The Tiger Mom is world-famous for her organizational skills and her burning ambition. Her kids don’t get sent to the principal’s office. They eat balanced meals. After school, they hurry off to Test Prep or violin lessons.
It got me thinking, if I had to give myself an animal-world analogue, as a stay-at-home parent, what would it be?
First, here are some of my strengths and weaknesses as a parent, expressed in grades.
Helping My Children Learn a Foreign Language: F
Limiting Exposure to Questionable Movies and Music: C
Making Sure They Write Thank-You Notes: B-
Getting Them to Ice-Hockey Practice on Time: A
Teaching Them to Be Respectful Toward Grandparents: B
Protecting Them From Obvious Molestation or Abduction Threats: B
Teaching Table Manners: D
Taking Them to Church: F
It’s not that I can’t be bothered to be a Tiger Mom. I do spend a lot of energy on my kids. I drive them back and forth to the hockey rink. I drive them back and forth to friends’ houses. I go on their school trips. I nag them about homework, and hygiene. I help with math word problems.
I just don’t know where I would find the extra time for Mozart, or Mandarin lessons.
She has a point.
Golden Lab Dad. While the Tiger Mom is strong, agile, and always on the alert, I am more of a golden Labrador Retriever.
I’m familiar, non-threatening, somewhat lazy. I tend to live more in-the-moment. I am not above begging, or eating scraps from the floor.
Javelina Dad. I share no similarities with a javelina. I just like the animal.
One of my favorite parts of The Royal Tenenbaums is Gene Hackman wondering aloud where his stuffed javelina went.
Meerkat Dad. I think this is the one, folks.
From the photos I’ve seen, the meerkat shares my posture, literally and figuratively. The meerkat isn’t freaking out or panicking. But it’s not jumping to get involved either.
I spend a lot of time hanging around. I wait for the kids to get out of school. I wait for them to finish hockey practice. I wait for them to pick out the new shoes they want. I wait for them to finish talking to friends about inane video games.
To put the best spin on it, at least I’m making sure they don’t get abducted or molested. (Or taught how to play a music instrument.)
I am not a lithe, active, taut creature, like a tiger. I am thin, preoccupied, watchful, frequently bored, sometimes distracted.
The meerkat comparison is not perfect. Unlike a meerkat, I am unable to eat a venomous scorpion with impunity. Nor have I ever been to southern Africa, where meerkats reside. In these respects, I am unlike a meerkat.
Nor am I fussy about germs. From photos and footage, it appears meerkats are lax in this regard, too.
I can proudly say I would not stand idly by if a wild African snake tried to snatch one of my kids. And you know what? Meerkats wouldn’t either. They would sound the alarm, or even attack.
If you have ever seen the TV show Meerkat Manor, then you have seen the sad consequences of a meerkat-snake scrap.
Oh well. It is what it is. I am Meerkat Dad. Hear me chirp.