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Tiger Mother

Tiger mother, dog daughter. I've adapted this phrase from a Korean saying — tiger father, dog son — that refers to Kim Il-sung, that country's beloved, departed "Eternal President" and his not-so-beloved son, Kim Jong-Il.

My mother is smart. And she's beautiful. And she's a writer whose per-word rate for freelance articles is double mine. She's also a runner. In my 20s, I started jogging after a long hiatus, and thought to drag her along to some Saturday morning races. For fun, we'd stick around at the end to see who had won.

More than once, she did.

She consistently made a strong showing in her age group and brought home medals and sports bags and gift certificates. A lot of people are impressed to hear that I once finished a 29.5-mile triathlon. But I can't help myself — I have to add, "Yeah, my mom's was 72."

I thought of tiger mother, dog daughter when reading Dale Keiger's cover story about men's lacrosse parents ("Home Team") — moms and dads who are entirely devoted to their sons' athletic careers. I was thinking of the flip side of this story — of the kids, and of that funny, adoring competition we carry on with our parents seemingly all of our lives. We admire them, we even brag about them, but we still feel that we're supposed to exceed them in some way. A few of the Jays told Dale that they play in part to please their parents, and they said, quite earnestly, that it was their parents who made them into the young men they are today. (It seems to be around the time we go off to college that we begin to recognize this.) But you've got to wonder how Kevin Huntley or Michael Doneger or any other of the players would feel — even now — about Dad running down Homewood Field and scoring more goals than they had.

Maybe that mild sense of competition with our parents is what keeps us trying harder. I never use the "tiger mother" line without smiling — it's a way of paying respect to my mother more than anything. By the way, my triathlon was really tough, and a chronic injury made the last leg of the race, the run, particularly hard. As I was nearing the end, with maybe 200 yards to go, there was Mom. She came up next to me, said I was looking great, and ran me in, giving me just the lift I needed to make it across the finish line.

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