Call me obsessed but I can’t stop thinking about this. I just read a couple of more excerpts from Chua’s “parenting” book, which I’ll copy and paste here:
After her young children presented her with handmade birthday cards:
I gave the card back to Lulu. “I don’t want this,” I said. “I want a better one — one that you’ve put some thought and effort into. I have a special box, where I keep all my cards from you and Sophia, and this one can’t go in there.”
“What?” said Lulu in disbelief. I saw beads of sweat start to form on Jed’s forehead.
I grabbed the card again and flipped it over. I pulled out a pen from my purse and scrawled ‘Happy Birthday Lulu Whoopee!’ I added a big sour face. “What if I gave you this for your birthday Lulu- would you like that? But I would never do that, Lulu. No — I get you magicians and giant slides that cost me hundreds of dollars. I get you huge ice cream cakes shaped like penguins, and I spend half my salary on stupid sticker and erase party faovrs that everyone just throws away. I work so hard to give you good birthdays! I deserve better than this. So I reject this.” I threw the card back.
Of course my initial reaction is, “Are you fucking insane?” But delving deeper, it’s obvious, as other commenters have stated, that Chua had just a flawed relationship with her own mother, and learned absolutely nothing from it. I show you I love you by throwing you big expensive birthday parties. You show me you love me by this card that you made. It’s not you I love but what you do.
Why are you throwing your daughters such expensive parties? So you can throw it in their faces later? So you can be better than the rest of the mommies? If you’re not happy to do it, then don’t do it! But of course she’s going to do it because then what would everyone think?
The other excerpt:
After her daughter’s beloved paternal grandmother Popo died, Chua insisted the girls write a short speech to read at the funeral. Both girls refused (“No please, Mommy, don’t make,” Sophia said tearfully. “I really don’t feel like it.”). Chua insisted.
Sophia’s first draft was terrible, rambling and superficial. Lulu’s wasn’t so great either, but I held my elder daughter to a higher standard. Perhaps because I was so upset myself, I lashed out at her. “How could you, Sophia?” I said viciously. “This is awful. It has no insight. It has no depth. It’s like a Hallmark Card — which Popo hated. You are so selfish. Popo loved you so much — and you — produce–this!”
First of all, “Popo” would be a MATERNAL grandmother, presumably Chua’s mother. How awful to make her daughters feel like shit, to make her daughters question if they loved their grandmother enough, when it’s she herself who probably feels she didn’t love her mother enough, to do enough to make her mother one billion percent happy.
I’d say bats**t crazy. What is that woman on? I’m not sure how other Asian mothers compare – other than Filipino (my mum) and Japanese (my boyfriend’s mum). Both are nothing like this. My mum was always “do your best, feel proud of you but me and your dad will ALWAYS be proud of you.” I got an F in maths and my mum said “but you did really well in art and thats what you want to do isn’t it?” My boyfriend’s mum thinks the biggest achievements are in the things we accomplish, not what how perfect we did something, the money we made or the grades someone gets.
I too worry about the two girls on a never-ending journey for perfection and love and equating it with the wrong things.
As a father of mixed asian/european kids, I see this “drive” in my wife with respect parenting. She can be demanding and hyper-competitive but she loves our kids. Ths drive is a result of her childhood upbringing and often she questions if she’s being to tough on them and not letting them be “kids.” That said, her toughness is nowhere as destructive as Chua, because she realizes its destructive power from personal experience.
For Chrissakes! No play dates or sleepovers? That said, I wonder where the father is in all this? What was he doing as his wife systematically destroyed his children’s childhood? Its my role, as a father, to be the other half guiding my kids and temper as required.
When the day comes and her kids have to decide whether or not to put her in the nursing home, I wonder if they’ll choose an appropriate one based on how much they love her.
silvii – my mom was somewhat crazy raising my brother and me. she yelled at us constantly to study and about our “attitudes.” but she picked her battles. a homemade birthday card? c’mon! anything we did for her was fine, esp as little kids.
as for my grandmother’s eulogy, which funnily enough was just recently, i was surprised my mother didn’t bother me about what i was writing, and didn’t mind when my brother said he didn’t want to do it. she had bigger fish to fry than my little two-minute speech.
tom – you bring a very interesting perspective. at least your wife is aware of what she’s doing, as i hope to be as well too – though i see myself going the other way and being overly lenient. luckily my BF has stated he has no problem with discpline. acting up at 13? military school!
no playdates or sleepovers is so ridiculous. being social was important to my parents, as well as being physically fit. there’s none of that in Chua’s rantings. true, my mother was a little crazy about my being “thin,” but because i was so used to playing, incorporating some physical activity into my everyday life felt natural and easy, at least when i got older.
as for the husband, he seems to get very nervous, but doesn’t step up. maybe Chua browbeats him as much as she does the kids.
Perhaps her mother should have made sure she studied her mother tongue better so she would know that Popo is her mom, not her husband’s mom :)
ha! i’m guessing that may actually be a mistake from the magazine that excerpted the piece, Entertainment Weekly! but from the excerpt you can barely tell it’s the author’s mother who died.
