I Am The Anti-Tiger Mom
Korean mothers are often thought of as strict and unemotional Tiger Moms who will tell you you’re fat but force you to eat everything she has cooked. The ones who criticize their daughter’s faces and ask repeatedly, “Why you have so many ugly bumps on your face?” Ask you why you’re so stupid when you get a grade lower than an A, or ask with tears streaming why you hate her so much, after beating your big head into the piano for saying you hate the piano.
That isn’t me though. I may look like the typically ferocious Tiger mom but I was adopted as an infant by non-Asians and currently reside in a small town that friends in the rest of the country refer to as Almost Canada, Minnesota or “Hooterville”. I don’t know which days are school days half of the time, let alone which days are piano lesson days. I am also the mom who may have accidentally advised my child to kick a person in the crotch if they are harming her.
“What are you going to do if that boy bothers you again?” I asked her.
“Kick him in the nuts!” she yelled.
“Uh. No, don’t do that. And don’t yell that anymore, either.”
“That’s why I need a cat, Mom. So I can carry it around and scratch people with it.”
On one hand, Queen Tiger Mom, Amy Chua, at least deserves a fist bump. When I roll up to the school, other parents automatically assume Tiger Mom is in the house and if you dare step to her you should be prepared to block a falcon kick. On the other hand, this stereotype creates an enormous amount of pressure to be that parent and raise that kind of child, who later becomes that doctor/lawyer/engineer. And with Chua’s newest how-to-raise-not-loser-kids book, The Triple Package, highlighting eight cultures who kick ass at parenting and rearing successful children -- Chinese, Jewish, Indian, Iranian, Nigerian, Mormon, Lebanese-American, and Cuban exiles -- it places even more pressure on the rest of us to not be the outliers who totally suck at parenting.
Although I was not raised by Asian parents, I learned to play the piano, I was expected to do well in school (although I didn’t always), and I was taught to obey my parents in ways and by methods that could be considered Tiger Mom-ish. However, I did not become a doctor, lawyer, or engineer, and I had no interest in attending an Ivy League college. In fact, I spent a lot of time broke, running the streets and finding myself. I am, instead, a single mother and a writer who ditched a job as a paralegal. By most measurements of success, I could very easily be considered unsuccessful and not only an example in favor of the Tiger Mom ideology, but a warning: This is what happens when you don’t Tiger Mom your kids. You don’t want this to happen to your kid, do you?
My daughter’s kindergarten year, her teacher called to let me know that the fruit of my dysfunctional loins had dropped the F bomb. I immediately went into defense mode because how in the heezy could my daughter have done such a thing? “I don’t know how that’s possible or where she could have even heard that word used. We don’t even have TV,” I told her.
My resources are limited when it comes to parenting. My formula for success includes the basics I grew up with, Google Mom (who may or may not suggest incorrect information depending on the algorithm), things my normal friends and family tell me not to do when I ask, and just outright winging it. In fact, if I were to break it down, winging it accounts for at least 75% of my parenting method. For a single mother who relies heavily on the School of Making Things Up (I am the mom who once wrote that you should smack the parents of chronic nose pickers), being told your kid is the kid dropping F bombs is crushing and confusing. And if that weren’t a forceful enough kick in the chest, the discussion on why a kindergartener isn’t allowed to just yell out fuck willy nilly later revealed the identity of the shitbird she had heard use the word.
“Where did you hear that word? We don’t even have TV.”
“Well, you, Mommy.”
My daughter knows she needs to read. She knows I expect her to do well in school. She is required to obey the important people in her life (including myself), she knows that if you drop the F bomb even if you are Mommy, you have to claim responsibility for that F bomb. But above all, she knows that whatever she does, whomever she ends up to be, she will always be loved.
Because I place a great deal of value in being happy, loving, and being loved. As a single mother, I just don’t have the motivation to fill her days with complex formulas for success or strict routines where her friendships are only math books and a piano. She deserves a childhood that she looks back on fondly rather than thinking, “Well, that sure was shitty”.
While Amy Chua’s Triple Package for success includes Superiority Complex, Insecurity, and Impulse Control, my triple package is based on my own idea of success and what I think will help my daughter become a successful adult (along with my complex formula of making shit up): Laugh At Yourself, Accept Limitations, and Live Creatively. Because if I’ve learned anything so far, I’ve learned that we are going to mess up damn near everything from Oreo Cheesecake because I can’t cook, to cutting holes in our jeans just to scratch an itchy part.
She may not become a doctor or lawyer. She may end up designing duct tape sandals for felons because she sure likes making those damn duct tape sandals, but she is kind and strong and is learning that you can’t kick people in the groin or drop the F bomb at will. Her Thank-you Speech in 2012 serves as an indication that we may be on the right path:
My Thank-you Speech
I thank my family for: Not making me do chores every day. I have to clean sometimes but me and mom are both lazy. I thank my family for when mom needs to borrow money that I save, she pays me back as much as she took. She gives it back when I don’t ask.
Smart and funny with an enormously honest and sarcastic heart, my daughter is happy and we have each other’s backs. I’m no Tiger Mom and I am not included in the eight successful cultures referenced in Chua’s book. So far though, I am not the losingest parent on earth. My triple package may actually work out and trust me, no one is more surprised (and thankful), than I am.