Tiger Mother Meets Free-Range Mama: One Mom Discusses How She Straddles The Fence Between Two Worlds


by For Two Fitness May 30, 2012

Today, we are honored to share a touching perspective from a local Los Angeles  mom.  Although not specifically about fitness, if you love “Chicken Soup for the Soul” or Oprah, you’ll enjoy this moving post about parenting, hopes, dreams, and reality…
Recently, my local online mom group (Peachhead.com) had a thread discussing a Washingtonian article about Type-A parenting.  How well-educated parents, eager to make sure their children are well ahead of the pack, were Tiger-parenting or helicopter-hovering over their kids.  How much was enough, how much wasn’t.  The thread went on and on with many parents concluding the importance of over-scheduling their child’s day with brain-enriching activities.

 

I fit some the article almost to a T as well, but for different reasons.  Older mom (39 for my first), JD, good career, married an MBA from Kellogg etc.  I grew up going to Cal Tech with my father to listen to lectures on astrophysics.  My kids would be geniuses, surely.  They would go to MIT.    

 

Then I had my first:  despite having eaten almost exclusively organic foods during my pregnancy with him, he was born with a massive and extremely rare brain deformity and had seizures since birth.  I stopped counting at 543 seizures by 9:30 a.m. on day four of his life.  Just in one day.  A cocktail for four, five, six anti-seizure medications didn’t stop his seizures so at three months old we had most of the left half of his brain removed to stop them.   Yes, the half that harbors the receptive and expressive language parts of the brain.  And where math resides. And thinking analytically.  No MIT for him.

 

That’s when I became the mom in the article.  The Tiger Mother.  The helicopter mom.  I’ve read every book on brain injury, rehabilitation, and every type of physical, occupational, speech, vision, and behavior therapy known in the world.  I have a doctorate in neuroscience, neurology, epileptology, and neurosurgery from Google U.  That’s because he’s partially blind, non-verbal, severely cognitively delayed, has cerebral palsy and still has seizures.  Four brain surgeries later, the last of which rendered him in the ICU for a month and unable to eat or walk for three months, and we still face ten seizures per day.   He’s definitely over-scheduled, but not in a Mommy and Me class where we sing songs (he cannot talk) or finger paint (he’s partially paralyzed and doesn’t understand the concept of painting) but with a behaviorist who is trying to teach him the concept of communicating beyond screams and grunts.  My goal is for him to be the best he can be.  Again, perhaps just like the moms described in the article and perhaps like many of you.

 

Then along comes my second:  perfectly typical; no brain deformity; a sheer joy.  Unfortunately, he came along at the worst time in our oldest’s life, so I had to leave the baby with just about anybody who could watch him while his brother was in the hospital.   Or I’d have to stick him in his crib with a bottle (egads!  did I mention I couldn’t nurse him because my milk stopped coming in due to stress!?  The nerve!) so that I could attend to his older brother.  No play dates, no Gymboree, no Mom’s Club, nothing.  Organic food?  As best as possible, but I must confess his first words (“yum yums”) were said as we drove by the golden arches.  In fact, we’re such frequent fliers at McDonald’s that they actually (I’m not exaggerating) know me by my first name.   And he was in bed (and still is) by 8:00 p.m. in his own crib because he had to be.  Because I was exhausted.

 

Fast-forward to today and my toddler is perfectly happy, albeit often quite dirty.  Just the other day he was drinking water out of the dogs’ bowl and I didn’t even flinch.  I just shrugged my shoulders.  Not even a mouthful of kibble is enough to make me leap out of my chair.  When he falls, the joke is he’d better be bleeding massively before mommy and daddy really come running.  We’ve simply been through so much with our oldest that it takes more than a scraped knee to make me jump.  So, when he does fall and scrape his knee, he exclaims “mama, I’m bleeding!” then “I’m okay!”  Yes, you are okay.  You are.

 

We’ve decided to be free range at our house.  And the television is on.  A lot.  Because it’s the only thing that calms my older son.  I think our toddler watches a good three hours a day of it with his brother.  He knows every character’s name, can recite his alphabet in English and Spanish, counts to twenty, sight reads thirty words at 2 1/2, and is fully bilingual (thank goodness for those telenovelas our nanny watches.)   

 

And I’m not worried about it a bit.  Because he’s healthy and happy.  And dirty.  And can hold a bowl, even if it’s the dogs’, and drinks out of it.  My older son cannot.  Ever.

 

My point is that if you feel you need to be a Tiger Mom, hovering around your child’s every move (and I know many), then it should be for the right reasons.  Is the goal the best university in the world someday or a wonderful human being?  I would give my life if my oldest could play all day in the mud.  Just pure, little boy, dirty fun.  If he could simply go to a community college and be a tradesman.  If he could be the guy at Whole Foods who bags the groceries.  If he could stick his fingers in a bowl of paint and purposefully make any mark on paper.  If he would just say mama.  Just once.  I would give my life for it.  MIT or not.

 

Monika Jones is the mother of two young boys and lives in the ‘burbs of Los Angeles, California.  Her oldest has had half his brain removed to stop seizures and the second is a typically-developing toddler who has been known to share his cookies with their dogs.  In her spare time, she founded The Brain Recovery Project:  a non-profit organization which helps children who have had half their brains removed reach their full potential.  She fully admits that she’s winging it just like the rest of us.

 

 
Monika is on the right, having some fun at the Wisconsin State Wife-Carrying Competition
 
 

 




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