The strength of motherhood is greater than natural laws. ~ Barbara Kingsolver
Oh how true this is, whether you are a Tiger, a Dragon or some other kind of mom, like me. Since I have finally managed to collect myself after last week’s article in the New York Times about the Dragon Mom (this is the new title seemingly being assigned to mother’s who are going to lose their child, my heart breaks even typing this), Kelly Rapp, whose son Ronan has the rare genetic disease Tay-Sachs and will likely not survive beyond his third birthday. I am including the link here for those that want to read it, but I will warn you I literally cried for days over this article and if you have had any issues with your children you may struggle with this read. That said, her eloquent story of how she started out like so many of us planning for the future and has been forced to now live for each moment with her son, is one that not only gives perspective but also goes so deeply into the core of every parent’s worst fear and the even more tragic thing is that she is not alone. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/16/opinion/sunday/notes-from-a-dragon-mom.html
By stark contrast you have the Tiger Mom, who has adopted the philosophy of Chinese Parenting and pushes their child from very early to position themselves for success. Mandarin lessons (or nannies), ballet, music, dance, sports, you name it, the child is to excel so as to set them up for the best future. In this scenario, everything comes down to planning for the future and living in the present, moment for moment, is not the point. It’s not to say it’s not done by any of the parents that adopt this style of parenting or that they aren’t good parents in their efforts to help their children excel, but the focus seems to be on the future and what needs to be accomplished to get there.
Then there is me.
As I look at the Zodiac Table, I wonder what kind of mom I am. Loyal, loving, fierce when need be, comforting, of strong spirit and resourceful.
In going through the table, and although I am Year of the Tiger as designated by my year of birth, I am far from a Tiger Mom well at least in the traditional sense. I live in the present mostly trying to get through each day. I am also, thankfully, no longer at risk of being a Dragon Mom in any way (knock on wood) so what else is there? In looking at this chart, I think I know where I belong, I am a Monkey Mom.
People often ask me if I have registered the kids for pre-school yet. They ask what I will do, where will they go, have I started interviewing yet. Each time my answer is to politely tell them no, as we do not yet know what will happen with E, but this will have a major impact on our decision. You see, as a Monkey Mom, I have looked down the barrel of being a Dragon Mom. From watching my tiny baby girl being resuscitated on her dresser at 3 am in our house 3 weeks after she came home to walking into a hospital every day and not totally sure what would greet me, but one day to be told, “she is very very sick, we aren’t sure what’s going to happen, we are doing everything we can to help her make it’ will help you check every future plan at the door quite quickly.
As a monkey mom, I hung by her side every moment. I talked to Doctors, nurses, therapists and resourcefully located whatever I needed to ensure she was comfortable and knew what any sign of distress might be. I stayed by her bedside so I would know every single thing that I needed to as pain meds were administered to my 3 month old baby who was now reintedbated on an oscillator vent as her Carbon Dioxide levels skyrocketed. I watched over her with a fierce eye and lovingly sang her songs and read books as she looked at me, tied down with a giant tube in her mouth so she wouldn’t dislodge it and do even more damage.
I moved at lightening speed to do whatever was needed to for her in those moments to ensure we wouldn’t lose her, that was the only goal, keep her alive.
I learned to take each moment and be unbelievably grateful. For each moment of eye contact, for each sweet baby breath, for each beat of her heart.
By this time Q was home with us, and in the way we could only learn, we finally knew what is was like to half- rest for a moment, half- peacefully on the couch with a sleeping baby on our chest.
Throughout the past 2 years, each of these monkey traits has been critically important at different times. To be able to fight for the physical and developmental needs of your children in a system not designed for you is something that takes loyalty, love, ferocity when need be, comfort, a strong spirit, and resourcefulness ( I suppose that ok, I do have a little tiger mom in me when it comes to ferociously looking after what’s best for my children and setting them up for their future).
Now, that E is progressing, albeit slowly, she is improving and perhaps for the first real time in the past 2 years, we can think about the future. Not just about therapies, and bills, and medical appointments but about education, playgroups and family vacations.
As a monkey, I am smart enough to know that I can now make this transition. To be hopeful, to not always prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. To not operate from a place of survival but to not push so hard that we lose the perspective I have grown to love, to just be with my minis. To smell their hair, and their breath, and play with them on the floor, and snuggle them, and steal moments, kisses, hugs and whatever else I can get whenever I can.
I love the idea of the Monkey Mom, since not everything has been seamless and something that I can take for granted but yet, I have been made stronger. I can take care of my family. And since Monkeys are social creatures, we are taken care of by others. By you.
Like all parents of premature babies, or those with physical or mental disabilities, you walk the line between planning for the future and celebrating every little tiny success. Whether it’s a recognition of a command, the movement of a leg in the way it’s naturally supposed to go but never has before, the ability to form a consonant. You show all the attributes described above and more. You serve as an inspiration to others and to me.
So, although I don’t really need a label, the process has been kind of fun, and today, I hope that you all can join me in planning for the future while treasuring each and every moment with the ones you love. You don’t have to be any animal to do this, but I can assure you that as a human, by trying to do this, it can help to make it ‘yournewfavoriteday.’
Do you find that you are a planner or a live in the moment type of person? Or are you a combination of the two?