When my daughter was two, and we had just returned to Australia, my 5-year-old son almost sliced her finger off. Initially we thought it was just a very nasty cut, but a visit to the local Children's Emergency Department soon revealed it to be a far more serious injury requiring extensive surgery from the Chief of Plastics.
It was, to put it mildly, a parenting low. I am proud that we did not unleash a wave of fury at the brother who was obsessively trimming the garden with a too sharp set of shears. But I am not so proud that one of the thoughts that ran through my head in the middle of this crisis was "what if this stops her playing an instrument". And the fact that at the time of the "incident" my daughter had not picked up more than a plastic drum or wooden xylophone doesn't help my case.
Eight years later it seems that my concern was not entirely off the mark. She does play the violin and she loves it even if she does not practice nearly as often as she should. And if that finger had not been repairable something that now gives her great joy would never have been an option.
But that thought revealed something about me as a parent that the mother I was then would not have been entirely happy owning up to. It showed that among all that nurturing and free play, the rejection of flash cards in favour of real stories, the belief in passion and creativity, lurked the makings of a tiger mother.
I don't mind so much now that I have a bit of the tiger in me. Sometimes a little bit of fierce is required in this parenting game, but in my experience that fierce is most usefully employed on behalf of my child with learning differences. The rest will do just fine (or not) regardless of my efforts. And the reality is that while I am not immune to the occasional display of over zealous parenting, with four children my ability to focus is spread very thin.
The result of this less than laser sharp parenting is that if my daughter ever does find herself playing violin in an esteemed concert hall (the ultimate tiger mum dream according to Amy Chua) or my oldest son gets himself into MIT (his very own unrealistic and unaffordable dream) it will be the result of their hunger for that sort of success not mine.
Which is exactly as it should be.