The Battle With My Inner Tiger Mom Tendencies

About a month ago, we sent one kid halfway around the world to a place weve never been, to live with people wed never met in the interest of giving him a little culture and us a little break from having to wade through the mess in his room to collect our dinnerware.

Even before Jack became an exchange student, we were fairly involved in this program, which meant regularly telling other parents to suck up and deal with the fact their kid was out from under their wing well before we knew what it was like to send our own kid packing. Ill admit to being less than sympathetic than we could have been. Not that naivet has ever stopped me from lecturing.

One thing I didnt anticipate was how much sending Jack away was going to dial up latent tiger mom tendencies I never realized I have.

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There was a thing recently about language lessons. When school opened in Denmark for the year, Jack mentioned something about foreign students being offered additional instruction in Danish. Which was helpful because his whole winging it strategy was not panning out as well as hed hoped.

Later in the day I messaged to ask how the lessons went and found out hed missed his first session. Something about a misunderstanding and thinking someone was going to come for him, but they didnt and he wasnt sure about the time anyway, and, well, there you go.

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This kind of thing, as it turns out, is a bit of a trigger. There is really nothing worse to hear than I screwed up or missed a memo or forgot, and now I have to sit something out.

When my kid tells me something just happened or didnt happen because of his lack of action, it makes my eye twitch. It doesnt have anything to do with whether that something was worth the slightest amount of effort. Its the lack of action resulting in squandered opportunity that gets me.

Some of my earliest memories have to do with obsessing over what if?

There was, for example, The Caterpillar Story:

Once a little girl went to the garden store with her mom and sister. It was eleventy-bajillion degrees outside, but the girls mom probably thought her children had enough time in front of the boob-tube and needed to get out.

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On the garden store counter was a fish bowl with a couple of huge, hairy caterpillars. The winner of a drawing would take the whole set-up home. The mom asked if the girls wanted to enter and one of them — who was hot and tired and didnt want to miss The Electric Company said meh, were more into frogs, anyway, and asked to go home.

From that day on, throughout the rest of the summer and into the start of the school year, the lazy girl who had just wanted to watch TV would lay awake at night and wonder, what if she had won the drawing? What if huge, furry caterpillars are actually great pets? What if she could have trained them to eat from her hand and sit up and do any number of furry caterpillar tricks?

She would never know because shed squandered the opportunity to enter the drawing and was doomed to have nothing but loud, little tree frogs in jars on her window sill making all kinds of racket while they lived out their short, agonizing lives wondering how they managed to be captured by a heartless little girl and now lived in a jar with sticks and grass and nothing to eat.

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Okay, so flash forward and Jack misses a Danish lesson because he wasnt really paying attention. What followed was me sitting on my hands to keep from typing anything more intense than oh well, Im sure youll figure out where your class is tomorrow or sometime.

Who am I to say get your butt off that chair and go find out when your stinking lessons are?

Im the person who lets unlabeled bags of baby teeth accumulate. And nobody needs a lecture from his mother halfway around the world.

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And no, the irony of my wanting to take an exchange student — someone who has recently flung himself into daily scrutiny of his clothes and his manners and his way of speaking and any and every ridiculous thing going on in his home country by the shoulders and shout carpe-freaking-diem, is not lost on me.

And things like this do tend to work themselves out, if I can let them go. A kid will eventually find his way to a class, even if his mom isnt there to guide him by the hand, just like a six year-old will get a grip and realize it was probably good for the caterpillars she didnt enter the drawing, based upon what eventually happened with the frogs.

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Sometimes missed opportunities are occasions for a mom to practice her coping skills. Other times theyre the universe or whatever telling you caterpillars dont make good pets.

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