Sunday, February 19, 2012

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

So I finally read the very famous Battle Hymn... by Amy Chua - probably a year or two after everyone else, right? Never mind. Better late than never.

I found the book eminently enjoyable. It was kind of strange because I alternated between thinking 'What, is this woman crazy?' to 'Wow, she's brave to be putting herself out there with all these radical sounding parenting confessions' to 'Uh-oh - why is some of this sounding a little too familiar'?

I am not sure why I was also a little disturbed by the book. Perhaps because I think I'm still personally figuring out my own parenting style - I have three small kids - and I'm just in my early thirties. While that's not exactly young, I know people my age and older who are still single or just married, with no kids on the horizon anywhere for the next couple of years at least. At twenty seven, I was one of the youngest mothers in my own rather limited social circle of friends and cousins. So the fact is that there hasn't really been someone to look up to with regard to what good parenting really means. Well, except my own mother - who is a wonderful lady, but look how confused her progeny turned out, right?

So anyway, I think overall Madame Chua is more than slightly nuts-oid and paranoid and all-around overdoing it as a parent in her very honest, funny, lovely book. And at the same time, she sounds not just so very human, but also so very normal. Despite her deliberately annoying sweeping generalizations, and all those statements and observations about 'Western parents' that are provocative yet probably true.

The only statement that really bothered me in the book, was the line ''Every day you don't practise, is a day you're getting worse''. This referred to the piano or the violin, but it hit me at two levels:

* My own playing of the guitar stagnated precisely because of the fact that I stopped playing regularly, stopped challenging myself.
* I recently enrolled Peanut in piano classes and it was a total eyewash because of the fact that I couldn't keep up with her lessons and get her to practise myself.

I also totally subscribe to the author's idea that the most rewarding things in life are usually incredibly frustrating at the beginning. I faced that with the guitaring. With the writing. Early failures everywhere, and then finding some sort of beautiful rhythm that makes sure that some things just work.

And that's certainly one area I plan to push the kids as soon as I get my parenting act together - encouraging them past the early failures ( oh all right, maybe threatening, cajoling, bribing, too - whatever it takes!). So that they have a fighting chance at becoming excellent. The potential always exists, right?

And in any case, I take some comfort in the whole 'most rewarding things in life being frustrating at first' thing.

Because if that's true, parenting is all set to be the most rewarding thing in my life sometime in the distant future.

Have you read the book? What did you think?


  1. Just want to reserve my place as the first commenter, good thought provoking post as always

  2. I haven't read the book, but have read a fair bit about it. I like what you are taking from it. I wonder how driven I can be, though, as a parent. Not very, I think.
    I don't know if your kids will love you for it or the opposite. I've generally muddled through life, marriage and child-rearing, hopefully for the good of all concerned!

  3. I read it. I wrote about it here:

  4. I had a similar takeaway from the book. I liked the way she wrote, her humour and irony, and her honesty (too honest!!). Still, can't ever be that confident abt my parenting as she seems to be. I just wrote a post abt the book, couple of days ago. Hop over to see it if u can.
    Oh, and first time here :) Love your writing!


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