Thursday, May 19, 2011

Can Tiger Moms practice Indifference?

(This post continues a series on the spiritual discipline of indifference, read #1, #2, #3.  And picks up on posts about Tiger Moms, read #1, #2, #3, #4)

Ling's 1st recorded smile after baptism
Ling-Ling, my oldest child, turns 15 today. 

Scott cried when she was born.  Our roommate Gini said, “Wow, she’s so much better than a bird!”  (referring to her pet parakeet Bing who I did not love). 

I just felt dazed and distant.   While I felt more attached to Ling than Bing, the actual emotional content wasn’t that different.  

Through the next several weeks that dazed distant feeling persisted, making my sister worried.  She said, “Don’t you just love and adore her?”

Not wanting to lie, I said, “Sure, I guess.”

And then Ling-Ling smiled. 

I can’t remember exactly when the first smile happened because I thought it was gas, but somewhere between her third and fourth week of life, my baby began genuinely smiling—responding to our smiles with her own.  Tickles, little “boos,” any attempts to get her attention, began to arouse first small upward crinkles at the edges of her lips, and then soon, ear-to-ear grins. 
As Ling’s smile developed, I morphed from a somewhat dispassionate caretaker to a lunatic lioness of a mother.  Her smile invited me to love her.  A ferocious passion for this baby came roaring out of me, leaving me winded and gasping throughout the day.  Now I could croon endlessly over her, every word, gesture and caress completely authentic.  Just thinking about my love for her would make me cry. 

            So is it even possible for a mom to practice the spiritual discipline of indifference towards her children?

            Here are several thoughts:

1.     It’s God’s will that parents love and attach to their children in powerful ways. Indeed, there’s a reason we call God Father, or Jesus uses the mother hen metaphor for himself.  Our kids’ perception of God as parent is often tied to their view of us.  A very scary thought.
2.     It’s God’s will that parents advocate and watch out for our kids.  If we don’t, who will? I’ve chosen to work part time throughout raising kids (realizing it’s a huge privilege to have that choice), largely because I knew others could minister to grad students at Harvard but no one else could mother my 3 kids.
3.     It’s God’s will that our children join God’s mission of “being blessed to be a blessing” to the world.  For Tiger Moms like me, realizing God’s will for our child may not look like our will for our child is HARD. 

And that’s why we need the prayer of indifference.  As we seek to be indifferent to everything BUT God’s will, we can release our kids to God’s care rather than our overweening hopes and desires.  My spiritual director keeps reminding me that my kids belong to God, not me, and that God has ultimate responsibility for their well being. 

So I’ll attempt to pray the prayer of indifference over hairstyles, clothing choices and all the other crap that happens in parenting, but love my kids with all the lunatic lioness love this Tiger mom can muster.

Ling, thanks for making me a mom by coming into this world.  Happy Birthday!  


Esther L. said...

Good to know I wasn't the only new mom feeling dazed and distant. These days I gasp at how my once helpless and innocent baby grew to become such a defiant, opinionated, smart-alecky child. So quick to proclaim, protest, defend, nitpick everything that comes out of my mouth. (Only at home though, not at school where all teachers say she's calm and cooperative to everyone...) She's only 5 1/2, but some days I swear I have a teenager at home. Or a future lawyer or, dare we say, journalist? ;-)

Roland said...

Happy Birthday Ling! I can see that same smile 15 years later!

Dan said...

Kathy, what a beautiful and powerful post. Images to appreciate and savor as a parent, a son, a disciple. Blessings.