March 1, 2013
Tiger Mom, Dictator Mom, Jewish Mom
I am not a “Tiger Mom”. In fact, in reading the list of things tiger specialist and author Amy Chua says make her one, there is nothing tiger mom-ish about me. I am proudly a Jewish mother in many of the ways Jewish mothers are stereotyped with, but I am also a dictator mom. I discovered that this week when I was having a heated discussion with my teenager and in the span of five minutes said, “Because I said so” a dozen times. Oh dear.
We have been arguing about homework and it is stressful. I am a very hands on and hovering mother. I make no excuses for it, nor do I think it is a bad thing. I have a wonderful human being for a child and since I raised him on my own. I take credit for his being a responsible, kind, caring, smart, generous, funny, and sincere mensch. I love him and am proud of who he is and how he conducts himself. I am truly baffled by our arguing.
I don’t understand how it is that we are on such different pages when it comes to his homework. I won’t get into the details because I want to respect him and our relationship, so you will need to trust me when I tell you I am right on this one and he is wrong. Period. The fighting got me thinking about what kind of mother I am. I know a lot of mothers and I am more unlike them than like them, so what does that say about me?
My kid is number one in my house. There is nothing I would not do to make this kid’s life happy, healthy and whole. I am not perfect, but I am dedicated to him and very clear about how blessed I am to be his mother. I don’t take him for granted and don’t put anyone or anything ahead of him on my list of priorities. That is how I am as a mother. I get sad when I screw up with my kid because it feels like I’ve wasted time with him.
He will leave to college in a year and so I want his time with me to be great, not full of fighting and nagging. I clean his room for him because he will have his whole adult life to do that. I do his laundry, prepare his meals, and it is my pleasure. I will leave the nagging to his wife, but I imagine there won’t be too much of that because while I do these things for him, he has been taught to do them on his own and is good at it.
I am Jewish and so of course guilt is a tool I use when mothering, but there is a difference between trying to guilt your kid into something and shaming them into something and I don’t shame. Things my seventeen-year-old son deals with are nothing like what I dealt with when I was his age. In retrospect, my life was easy compared to his. I remember thinking life was hard and my parents were out of touch, but it is nothing like now.
Kids today are dealing with issues on a much larger scale than my generation ever did. My generation smoked pot and dropped acid while kids now can buy heroin at school. My generation worried about getting pregnant if they had sex, kids now have more sexually transmitted diseases than I can even list. I had an hour of homework every night and our kids have hours and hours of homework every single day. It is much different.
I don’t remember what my life was life before I had a baby, but I remember everything about my life as a mother from the second I found out I was pregnant and fainted, to the first time I felt him kick, to the second he was born, to the time he asked me to marry him, to his first day of school, to his Bar Mitzvah, to his first time taking the car on his own, and every single second in between. I love him completely and he knows it.
One would think that my home would be a democracy, but no. I am a dictator and what I say goes. My child thinks I am ridiculous, my Englishman thinks I am bossy, my mother laughs that I have become her. I want my son to be the best he can be and for me being the best means happiness. I don’t care what career path he chooses, as long as he is happy with it. I don’t care who he marries, as long as he is happy, and she is Jewish.
I use to have a swear jar in my home as I am known to cuss. A lot. I once wed my kid $100 in one week so that jar went away. Cussing is part of my vocabulary and so we deal wit it. We have a new jar however and a buck is going in every time I say, “Because I said so.” I don’t want to be a dictator; I just want homework to be done without fighting. I want to gently release my son to fly away, not have him fly the coop.
Being a mom is rewarding beyond compare, but it is also really, really hard. There is no right or wrong way; whatever you do to make your kids happy is the right way. If my son looks back at his childhood and remembers it as happy, then I have done my job. If one day his response to his own children is “Because I said so”, then I have done my job well. All I can do is pray I’m doing okay, try to stop being a dictator, and keep the faith.