I sometimes think about the kind of person Georgie will grow up to be. I think about the kind of things he will like to do and if he will be exceptionally good at one thing, talented, successful and focused. I catch myself thinking about these things when he’s talking to me, looking deep into my eyes, willing me to understand what ‘blath’ means. And then I stop. I snap out of it and curse the moment I read the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. It is, I will dare say, a disturbing yet highly thought-provoking book on parenting. To be more specific, Chinese parenting. Amy Chua, mother of two, tries to apply this strict and anti-Western parenting method while living in the United States with her American husband. She doesn’t believe in sleepovers, school plays, playdates, television and video games and not being the number one student in every subject except gym and drama. Any grade less than A is not acceptable. To establish this, her children are subjected to piano rehearsals while on holiday; their mother tears up two handmade birthday cards disappointed with the lack of effort that has gone into them. Chua explains how different Western parenting is to Chinese with all honesty and rawness. Western parents care about their child’s psyche. Chinese parents do not. They believe their children can be the best, so why settle for mediocrity just because there’s a sleepover involved? They want medals and recognition, they expect obedience and to be made proud. Heartless as Chua’s actions seemed to me I had to take my hat off to her by the end of the book. She has produced two highly successful young women, one of whom has played at Carnegie Hall while the other was accepted (I think) to Julliard. But there’s more to the story than just accomplishment. She devoted endless hours to their cause, rehearsing with them , driving them to classes five hours away and leaving them notes on how to become the best. You just can’t say she didn’t care. Beautifully written letters and essays by her daughters express nothing but love and adoration for their mother, who finally partly surrendered to Western parenting by allowing her youngest, the rebel, to give up the violin and play tennis. They are grateful their mother pushed them to be the best. They apply the thirst they have gained through those tyrannical years to everything they do.
I have thought about attempting this type of parenting and since then, found myself pushing Georgie to finish a project or pick up after himself or count to ten over and over again all the way to the supermarket. I seem to be pushing myself towards ‘caring’ more bringing about moments when he accomplishes a task and my eyes light up with pride. However, my pushing methods have a limit. Creativity and independence are important to me. Opening a world of possibilities to my child are crucial. Healthy relationships with friends and family are vital just as is guidance which is the point I admire in Amy Chua’s focus on her children. She’s a tiger mother. So, respect.