A week ago, I didn’t know anything about Amy Chua and her book, The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. That was before her essay appeared in the Wall Street Journal. That was before she appeared on multiple television and radio shows. That was before other writers started writing essays about her parenting strategies. Now that I know who she is and have read one of her essays, I am not sure what the fuss is all about. I mean, it’s her memoir.
That said, here are my two strategies for reading almost anything: 1. Don’t take everything at face value. 2. Take what you can use and leave the rest. Both help me a lot, especially when I’m reading memoir. After all, it’s written from one person’s point of view.
Ms. Chua’s book and some of her Eastern strategies may seem extreme, but I can think of some Western strategies that are just as extreme: No television, anyone? No candy, meat, boys, girls, fill-in-the-blank, anyone? What about over scheduling?
Parents do all sorts of things to provide for their children and keep them motivated. I draw the line at name-calling, but I think the real issue is whether Ms. Chua’s children ever believed they were “garbage.” I don’t know that I am that crazy about sleepovers or computer games. Like Ms. Chua, I believe in discipline and finishing what you start. My dad taught me that.
At one time, I thought my father was the meanest man in the world. In fact, he was the meanest man in the world. He said “no” way more than he said “yes.” He once showed up at a middle school dance and ordered me to go home. He took down the license plate numbers of the cars my dates drove, and anyone who took me outside of his house had to chat with him first.
I grew up wanting to impress him, and I was a college graduate before he let me know I had succeeded. A few months ago, I learned why I had not been able to afford a car I was convinced I could buy.
I was in college, and I had a part-time job. I chose something fancy, and Dad selected something practical. By my calculations, I could afford the fancy car, but Dad’s math said I couldn’t. He won the argument. I bought the practical car and never missed a payment.
Dad recently confessed I couldn’t buy the fancy car because he couldn’t afford to make the payment, should I need any help. (Aha!) I never knew help was an option. I thought I was alone. As a result, I always made the payment. I have to admit it was stressful living like that, and that scene contributed to my belief that he was the meanest man in the world. Now that I am a parent, I realize he was a damn good father who taught me many lifelong lessons.
I think that is all Ms. Chua was attempting to do. She wanted to show readers what she had learned, what worked and what did not. I’m running out the door right now to look at Ms. Chua’s book. Oh, I don’t plan to purchase it. I want to check out the acknowledgment section and see whether she thanked her agent. Her agent is brilliant. I mean, if one essay in the Wall Street Journal can spark a national conversation about parenting and make people stand in line for book-signings, count me in.