Monday, January 17, 2011

Great Expectations

Some of my best old pals and me in the good ol' days
Photo Credit: Stacey Miller
All of my old high school chums know how I dreaded the end of every six weeks. A mediocre "B" on a report card would see my coveted phone ripped from the wall until straight As were once again achieved. The only time my mom willingly accepted a "B" was following a long period of daily trigonometry tutoring she certainly couldn't afford, but conceded to anyway, to keep me from failing. Oh, I shiver now at the thought of bringing home a "C". That meant no drinking beer in the woods, ahem, no movies for six weeks.

Last week, while reading Amy Chua's essay Why Chinese Mothers are Superior in the Wall Street Journal, a bell went off. I had a Chinese Mother.

My mom  and my sister Wendy, 1968
Of course I don't mean that literally. My mom was a blonde, green-eyed, Scotch-Irish beauty who lived life to the fullest. I've missed her everyday for over six years now. What I realized, after too many years, was that my mom EXPECTED me to bring home straight As because she knew that I could. Crap. She was right. Piano lessons and rigid music theory were a huge part of my life until my final pitiful guild performance of Starlight Waltz brought me to tears, and my mom accepted at last that I had not inherited her natural gift for tickling the ivories. In contrast to Mrs. Chua, however, I was always allowed sleepovers, and participation in school plays was cause for celebration.

This reflection on my childhood has caused me to examine my expectations as a parent. Not only do I expect straight As from my boys, I demand them. I expect and demand of them to be better than me in every possible way. Just like a good Chinese Mother, I hover over them after school until the work is done, and promptly send them outside to play, ride bikes, sprint or do plyos. A "B" on anything is never praised, but questioned. My boys know all too well that if they bring home a grade below a "B" that traveling for BMX is out.

Wyatt inherited not only my mom's blonde hair,
but many of her talents too.
The vast difference between my mom and me is that she was a single mother, which meant there was never anyone hovering over me to confirm that I was meeting expectations. It was up to me to motivate myself, or suffer the consequences.

Mrs. Chua states: "To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work... Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America."

Hmmm. I agree, with one exception-- children on their own never want to work. Of course they do! It's called self-motivation, and it must be taught.

One of William's better gates in Columbus.
Photo credit: J-Rods Photoshop
William has been plagued with gate trouble since his elbow dislocations, first in August (read Delusions in my Head), and again in October (read Déjà vu). He has worked and worked to try and regain his "snap", which he says he no longer feels. This past Saturday, we took the boys to ride the ABA track in Middleburg. Without a word from his dad or me, William did gates repeatedly. By the end of the night, improvement was obvious, and he was visibly pleased with himself. On the drive home, I asked him what he felt he had accomplished during practice. "My snap! I felt it. It's back!" This, he accomplished through his own self-motivation and will.

One thing I've learned is to expect more from my boys than they expect from themselves. Many times they've crossed the line in first, grinning from ear to ear, and said, I didn't think I could do it. Their dad and I look at each other knowingly and say without doubt, WE knew you could.



  1. Mama always believed in you, Heather. And she would be so proud (and not the least bit surprised) by the wonderful mother you've become.

  2. Love it Heather - Bravo! I think anyone who is a good mother, not by worldly standards, but rather, through a reflection of her child's accomplishments, has a little "Chinese mother" in them. Nothing wrong with that, it just has to be balanced with nuturing support. And you have both my friend, it's apparent from the success of your two boys. Love ya girl!
    PS - Love the picture! : )

  3. That was beautifully written! I agree with Wendy, your Mom would be so proud of you as a Mother raising two beautiful boys. You are doing such a fabulous job.

    p.s. she would also be proud of you as a wife, friend etc..

    I love you!!