Monday, April 4, 2011

This is nothing, It is expected

"Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" is a somewhat droll, sometimes sensational anecdote of Amy Chua shaping her children's future by pretty extreme measures, and how she kept on excusing herself for her actions because she is a "Chinese Mother" and are doing it for their own good. She ultimately slowly comes to realize that it was time to take a step back when her younger child hated her so much that she made her lose face in public. Face value is very important to the Chinese so I am not surprised that it took public embarrassment to halt her "indoctrination" methods (temporarily).

Warranted, I can understand her frustration as a mother. A Chinese mother is measured differently from her peers. While we have certainly moved from a 内 role to fronting the family as breadwinners, we are still measured more by our children's achievements, our seniors' well-being, our husband's health than how much we earn as a career woman. Sometimes we are likely to hear "you see she earns so much, but her children behave like barbarians", i.e. failure.

Actually Amy Chua's success is dependent on several factors, some of which include (1) She and her husband, and even her own parents, are well-educated academics who have the network and capability to afford to invest in their children , i.e. the "nurture" (2) her children have "inherited" potential to succeed, so it is more of how you educate their young minds, i.e. the "nature" (3) they were forced from young to accept this shit from her. Try being a lax parent in the early years and then super aggressive when your kid's grades suck... trust me it will be too late, to lead the horse to the water (4) they belong to academic and more genteel social circles, so their children will make friends with children of the same elk. Likelihood of hanging out with Jenny from the block? Nil.

What I dislike a lot is the part where she compares Lulu to Sophia. I agree with her Lulu will probably suck it up (whether she will actually become even more driven to succeed is another case). But I don't envy Sophia. When I was a teen, I did a lot of bad things like read romance novels when I was supposed to be studying, which resulted in blah grades. So Vater punished me with no TV (I didn't care, one hour of TV is == no TV, actually he should have stopped me from borrowing books instead), and no going out for family chalet during holidays (this I felt very keenly). I was desperate to go out with my cousins who had pretty lax parents, and when I finally did get an afternoon out, I was ostracized by the same people who I had missed so much.

Fairly mind-boggling. I couldn't figure it out. They were super nasty to me. Blood relatives, mind you. Imagine my surprise years later, when my cousin told me that she hated me because her dad always painted me as a studious, obedient child who doesn't go out and studies all day at home (he's right about the at home, but I definitely did not study much. Mutter the warden was always the one who was watching out for me reading and confiscating the books. She always said if I read so much, I should be very well educated by now. Well, Mutter, till date I can't say what educational benefits one can actually reap from romance novels... perhaps learning how to fuck in theory?!) in front of her and younger sister.

Well, that sure cleared up a lot of misunderstanding. But then again... I didn't  hate her even though my Mutter painted her as a brilliant, witty child who doesn't study and yet still does well in school. Little ironies.

Recent news have revealed that Sophia made it into Harvard. Can't say I am surprised. But congratulations all the same. This is nothing, it is expected, after all.

In a way, Amy is different from most Chinese mothers (or so she calls them). Most Chinese parents "know" that they know more than their children, and their word is law while she saw her younger daughter as a worthy combatant, since age 3, and challenged her. She respected her kids, trust me, though not their wishes. The part about the dreams of a Samoyed would definitely not be a feature of a Chinese Mother mentality, while still highly entertaining.

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