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HUCKABY: Reflecting on moms makes me really appreciate mine

There's been a lot of talk in the news lately about Tiger Moms -- Chinese mothers who parent with an iron hand. They demand perfection in academia while pushing their children to practice long hours at piano and violin while eschewing normal childhood pleasures such as having a life.

Apparently, a little background noise about this trend began when Yale professor Amy Chua released her book "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," but reached a crescendo two weeks ago when an editorial Chua wrote on the subject was published under the headline "Why Chinese mothers are superior."

Let us note here that columnists don't get to write their own headlines, so if the one above this column reads "Huckaby knows everything about parenting," blame someone else. The point is that Chua didn't claim that Chinese mothers were superior. In fact, she chastised herself a bit for the things her daughters had not been allowed to do. They had never had a playdate, for example, or been in a school play, watched television, played computer games or done anything that could be mistaken for normal behavior by most Western families.

If Chua's column had not been published under such a controversial headline, it is likely that most of us would still be unaware of her book -- or her parenting. I came late to the party myself. For a couple of days I ignored the headlines about Tiger Moms because I thought the articles accompanying them concerned Eldrick Woods' mother trying to help his short game.

Eventually I did pay a bit of attention to the topic. The biggest thing I took away from the discussion was that a lot of people were making a lot of generalizations and assumptions about a lot of groups.

I am no expert on parenting -- although I do have three pretty great kids -- but I have been a keen observer of a wide variety of parenting styles over the years. My kids have lots of friends and have been involved in a plethora of activities, so my wife and I have come in contact with a lot of parents. And being in my 38th year as a classroom teacher I have run into thousands of parents during my career as an educator.

I have seen lots and lots of parenting trends.

I don't think I know any Tiger Moms, although I have run into a cougar or two, but have been engulfed in soccer moms for much of the past two decades. (In Alaska I think they call them "hockey moms.")

Soccer moms, as you know, are those middle-class suburban women who seem to spend an inordinate amount of time driving their kids to their various activities in minivans while running a household and putting their family's needs ahead of their own. They are experts at juice boxes and scheduling and were part of the group that supposedly became a political force with which to be reckoned in 1996.

I have also known my share of helicopter moms. You probably have, too -- or maybe you've been one. They are the women who hover over their children and not only observe their activities but also try to manipulate their children's experiences -- often to the detriment of the child. It is hard to learn to be self-reliant if your mother is there to wipe your nose every time you sneeze. That's why they invented long-sleeved shirts, after all.

The women in the Blackhawks can be pretty intense, but they aren't as bad as their counterparts, the Lawnmower Moms. They are the ones that try to run interference for their children, mowing down all obstacles in their children's paths, even before they encounter them, and smoothing the way for a worry-free existence, which as we all know doesn't prepare a child for life in the real world at all.

All this discussion about parenting has caused me to reflect on my own upbringing. I couldn't pigeonhole my own mother into any of these categories. She certainly didn't expect my sister and me to be perfect, which was a good thing because we weren't. She didn't push us into particular activities but she supported us in those we chose -- although she didn't spend all her time taking us to and from them.

She left us to handle our own problems when we could and came to our aid when we couldn't. She provided what we needed but not everything we wanted. She was aware of what was happening at school but didn't interfere, and she meted out punishment and hugs in equitable amounts as needed.

I guess she was just a mom's mom -- which is pretty much how I think my kids would describe their mother. I know this. Mama wasn't a tiger, but I was lucky to have her.

Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. E-mail him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net.