Tiger Mommas and Balloon People


All dressed, hair curled, piano practiced, lunch packed– ready to go.

“But I don’t want to go to school today.” Mary pouted. And who can blame her? The dark sky and snowy sidewalks could scarcely compete with our cozy red chair.

“That’s fine,” I replied, “you can help me clean the house.”

My words were met with immediate scoffs and arguments from her brothers (because if I want advice on parenting, my older children are always willing to school me).

“You can stay home too.” I offered. But Xander, who obsessively checks his grades twice a day and sweet Gabe, who adores every aspect of school, simply ignored me. We prayed, dispensed kisses and farewells, and I began to put away cereal boxes, gather dirty dishes and rattle off the list of chores for the morning.

Mary watched me for nearly a minute, then ran upstairs for her boots, to the mudroom for her backpack and out the door with a flurry of “I love you”s and blown kisses as she raced to catch the crossing guard’s hand.

Every conflict isn’t resolved that simply, but I believe children thrive when they are given freedom to choose. Yes, every choice has it’s consequence– missing school means dusting the bookshelves– but those choices can be offered without lectures or insults.

I expect a lot of my children but I don’t require performance beyond their abilities. Musical prowess and academic achievement are lovely, but kindness and charity far exceed them in importance.


Friday was a day off school in our district. Stefan, Hans and I were attending a youth service project in the morning and left almost 12 year old Xander home to babysit. Shouts of excitement met us when we walked in the door at 11:45– strategically placed around the room were balloon replicas of our entire family. The littles were giddy as they displayed each model, pointed out the facial features, props and giggled over the pillow stuffed bodies. My mannequin sat at the computer where they said I had ignored their questions all morning (as usual).



As they chattered and gathered their air-headed friends onto the couch for a photo op, I marveled that they’d spent four hours together so happily (a fight did break out about five minutes after this photo). It’s not the concertos and the perfect report cards, but these moments, their care for each other, that bring me joy.

Mary and ‘Mommy.’
January 18, 2011
January 22, 2011



  1. Christie

    January 20, 2011

    I wholeheartedly agree with you on parenting. That Tiger Mom, though at first infuriated me, now just makes me sad. It makes me sad that her kids will never be good enough. I think freedom, love, and praise are just as important, if not more so.

  2. Tasha

    January 20, 2011

    Those balloon people are so cute! My mom was a a huge advocate of “mental health days.” Sometimes she would be the one begging for us to skip school – and in the long run, I think it did more good than harm. Some of my favorite family memories are from those days when I skipped school to hang out with her.

  3. Tracy

    January 20, 2011

    I love this Michelle. Sometimes I hear myself let out these ridiculous lectures and need to just step away and take a moment and remember how silly it must seem to my 5 year old. How maybe a hug would’ve been the right answer.

    And I rightfully need to check out of the computer when my kids are around.

    ..and oh “balloon Michelle” is hot.

  4. Lisa

    January 21, 2011

    Oh Mary’s pouty face is simply adorable…how did you even keep a straight face. Ummm…and balloon family is amazing, love those creative kids of yours.

  5. Kristi Pohl

    January 21, 2011

    This is beyond adorable-it always warms my heart to visit your blog.

  6. Tifani

    January 23, 2011

    Thank you for so beautifully saying what I felt when I read about Tiger Mom. And isn’t it beautiful when you have the confidence to give your kids choices and they choose what is right? Isn’t that the real achievement? I know no one will ever get a first place trophy for that, but it is so much more.

  7. Cath

    January 24, 2011

    “Musical prowess and academic achievement are lovely, but kindness and charity far exceed them in importance.” I love you.

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