I was intrigued by Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” because of a review posted on the website of a leading daily in the U.S., wherein there was much outrage in the tone of the reviewer, pegging Chua as a self-righteous, holier-than-thou Chinese mother.
Perhaps the book was taken out of context in the review or that the writer of the said piece missed the entire point of the book. “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”, first and foremost, was not an instructional, this-is-how-you-should-go-about-parenting manual. It’s a memoir—and a decidedly compelling and relatable one at that.
I would be quick to admit that I enjoyed reading through the vignettes—maybe because I see a bit of myself in Amy Chua (hello, Type A personality) and maybe because I understand that there’s something that’s distinctly Asian in how she chose to raise her kids.
My mother was never a Tiger Mother. In fact, she was one of the more liberal types—the kind that would let us do whatever we want, the kind who would encourage us to (literally) go out into the world, the kind who would respect our choices.
Here’s the deal, though. When my brother and I were much younger, we only lived with our parents during weekends. Our first (tiny) house was a few streets from where my grandparents lived, and I spent most of my weekdays throughout grade school and most of high school living with my grandparents and unmarried aunts.
Let me tell you something about my grandmother and unmarried aunts—they were pretty regimented. There is a routine schedule that governs the day: wake up, have breakfast, take a bath, go to school, get back from school, do homework, and it’s lights out by 9 p.m. The television may not be switched on prior to 11 a.m., and the radio could not be switched on to the FM band (and I only had my own radio/tape deck on weekends). Looking back, I never really thought that the routine was stifling. I guess it helped me develop a great sense of self-discipline, being able to tune out from distractions and having a sense of order in an environment without rules (which pretty much describes college).
I guess it’s partly because of this upbringing that I really appreciated “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” (yeah, I’m like Chua’s first-born Sophia that way). A strict upbringing can have its benefits. Of course, such traditional, authoritarian parenting style is not suitable for every child, and it’s the battle that Chua engaged with her second daughter Lulu that perhaps makes the most compelling parts of the book. Maybe some people will gasp in horror at the extremes that Chua resorted to get her way, but hey, is it any worse than making the television and remote control babysit one’s kids?
Most importantly, as a memoir, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” is a coming-of-age story of a mother. I suppose this is when it has to be said that growth will never stop once we reach adulthood. Self-deprecating, sharp, ridiculous, and insightful, the book presents a peek into the life of Chua and her family and a mother’s journey through parenthood.
As for me, let’s just say I’ll be imposing a culture of excellence to my future kids.
(P.S. Fangirl alert—Amy Chua retweeted my tweet to her!)
Cross-posted on Polilla de Libros.