice. I thought, this is going to be so fun for him! My husband and I were so excited for him to learn a team sport and be active. The first practice was on a Sunday afternoon, and it was windy. I took the twins and went shopping, and my husband took my son and daughter to the practice. I was looking for a bathing suit for Mexico and am in the dressing room of Nordstrom’s when my phone rings. It was my husband, stating in a calm, low voice that our son had no interest in playing and was on the monkey bars while the other kids were playing basketball. What?!?!? I demanded he get him on the phone. Realizing I’m in the dressing room, at first I was calm, and asked him to tell me why he wasn’t playing. What I got was that he was very insecure because he was smaller than the other guys, he didn’t know how to dribble a ball, or shoot a basket. I talked to him about being faster, being passionate, and practice makes perfect. To which he still whined and cried and said he wasn’t playing. It wasn’t my proudest parenting moment, but something just snapped and I wanted him to play. I knew once he got out there he would love it, I mean after all, he was the one who couldn’t stop talking about it. And maybe, there was a little bit of my ego mixed up in there. My sister’s son is a natural born athlete, seriously, the kid could throw a perfect football pass at 2 and plays soccer like a pro at five. I wanted my son to be good at something he loved, but I could see that if I didn’t push him to do something, he wouldn’t love anything. I don’t know who was around me, or if anyone heard, but I became a madwoman on that cell phone…threatening to take away his wii, his DS, the iPad, the iPhone…no video games, no shows, no TV unless he got out there on the court and played the whole practice. After a minute of silence on his end, and concern someone was calling the Child Protective Services on mine, he said, “Fine!” and hung up the phone. I didn’t hear back from my husband, so finished my shopping, went home and waited anxiously to see how it went. They walked in the door and he was like a new kid. He had discovered a new sport and he was in LOVE. I felt relieved that my tactics worked this time, but I knew there was a good chance of it not working again. Not only that, but I didn’t want to be that kind of parent. I just didn’t know how to not be. Until I read the book.