When I first read Chua’s WSJ piece, I thought it was a satire. And when I realized it was to market her book, I figured her editor picked the most sensationalistic excerpt and wrote a link-baiting headline. But the more bits I read from her book, the more I keep thinking, BAT SHIT CRAZY!
I really hope that Chua doesn’t hold herself up as a “typical Chinese parent” in the book because these examples would be considered bat shit crazy by any cultural standards.
In the community where I grew up — which was the perfect “model minority” breeding ground — the Asian parents were extremely rigid about things like education and had very high standards for behavior. Cultural differences abounded and I know many of my Asian American peers felt frustrated and hurt about their parents’ inability to express affection or encouragement. There were definitely parents who freaked out over crap like an A- or one flubbed note in a piano recital. But any parent who pulled the kind of bat shit crazy shenanigans that Chua describes would have been labeled by the other Asian parents as… bat shit crazy. And every time their kids complained, they would have said, “At least I’m not like Sophia and Lulu’s mom. You know, the bat shit crazy one? Yeah, you have it easy compared to them, so stop whining!”
catherine – it does indeed almost seem like satire, doesn’t it? it crossed my mind when i first started reading her piece, then quickly realized she was serious.
there were indeed the parents who went overboard, and i think i remember my mother citing these insane examples – Auntie A who beat her son with a stick when he got a D in math, Mr. and Mrs. B who didn’t let their sons watch any TV – saying that we were lucky. at the time my point of comparison were my white friends’ parents, who rarely yelled and who let their kids bring dinner up to their room and always drove us to the mall, so of course i didn’t think i was lucky at all. but maybe i was!
I stumbled upon your blog about crazy chinese mothers and enjoyed reading it. I am a Chinese mother, with a daughter who is half me-the most evolved human specie, and her American father who was mostly Irish and a little French. My daughter’s father left us when she was two and moved to Europe for quite some years. She saw him during summer and some holidays. I tried not to be a typical Chinese mother with all the demands and strict rules about many things. I never demaneded A’s from her but expected her to enjoy the learning of any subject and did her very best at it. I am very Americanized, more so than my own family. I just want my child to grow up and be her own person, and find her true self and purpose in life freely. Of course I am strict about dating, staying out late and inappropriate behavior at times toward her mother when she had a melt down about something, anything, and about her father. I am speaking of the years throughout high school and beyond, when her father died of cancer when she was in eighth grade. I got her counseling throughout high school but her grief turned into rage and at times. She went from I am the coolest mom to the abusive chinese mom. It’s almost as if labeling me chinese justify her unfounded assertion that her mother was abusive verbally to her. I did on many occassons shut her down when she behaved inappropriate to me and to her friends. I wanted her to be a good person and not use her grief to make the world around her pay for her pain.
In fact, even her friends adored me and called me not mrs. conway, but momway,and togethr, they set up a facebook accoun for me in the name of momway conway, and they all friended me and all hat stuff. It was so sweet. I am the kind of mom who would not pressure my daughter to over achieve until they are burned out. I don’t believe in that. Some chinese moms accused me of being too strict, and even attribute that to my being a divorcee. Ridiculous!
I know what having a chinese mother is like. I’d never act that way toward my child. But in her grief, she’s unable to distinquish logica and illusion. Just anything to justiy her emotional melt down. This came to a head two years ago when I got breast cancer. I had a doubled mastectomy and after one night in the hospital, I was home to recuperate. My half chinese daughter bent over me and said she felt I did not do a good job comforting her when her father left us when she was 2. Therefore, she did not plan on being there for me. That when she returned to college in a couple of days, she’d never return.
I have not seen nor heard from her since then. I feel proud that I did raise my daughter to be self sufficient and she obviously accomplished that. I also feel at peace that I no longer had to be her whipping boy when she felt sorry for herself. I don’t regret being tough on her when I needed to. It’s no good living a life thinking everything made one unhappy without taking some responsibility.
My main point is, chinese children who blamed their chinese mother for the ‘sufferings’ imposed upon them is too lame of an excuse. I don’t say there aren’t chinese mothers that are overbearing. But each person has a responsibility to ride out any difficult situation and find their way to their freedom, without blaming their crazy chinese mother. It almost seems as if being chinese and a mother is automatically a villain and should be condemned. I know many chinese mothers like me are not like that. We, like all the other mothers, expect their children to do the right thing and to succeed. I do enjoy the funny parts about how some chinese mothers act. How they talk or interpret the amercian culture etc… Keep that up and make us laugh. And children of chinese mothers should use that as a way to reexamine how they want to live their lives and treat their children and who they can become. Take that initiative and stop using your chinese mother as an excuse for your insecurity and stress of growing up and finding your place in the world. I hope you as a good writer will change the direction and help those who do suffer from over demanding chinese mothers. I plan on reading your blog continuously. By the way, the person I loved and treasured the most is my daughter. Her name is Madeline Kay Conway. I gave her that name and I raised her as a single mother and a career woman. If she ever thought I have the crazy chinese mother syndrome, she needs help.
Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry for your hardship and the difficulties with your daughter.
As for me, I will continue to write what I’m interested in. If you choose not to read my blog, I understand. Perhaps you should start one of your own.