A Mother’s Review of the Battle Hymn of The Tiger Mother

There is something so empowering about reading a book while breastfeeding. I felt along with all the fats, carbohydrates and antibodies, it was also the thoughts, predicaments and resolutions of the author that I was passing on to Little B. What better can I give her at this time! Alas, my joys of reading and breastfeeding lasted only till Little B turned 6 months old. After that, even the slightest sound of a page flipping used to distract her. She would stop drinking and instead stare at the pages of the book. But 6 months was enough for me to read 3 books – Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Between a Rock and a Hard Place and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

Here’s a Mother’s Review of the Battle Hymn of The Tiger Mother by Amy Chua, the first book I read then.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother review

The book is subtitled,

“This is a story about a mother, two daughters, and two dogs. This was supposed to be a story of how Chinese parents are better at raising kids than Western ones. But instead, it’s about a bitter clash of cultures and a fleeting taste of glory.”

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is Amy Chua’s a little provocative and a little funny memoir of how she raised her two daughters the strict Chinese way. She starts with the premise that Western parenting style and Chinese parenting style are poles apart with Western bending more towards individuality and laidback attitude while Chinese being all about strong work habits and stringency at best. Living in the U.S., it was difficult for her to ward of the western influence her children were getting. However, she held the leash tight, and even tighter whenever required. Where did her Chinese parenting lead her daughters living in the western culture? That’s for you to read!

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother review

One thing that motherhood has taught me is that life of a mother is extremely challenging. Persistent physical labor is just one part of that challenge. More distressing is the mental and emotional agony that a mother goes through. With such constrictions, mothers try making the best decision they can. We might judge the decisions to be black or white, but the truth is that everything that a mother does is grey.  Should I let the child have bottle? Should I start diaper training as soon as she turns 1? Should I ignore the tantrum? Should I force her to finish the puzzle first? Every small decision from the binky to the college application is grey, for a mother cannot predict for sure what result she would get for saying “yes” or “no” to the child.

What am I trying to convey here?

I am trying to tell you that I liked the book. Not because the ‘Western vs Oriental’ culture crash it portrays or because of its over-emphasis on musical perfection. All such things are superficial. I liked the book because it is an honest recount. Amy Chua didn’t hide the fact or sugar coat the fact that she is a ‘control freak.’ She took the chance of narrating her parenting life as is even when she knew that people will scrutinize and question her actions.

As with everything else in life, we can decide what we take from the book and what we don’t even touch. This is what I took from the book –

“Nothing is fun until you’re good at it.”

Couldn’t agree more. I might enjoy so many things but unless and until I put my best in it, it doesn’t matter. The same is with children. If Little B wants to learn dance, my first advice to her would be that you better learn it well and get good at it or else there is no need for me to continue paying for the classes. I don’t think it is harsh parenting; it is in fact quite practical. We complain that children buy so many toys and hardly play with them. Playing is about fun, but it also about regular practice and discipline. Make sure that your child plays with a toy enough before you buy the next one for her/him. If the child doesn’t respect toys, maybe she/he doesn’t deserve them. There’s nothing wrong in me accepting that.

“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 there.”

This is what Amy Chua told her daughter when she made a birthday card for her. Seems unmotherly, right?

We all get cards and gifts from our children on our birthdays and Mother’s Day and this day and that. Yes, everything our child makes is special. But we mothers deserve something more than special, isn’t it? Children often end up making the typical flower or heart greeting card for their parents. These cards are made in haste without even them thinking who they are making the card for. If I as a mother put my soul in even buying a water bottle for Little B, I totally deserve something more than the ordinary. I feel it is only right to tell the child upfront that her/his gifts would be accepted only if they are made with consideration. Do not celebrate mediocrity!

And this is what I will not take from the book –

I pointed out to my girls, “Do you know what the Kims will be doing while we’re on vacation? Practicing. The Kims don’t take vacation. Do we want them to get ahead of us?”

Amy Chua’s daughters practiced their music regularly, even on vacation. I would not want to do that. Vacation time is too sacrosanct for me and I would not want to do anything else at that time than to just be idle. So there’s no question of me ever asking Little B to act any more than a sloth bear on our vacations.

People criticize Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and Amy Chua citing her extremely harsh parenting style – she left her 3-year-old daughter out in the cold for not listening to her. But I just say, people cut her some slack. I can bet that at some point or the other, we all have subjected our children to rules from our whims and fancies. Our rules might not be as hard as Amy Chua’s but they often are as ridiculous. As I said earlier, at the end of the day, we all are grey mother. There’s no need for us to judge who is greyer or greyest.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother review

P.S. I was raised by a ‘Tiger Father.’ I was pushed and pulled all through my childhood. I was asked to learn all kind of manual labor work. I trained as a plumber, an electrician, a whitewasher, a mechanic and what not. I was asked to read daily newspaper to the very last word. His way of encouraging me was to discourage me first and every time he did I only went stronger. I tried my hardest just to prove him wrong. How do I feel about it now? I respect my dad more than ever. Because he forced me to learn every sort of task, I am extremely independent. I don’t need to wait for my husband to come back from the office to fix something broken in the house. Hell, most of the times I don’t need even need to hire a mechanic for them. I can screw, solder, wire, paint and use every kind of tool. That’s what he gave me and that is what has made me who I am. I now realize that all that nagging was his love, love and nothing but love.

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