So I’ve opted out of being a “Tiger Mum”. Of course, I’m still ensuring that all homework is done and that it’s done decently, but I’m not giving extra homework from a revision guide. I’m still paying for private tuitions, but only in the subjects where my children struggle to reach the minimum standard. And I’m still buying past exam papers and revision guides, but I’m not queueing outside the bookshop at the crack of dawn.
Exasperated by my youngest’s reluctance to practice piano, I’ve even cancelled her lessons, much to the consternation of the piano teacher (she remarked that all children put up a fight about practicing their piano and implied it was their mums’ job to force them to do it). The tug-of-war between my daughter and me over piano practice had brought us (both) to tears when my husband decreed that, as piano was not a compulsory school subject, we wouldn’t pay for her piano lessons any longer. She could jolly well learn the piano when she was older and more inclined to do so. His intervention immediately restored peace and harmony to our household.
The other children too seemed happier when I relinquished my aspirations to “Tiger Mum” status. Most of the times. One day my older daughter came home from school looking grumpy.
‘What’s the matter, sweetie?’ I asked.
‘I got 80% in my English test.’
‘That’s fantastic! And I thought English was your weakest subject!’
‘No, that’s not fantastic: Chloe got 100%!’
So I had opted out of the academic race but my children themselves had begun competing!
Perhaps it’s competition that propels us forward, to do more and better, to stretch ourselves to the limits of our capabilities. Possibly we all – parents and children alike – need a race to run, a goal to achieve. We can race against others and regard our neighbour as an adversary, or we can compete against our last best and be happy for today being stronger than yesterday. We can pursue power, money and prestige, or we can pursue a place in our community, city, country and world, from where we can contribute to the common good. Wisdom lies in choosing a good race because, in the end, some races are worthier than others and because we become the race we choose. My wish is that we all may discover the race in which we are called to excel.
P.S. Back in the UK, our reluctant pianist asked us to resume piano lessons and she now practices without being asked.
Stefania is a wife, mother of three and a writer. She’s just returned from spending a few years in Singapore with her family. Stefania’s serious work is on her website: www.stefaniahartley.com but the fun stuff is in her blog: A Sicilian Mama’s Unsolicited Advice for Young Women. Follow her on Twitter @TheSicilianMama