The Memoir of Amy Chua

“But just because you love something, doesn’t mean you’ll ever be great. Not if you don’t work. Most people stink at the things they love.”

-Amy Chua, Battle hymn of the Tiger Mother-

A year after Amy published this memoir; I picked it up at the bookstore. And I could not begin to mention how much I feel for it, though I’m not a mother myself.

Amy mentioned the Western societies generally gave negative and disapproval on her way of raising her daughters, while the Asian societies approve it. It is funny though, in Malaysia, that I’m seeing another pattern of parenting.

For my generation, those who was born in the 80s or 70s, we could relate to her stories; how Amy herself was raised.

My mother was not exactly a tiger mom, though she is still a staple of an Asian mum, but I guess bossing us all around to do exactly what she wants us to do seems impossible. Still, we were asked to obey, listen, and accept without responding with ‘no’.  But perhaps for the ‘unfairness’ we feel, I (perhaps my sister too) vowed not to be a mother like the way my mum did it.

That was until I hit 30. Now, I would ‘half’ approving of Amy’s way. Her vision for her kids. Kids are not trophies, but every parent is allowed to have vision for their kids. It can be to have them happy and healthy, it can also be for them to be great. That I learned is because you believe in their abilities.

When I was growing up, and up until I was a teenager, I swear I’m going to be an easy-going mother. I would not force my kids (if I ever have kids) to do things they do not want to, I’ll let them color their nails which my dad did not allowed when I was 15, I’ll bring them shopping, try on coolest stuffs together, and most importantly, I’ll speak to them like friends. That was one thing that I wanted so badly when I was growing up, to have my parents as my friends.

But how could my parents be my friends? Silly me. We could talk like friends, but we shall never be friends. With a parental figure, we teach kids to know the difference between generation, the values, and most importantly to learn how to respect the elderly.

We saw in movies how Western parents were friends with their kids, speak freely together, discuss topics, while all we were allowed to do is listen to them, and don’t answer back except ‘yes’ and ‘ok’. Everything we were allow to do, or vice versa, would be on their mercy.

And perhaps due to the ‘misfortune’ we feel we’ve endured, my generation generally has the same mindset as the earlier me, which is we shall never repeat what our parents have done onto us. So now I see my peers who are parents, giving in way too much to their kids. Seeing some of the result of this opening communication method of raising child, I am often left in shock. So much so I’m beginning to think that shall we not able to install certain level of authority, there is no meaning in being a parent, besides being a mere provider.

In the book, Lulu yelled, “shut up” to her mum, oh dear, I would be slapped so hard should I ever try to utter that word to my mum. But Lulu did. That face-off was what changed Amy, according to her.

Year after year from the day they were born, Amy resume a mother’s duty by taking care of them, while working as a professor and writing books. And if we accept the fact that our parents should take care of us when we were young, why should we not try to embrace that they too, are allowed to have visions and dreams set upon us? Well, though it is not necessary to pursue their dreams (of us), just like Lulu did not, I’m saying it is not wrong for them to have dreams for us.

I must give credit to Amy, for her dedication and strong belief. Many parents would say the things she says, yet I hardly sees them giving that much of attention into the things they hope their children could excel in. If Amy is truthful about her stories, then she deserved the right to feel the way she feels. If Sophia had 6 hours on the piano, Amy was there 6 hours with her on the piano, not leaving her practice freely on her own. Driving 4 hours in and out to New York every weekend just to give Lulu the best violin master she could get to nurture her daughter. She has notebook with her, taking notes when the teachers walk her daughters through practice. She knows all the important and must learn scores, and dive herself into every single activities her daughters shall do.  She jumped on every opportunity to teach them discipline, dedication and hardwork.  Parents often send their kids to activities, learn new hobbies, talk about it proudly, but I constantly see them dropping the kids off, and picking them up when it is done. Participation is what sets Amy apart.

“What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you are good at it.  To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work…”

I do like how Amy puts it: to let your children lazy away from practice and then accept defeat later on, is the worse kind of teaching. It is the most direct way of undermining them, and saying: you’re just not good enough. And I supposed we think the pad on the shoulder is kind, is to teach our children to accept failures gracefully and rise again. Yet, it is also the worse kind of confidence building. Many kids today are unable to accept failures, blaming the others for their shortcoming, and unable to endure the pressure, are just some of the examples we could spend some time think about.

The Family Photo

Parenting is definitely not easy, for who am I to comment, as I’m not even a mum myself. Yet Amy’s book inspired me to think of my parents and their era, and now our era. The liberal ways of raising kids today, have we produce better mannered, more brilliant, stronger personalities and more environment-resistant kids than our parents?

There are always 2 schools of thoughts, but of course, it is yours to pick. Now, I’ll stand behind the tiger mother’s camp.

Of all things, I tear while reading Sophia’s note in defense of her mum after the first edition of this book was published. Amy received criticism all over, but her daughters stood by her. In her own moving words, Sophia gave Amy every reason to believe those hair-pulling days are worth every second, regardless how the world think of her.

The beautiful Sophia performing at Carnegie Hall, at the age of 14.

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