Friday, June 17, 2011

The sadness around a Tiger child

My son has a friend at school who for the better part of a year has been at the top of his list for playdates. But we have been told that this boy isn't allowed on playdates. We tried but his parents were adamant. When my son's birthday came around, we invited him to the party but he wasn't allowed to go to parties. This was important to our son but our efforts failed. 

I've seen this kid and my son together. They get along very well. He hangs around a little after school so they can spend a little more time together. A few minutes late getting home is something he doesn't get in trouble for; so we hope. I watched them today at an end-of-year in-class event. They are inseparable at least at school. A rare connection.

It is readily apparent that this kid is a Tiger child (and yes, he is of Asian decent but that it isn't something that exclusively defines this parenting style). He gets great grades and plays the violin exceptionally well. The whole Tiger parenting debate has focussed on various elements -- from self-esteem, to discipline, to free choice and then to social isolation. It is the multi-dimensional nature of this one dimensional term that makes it difficult to disentangle. Each parent is attracted or repelled by one or more dimensions. 

So how do you explain to your child why he can't see his friend outside of school? We tell him the truth: that it is a parenting choice of how they want their child to spend their time and efforts but one that we think is misguided; at least on the social dimension. But to him it doesn't add up. "So he can't play because he has to work? But why then does he get to see movies and do other things?" And he is right, it doesn't add up. And to those concerned, this kid is not a social misfit. At school, you wouldn't pick that he is isolated outside of it.

We tend to think of parenting choices as a private one impacting only upon the families concerned. In this particular instance it spreads beyond. My son is missing out on having a friend outside of school and when we move to Toronto the same factors will likely mean that he misses out on having a life long friend.