Please don’t tell me it’s a lost school year. Because if you really do believe that, you clearly don’t live with Tiger Dad.
My Tiger Dad was born and raised in Kolkata. My Tiger Dad was an engineer, and he came to America with a handful of dollars in his pocket. He had no friends and no family in the U.S. He lived in the YMCA in Manhattan for a while. He found work as a janitor. He could only afford a pint of fried rice which he split every day with a friend. He eventually became a Fortune 500 Executive.
For my Tiger Dad, my mastery of mathematics was the most important thing. Nothing else mattered. Not friends, not toys. Not weekend sleepovers, not after school activities. My understanding of vertices and edges, of those dreaded long-distance world problems, and the outcomes of flipping a penny ten times, would be my ticket to a better life.
Memories of my summers were cluttered with images of bike riding, freeze tag, and watching TV while cooling down with popsicles. And flipping through that math book. Because if I was finishing the fourth grade, Tiger Dad would borrow the fifth grade math book. I was expected to complete the entire book that summer. Then there was no reason not to get 100% on any and all math tests when school resumed in September.
Honestly, I didn’t even know that this was Tiger Dad behavior until Amy Chua came along.
Yale Law School Professor Amy Chua coined the term “Tiger Mom” in her book, The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom. The stereotype of the Tiger Mom is often a portrayal of a Chinese mother. She relentlessly drives her child to study hard. In some cases, negatively impacting the child’s social development and emotional well-being.
We know you don’t have to be a Chinese mother to be a fan of Tiger parenting.
So for my Tiger Dad, summers were clearly lost school time. For my kids’ Tiger Dad, COVID-19 is clearly lost school time.
“They will be behind when school starts,” roars Tiger Dad at me as he logs onto one Zoom call after another, in between our own work conference calls. He frantically prints out assignments and Scotch tapes schedule after schedule in my four-year-old and seven-year-old’s virtual schooling corners. In the evening, he obsessively uploads all the completed assignments onto Google classrooms. This is in between the two us trying to hold down demanding full-time jobs.
“He is missing Spanish class!” Tiger Dad roared as he bounced up the stairs last week. “They just sent out the link.” I put my conference call on mute, slowly starting to get up from my makeshift desk. I pretended to also panic and then found myself grabbing potato chips instead.
I wondered if Tiger Parenting is genetic. If it is, it seems to have skipped a generation in my family. And coupled with the intense pressure of living with Tiger Dad has only led to one thing: I have become the Sloth Mom.
I am not the first one to coin the term “Sloth Mom.” Yet in a time of a pandemic, the Sloth Mom brings on an entirely new meaning. And guess what? I am winning as a Sloth Mom during COVID-19.
Tiger Dad doesn’t believe in screen time of any form.
Most of our evenings end in loud screams, with Tiger Dad wrestling our seven-year-old boy to the floor, grabbing the remote out of his hand. In the early mornings, Sloth Mom hands the remote back to her cubs, while she cuddles on the couch and Tiger Dad sleeps in his den. We try hard not to wake Tiger Dad up.
Tiger Dad believes ALL homework assignments, including optional ones, should be completed on time, in full.
Even a pandemic won’t be an excuse for incomplete homework. On Friday night, our cub worked until 8 pm to finish his U.S. history assignment. Tiger Dad wouldn’t let it go. Sloth Mom dozed off on the couch, unable to intervene after finishing a can of Rose Cider.
Tiger Dad doesn’t believe in sugar.
“How many packs of fruit snacks did they have? Who gave her that lollipop? Why is there an empty apple juice box in the trash?” growls Tiger Dad. Sloth Mom shrugs her shoulders as Tiger Dad gnashes his teeth and heads back to his laptop. After one cub has finished reading her BOB Books, Sloth Mom pops some chocolate chips in her mouth (and her own mouth) as a reward. (I am convinced that there’s a study coming out saying sugar is not bad… wait for it.)
The Tiger Dad believes in strict rules, tough love and discipline to get children to succeed. The Sloth Mom believes in fewer rules, more cuddles, and self-directed learning (screen time, couch time, and more screen time) to get children to succeed.
The Tiger Dad’s goals are to raise the next Senator Kamala Harris, the next Melinda and Bill Gates, the next great Dr. Fauci who will lead us through a future pandemic. The Sloth Mom’s goals are to raise kind human beings. To ensure they get off the family payroll by 21 years old. And to ensure the Sloth Mom doesn’t become an alcoholic during this pandemic.
I dream of what it would be like to be united in Sloth parenting with my husband during COVID-19. Both of us lounging on the couch while sharing a very large bag of potato chips. Leaving our kids to color, scribble scrabble, and pretend to read as they flip through books. Both united in the fact that hey, it’s totally okay if they repeat pre-K and second grade.
As I message my BadA$$ Moms WhatsApp group, I am snapped back into reality. One BadA$$ mom decides to do a spontaneous half-day and not complete any of the assignments. Another is baking cookies with her kids during the middle of the day. Finally, another BadA$$ mom decides it’s time to take a family nap.
Oh, what I wouldn’t give to have a quick nap during the day. And we can’t — because don’t forget about that afternoon art class. We are raising the next Picasso, after all.
On most days, I am thankful for Tiger Dad. Because I know my kids will be showing up in the fall ready to start third grade and kindergarten. One year closer to college, and that means closer to being out of the house. There is no lost school year in our home.
For now, we take it day by day. And I am not focused on winning today’s battle; I am focused on winning the long-term war. Although I did just negotiate some extra screen time this week to watch Cinderella (thank you, Disney+).
Now let’s just hope the Tiger Dad doesn’t turn on us and eat the Sloth Mom. In the meantime, this Sloth Mom will go back to her corner spot on the couch and take a quick nap.
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