Friday, May 20, 2011

Five Questions for the Tiger Mom

Originally posted in the parenting blog AimingLow

Dear Amy Chua:

I recently purchased your book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother on my Kindle, or as my father-in-law calls it, “my electric book.” At the 32 percent mark, (Kindles don’t use page numbers; instead of saying the book gets good about page 150, Kindle users say, “Hang in there until 41 percent because then it really takes off!) I was blown away to discover that I too was born in the Year of the Tiger, 1962. Furthermore, you said comedian, writer and actor are suitable careers for Tigers. I have in fact been a professional stand-up comedian for over 20 years, dabbled in acting and written a book. Guess that makes me a SUPER TIGER, correct?

Which is why I feel I should at least try this Tiger parenting depicted in your book. The kind that includes no sleepovers, play dates, TV-watching, computer game playing, school play participation and absolutely no grade less than an ‘A.’ The kind that includes making your children practice unpronounceable violin and piano pieces until they have mastered both the music and the pronunciations.

Sure bloggers have called you dysfunctional, and psycho. But I don’t care. We Tigers have to stick together, right?

Like you, I have two daughters. Natalie is fourteen and Amy is eight. Just last night I told them that, starting next week, I was going to become a Tiger father. My wife Sue was born in 1965, the year of the Snake, so God only knows what she’s planning. Amy eyed me suspiciously, wondering if I was going to actually become a Tiger before her innocent eyes. I assured her I was not. If anything, years of bad airport food and idle time in hotels have given me a more “ox-like” appearance.

Natalie was equally clueless as to what exactly a “Tiger parent” was but she was old enough to know it was going to mean something unpleasant. Her fingernails went to her mouth and she began drumming her foot on the floor, two habits borne out of nervousness. I immediately put a stop to the drumming. You would have been so proud of me because, at Kindle location five percent, you said playing drums leads to drugs. Ridiculous, I thought when I first read that. Just ask — uh, wait a minute — uh, just ask Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham. Okay, bad example. How about Keith Moon from The Who? Equally bad. What about all the drummers from Spinal Tap? Guess you are on to something, ma’am.

I just have a few questions. Please indulge me:

1) Is it okay to Tiger parent without a nanny? You had Grace, who once calmed your child’s colic fits with “a silken tofu braised in a light abalone and shitake sauce with a cilantro garnish.” My wife Sue and I have neither a nanny nor a Trader Joe’s at our disposal.

2) Your kids played stuff on the piano like "Viotti’s Concerto no. 23 in G Major” and “a toccata by Khachaturian,” whatever that means. We don’t own a piano but we do have an electric keyboard that not only plays musical notes but also make sounds that simulate glass crashing, fireworks, thunder claps and chirping birds. Is it okay if my kids’ concertos include these sounds? Personally, I think a thunder clap in the middle of a Mozart piece would keep the audience awake.

3) What would be a good day to shame our children? I was just 23 percent into your book before discovering “the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child.” Their schedules are pretty light on Thursdays. Is that okay?

4) Are my wife and I ever going to get any time alone? Since sleepovers are now verboten, we’re not sure what to do with the kids. Would it be okay if we dropped them off at a symphony or something and checked into a motel for a few hours?

5) Finally, you mentioned that your children had to be number one. You recounted how you rejected birthday cards from your kids because they were lacking in effort. You even talked about how your father said, “Never, never disgrace me like that again,” when you invited him to a ceremony and received a second place award.

So tell me, aren’t you absolutely mortified that your book peaked at number two on the New York Times bestseller list?

I look forward to your answers. Right now I have to drive my daughters to a sleepover. But first we have to find their iTouches.