The Curse of the Tiger Mother.
by Leslie Morgan Steiner
I’m starting to think that “a controversial book about motherhood” has become a redundant phrase, since any candid book about motherhood seems destined to be labeled “controversial.” Remember the headlines surrounding Judith Warner’s Perfect Madness? Ayelet Waldman’s Bad Mother? My own anthology Mommy Wars?
The underlying truth being: honesty about motherhood stirs folks up, all by its little self.
This latest salvo is Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. The author is Amy Chua, a Yale University law professor, ‘84 Harvard graduate, and the Chinese-American mother of two teenage daughters. A recent Wall Street Journal excerpt, Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior, gives you the jist of the book. Amy Chua starts motherhood blithely enough, determined like all of us to be the best mother on earth. She believes that her superstrict upbringing (No playdates! No sleepovers! No A- grades!) led to her lifetime of achievement and bliss. If it was good enough for her, this “virtuous circle” of accomplishment will work on her two daughters.
Oh, I love our theories about motherhood before we actually become moms.
Because, naturally enough, Chua’s two daughters have a few ideas of their own about how they should grow up.
Chua follows a draconian parenting style – impressive in its own bizarre way, particularly given that she manages to be a fulltime law professor, lecturer, writer and wife while raising her children with superhuman strictness. During early motherhood, she follows the no playdate-no sleepover-no TV-no computer games rules, as she intended. And just to make early childhood a little more character-building for her kids, she assigns each daughter a challenging instrument, one the piano, one the violin, before each girl turns five. Chua rushes maniacally from work to home and school to supervise her daughters, pull them out of non-essential classes like PE and drama for additional music lessons, and leaves them “thousands” of detailed notes when she’s away. Just as they must bring home As, the girls are held to elite individual performance standards: each must practice every day for hours (even on vacations in foreign countries), perform in solo recitals, and win coveted awards at either Carnegie Hall or Juilliard.