Tiger Moms Everywhere

I recently finished reading The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom in anticipation of my upcoming interview with its author, Amy Chua. This was one of the hardest books I have ever had to read. Not because I was raised by a Tiger Mom. Quite the opposite, really. To keep it in Eastern zoology, I would say mine was a Panda Mom. This was probably for the best. I didn’t need a Tiger Mom. I already had one living in my head. I did not know I had one living in my head until I read Ms. Chua’s unsparing portrait of her parenting style and its eventual metamorphosis. Every criticism she leveled at her two daughters in the first two thirds of the book I had leveled at myself in the hopes of achieving the kind of success Ms. Chua expected for herself and her children. What’s more, the pitiless equation on which this parenting method is based—success = happiness—had secretly been mine as well. This equation worked for a time for me, until it completely and utterly did not.

Though I have spent many years pointing my intentional arrow away from that belief, the temptation to agree with the Tiger Mom work ethic remains great. The temptation to call trust laziness, freedom anarchy, and independence impudence was just a thought away. One moment I would be arguing with the Amy Chua character, and the next I would be loathing myself for having given up so quickly on the idea of constructive self-flagellation.

In the end, however, I concluded that, with respect to all Chinese mothers, the Tiger Mom is just afraid. Fear is powerfully attractive, but it will always run out. The energy of fear always runs out because this is energy gained by seeking the end of what you fear. If we believe in the power of fear, we must remain in fear in order to act. Using fear for action is founded in the belief that human beings would always rather do nothing than something, that humans would in fact be happier doing nothing than something. I am yet to meet one of these humans.

Love, on the other hand, never runs out because the energy of love is seeking to create more of itself. The energy of love propels us toward something and never away from it. And so writers tell other writers to write what they love; and so Joseph Campbell advises us to pursue our bliss; and so Mozart said that genius isn’t acumen or skill or craft, but love, love, love, love, love. I couldn’t agree more.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.

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