Saturday, March 19, 2011

What a Tiger Mom Really Does

I meant to enter a writing contest this week. I often mean to enter writing contests, and then somehow manage not to track the deadline or make time/space to do the drafting/revising/editing and then pretend to be surprised when the deadline passes. 

This particular topic was near and dear to my heart. I don't even remember what the prize was (national publication + cash, I think); I just know that the topic was something I feel very strongly about, and that I can speak to. 

The question was, 'How have I changed motherhood, or how has motherhood changed me." And here is my answer: 

I can see now that I was never the wilting flower I thought I was. However, growing up - even while the rest of the world saw me as a gregarious, bold and outgoing leader in training, I saw only the girl who would avoid conflict at all costs and who would say or do whatever she thought she needed to say or do to have people like or at least accept her.

And then I became a mom. I don't know what hormonal or evolutionary switch was flipped, but I knew from the moment my son first cried at someone else's touch that I would tear someone apart rather than let him be hurt. 

I was the original Tiger Mom. Not the nasty, underhanded Tiger of golf. Not the over-bearing, domineering author of parenting how-to books. And certainly not imbued with a certain celebrity's ridiculous conception of tiger blood. I was the Tiger Mom whose eyes burned bright at the thought of my sons being threatened, and whose sharp claws were ever ready to protect them from whatever physical and emotional threats I could see. 

I had no idea how powerful I am before I became a mom. And I had no idea how strong I would need to be. I've battled doctors, teachers, other children. Yet the hardest of all has been battling my sons themselves when they became their own worst enemies. Those are the hardest battles. The battles when I want to just wrap my sons in my arms and hold them close, but instead I am baring my teeth to keep them from imminent danger.

They don’t tell you, in prenatal classes, that no matter how many baby gates and outlet covers and cupboard latches you buy, there will still be dangers. Dangers more insidious than electricity and longer lasting than falling down the stairs. Nobody warns you that sometimes you won’t see the danger until it’s almost too late, and then you’ll have to move at top speed and use every defensive and offensive option at your disposal to keep them safe.

Unjust teachers were easily converted. Doctors with deaf ears quickly had them opened. But nothing prepared me for keeping my sons safe when they were the ones who were hurting themselves, or for what it would take to fight my own instinct to just keep them happy with me and pretend everything was okay when all evidence pointed to a snake in the nursery.

Perhaps it’s not accurate to say that being a mother has changed me. But it has undeniably changed how I see myself. I am gregarious, bold and the leader that teachers and friends have generally seen in me. I am also the sometimes scared wall flower who just wants to be loved and accepted. But underneath either of those options – more base and raw and instinctual, I am the tiger mom who paces in the dark searching for hidden dangers. Who stands between her sons and the most immediate dangers. And who sometimes, when they’ll let me, picks them up by the scruff of the neck and pulls them back to the den to test their own mettle another day.

People used to laugh and call me a Tiger Mom. So be it – if my flashing eyes and tenacious roars mean that my sons get one piece of support, one opportunity or one easy, happy  moment they wouldn’t have otherwise, then Tiger Mom is a label I will wear with pride. 

1 comment:

  1. I hear you roar, Tiger Mom! (and I missed that deadline, too.)


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