Tay Sachs Turns Mom Into Parent We All Should Be

dragonFor all the parenting challenges we face in our hectic day-to-day lives, few, if any, compare to those that Emily Rapp, a self-professed Dragon Mom, encounters every day. Her son Ronan, now 18 months old, was born with Tay-Sachs, a rare genetic disorder that is ultimately fatal. From the time he was born, she knew he would likely die before his third birthday in a slow and painful process. But despite her heartbreaking situation, she parents like we all should.

In a beautiful and heart-wrenching column in The New York Times yesterday, she explained how knowing that she only has such a short time to raise her son has turned her into this different breed of parent. It's a breed made up of those with terminally ill children that no one would choose to join, but from whom we can all learn.

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We are dragon parents: fierce and loyal and loving as hell. Our experiences have taught us how to parent for the here and now, for the sake of parenting, for the humanity implicit in the act itself, though this runs counter to traditional wisdom and advice.

Unlike Tiger Mom and all the hordes of us out there planning for and trying to prepare our children for successful futures and big accomplishments through every move they make, dragon moms just love and live in the minute. She says no longer do worries about things like future SAT scores or development milestones take up time and energy. "Ronan has given us a terrible freedom from expectations, a magical world where there are no goals, no prizes to win, no outcomes to monitor, discuss, compare."

How freeing would that be?

And really none of us has any guarantee that our children will be here tomorrow. Any day we could lose them to a horrifying accident or get a terminal diagnosis. We can't dwell on the what ifs and live in fear of such things, but we need to remember them more often when it comes to how far and fast we push our kids. Maybe that means letting them eat a little bit more candy and maybe it means not pressuring them to do so well in school. Maybe it just means putting it all into perspective and reminding ourselves more often that none of it really matters when it comes down to it -- that loving them and soaking up the best of every minute we have with them is what it's all about. As Rapp says in her final paragraph:

I can see my reflection in his greenish-gold eyes. I am a reflection of him and not the other way around, and this is, I believe, as it should be ... Parenting, I’ve come to understand, is about loving my child today. Now. In fact, for any parent, anywhere, that’s all there is.

Do you parent like a Dragon Mom or a Tiger Mom?


Image via minicooper93402/Flickr

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