lullaby of the sloth mother

BY ROZ WARREN AND JANET GOLDEN

I hauled Lulu's dollhouse to the car and told her I'd donate it to the Salvation Army piece by piece if she didn't have "The Little White Donkey" perfect by the next day. I threatened her with no lunch, no dinner, no Christmas or Hanukah presents, no birthday parties for two, three, four years. When she still kept playing it wrong, I told her to stop being lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic. -- Amy Chua, Battle Cry of the Tiger Mother

A lot of people wonder how we Sloth Mothers do such a terrific job of keeping the kids out of our hair so we can kick back, smoke weed, watch soap operas, and drink yummy mixed drinks -- all without being pestered to do boring stuff like cook healthful meals or drive pesky rug rats to the pediatrician for time-consuming annual check-ups. Well, just ask me. I'm a Sloth Mother and I've trained my offspring well. They would never dream of expecting me to:

-- drive them to sports practice
-- watch them star in a school play
-- hire an SAT tutor, or
-- turn the volume down a little on my 56-inch flat-screen TV

How do we Sloth Mothers do it? We make sure our offspring understand from a very early age that effort is a complete waste of time. After all, we're all going to die. This means achievement is meaningless, and the sooner the little ones get this through their lthick skulls, the happier we're all going to be.

There was the time little Jon came home with a project his teacher had given him so he could earn "extra credit." "Extra credit is garbage!" I told him. "Who the hell needs extra credit? Throw that right in the trash and come over here and watch Oprah with me.

Sloth mothering isn't  just a matter of urinating on them if they try to climb down and explore. You've also got to reward them when they meet your expectations. For instance, there was the day when Freddie came home from school with a D - in algebra! "We're going right to McDonald's to celebrate with fries and shakes for dinner," I promised. "The minute I finish this nap."

Barry proved to be a lot more resistant. He saw those Tiger kids practicing the violin for hours and hours. "Why are they doing that, Mom?" he asked. "Because they don't realize how futile it is," I responded, sensing a teachable moment. Then I told him not to bother me about it again. But a week later, he was back. "Practicing the violin looks hard," he said. "But mastering a song looks so rewarding!" I gently explained that those Tiger kids came from lousy backgrounds and didn't even use drugs. Then I gave him his very own bottle of Vicodin and kept him home from school for a week. Problem solved.

Sloth Motherhood isn't always easy. Never mind what those troublesome Social Services people say -- sometimes you just have to ignore the little tykes altogether in order to create some space for yourself. But you know what? Other moms envy Sloth Moms and our kids. And why shouldn't they? Their children couldn’t mix a decent Manhattan if their lives depended on it.

Janet Golden and Roz Warren are a Philadelphia-based writing team whose work has appeared in venues from The Funny Times to Womens Voices for Change. Janet is a history professor. Roz has a website: www.rosalindwarren.com.