minding the flock: aarg!

Dear Melissa,

That "aarg" is my very weak tiger roar because I just finished reading Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. The book is totally good. I really liked it, and ended up with a lot of respect for the author, Amy Chua, and think that her girls are lucky to have a mother who loves them so much, and who is so incredibly not-lazy. (And, she's really funny).

That being said, I don't think my goal in the end is to be a tiger mother. I think I'd rather be a cricket mother. What on earth do you mean, Lynne? you may be asking. I will try and explain and if you are not in it for the long haul, perhaps you should click away right now, because I have been thinking a lot about this and it will take me the long way around to explain. When I was growing up I loved listening to the crickets at night. I remember laying on a bed of itchy grass wearing my yellow terry-cloth shorts jumpsuit and light blue holly hobby polyester knee socks, feeling like the queen of the world hearing that vibrating chorus and watching the fireflies blink away while the stars popped out of the night sky. On those nights I had the feeling that all was possible: I might be a brilliant novelist, or an amazing artist, or...the dream most cherished of all...a mysterious and beautiful CIA agent, code name Samantha.

I kind of think that John Steinbeck was writing about times like this in East of Eden, when he talked about the "glory" (have you gotten to this part yet? It's on page 131 in my copy, and he says it better than I could explain):

"Sometimes a kind of glory lights up the mind of a man. It happens to nearly everyone. You can feel it growing or preparing like a fuse burning toward dynamite. It is a feeling in the stomach, a delight of the nerves, of the forearms. The skin tastes the air, and every deep-drawn breath is sweet. Its beginning has the pleasure of a great stretching yawn; it flashes in the brain and the whole world glows outside your eyes. A man may have lived all of his life in the gray, and the land and trees of him dark and somber. The events, even the important ones, may have trooped by faceless and pale. And then - the glory - so that a cricket song sweetens his years, the smell of the earth rises chanting to his nose, and dappling light under a tree blesses his eyes. Then a man pours outward, a torrent of him, and yet he is not diminished. And I guess a man's importance in the world can be measured by the quality and number of his glories. It is a lonely thing but it relates us to the world. It is the mother of all creativeness, and it sets each man separate from all other men."

What does this has to do with cricket mother? I think my point is kind of that I want my kids to have enough ROOM for spontaneous magic in their lives. Hard work is definitely part of the equation of opportunity - and hard work takes a lot of time (and to be practical if you've ever been around a seven year old trying to learn a stringed instrument or their times tables, a good deal of parental involvement or else it just won't happen, period) - but then I think you need to step back a little and just let them...be, you know? Like, let your child wander to the piano, figure out for an hour how to play "The Eye of the Tiger," and connect with the universe when he or she succeeds. Wasted time? I don't think so. That feeling of connection - the process of lighting up with yourself - those moments, like Steinbeck said, are what make life zingy and exciting - and then give you the momentum to propel yourself forward in your life, to engage with life. To watch your daughter head into the bathroom where she has discovered the acoustics to be amazing, and sing in a crazy falsetto voice all of the Christmas carols she knows and then emerge flushed with the conviction that she just loves to sing... we are not headed to Carnegie Hall, perhaps, or not even to the school talent show (a painful conversation), but an AWESOME afternoon.

Probably this doesn't quite make sense (I am on a lot of allergy medicine, after all, which doesn't seem to help my love of run-on sentences) - but long live crickets! And keep reading East of Eden - I can't wait to talk about why Cathy eats chalk.



melissa said...

Long live the cricket mother. You have said it all so perfectly. I spent a month or two being a tiger mother and it was miserable. I felt like a military commander, shouting orders, but missing all that beautiful zing that life can offer. Now that I've mellowed to my default parenting style which is more relaxed, but not too permissive, the whole household seems to feel more connected to the beauty, wonder and magic of this big wide experience called life. A happy life, full of imperfections, moments of wasted time perhaps, but perhaps also tiny bursts of glory.

Bethany Hissong said...

I loved how you explained it and I definitely agree. Looking back on my own childhood, it was those glory moments that make me who I am today. It's been years since I read East of Eden but I totally love that book!!!

Anonymous said...

Love your reverence for those "spontaneous" moments...indeed. I read Sandra Tsing Loh's review of Tiger Mom and, while I enjoyed her review (love her irreverent reviews), I wasn't sure I'd like the Tiger book. Glad to hear it was enjoyable and funny. What a great mix.

lynne said...

oh, I'm going to go look up Sandra Tsing Loh! Curious about what she said, for sure!

lynne said...

Jess - just found the article, was reading parts of it out loud to my husband with tears streaming down my face I was laughing so hard (OWLS!)

Here's the link if anyone is interested -

alexandra said...

Lynne, I loved this post! I want to be a cricket mom, too.

Katie said...

I've been looking up the symbolism of the cricket. They give a sense of comfort and companionship as well as luck and protection. Sounds like a mother to me!

lynne said...

thanks for that about the crickets, katie! I love it!

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