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Jan 12, 201105:08 PMChina Mom

Crouching Tiger Mother, Hidden Dragon Baby

Jan 12, 2011 - 05:08 PM
Joan Crawford, step aside. If you think slapping your daughter over "No! Wire! Hangers!" was bad, allow me to introduce Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

Have you heard of her? Chua is all over the airwaves promoting her memoir about raising her daughters "the Chinese way." And while there's no arguing that Chinese kids are stereotypically successful, I'm not sure "the Chinese way" is worth it.

In her book, Chua explains that her daughters were never allowed to:
- attend a sleepover
- have a playdate
- be in a school play
- complain about not being in a school play
- watch TV or play computer games
- choose their own extracurricular activities
- get any grade less than an A
- not be the #1 student in every subject except gym and drama
- play any instrument other than the piano or violin
- not play the piano or violin

Once she hauled her then seven-year-old daughter's dollhouse out to the car and threatened to donate it piece by piece to the Salvation Army if her daughter didn't learn a difficult piano composition by the next day.

It worked. Seven years later, her daughter played at Carnegie Hall.

Chua called her daughter "garbage" and said Chinese mothers have no problem saying things like, "Hey fatty, lose some weight" if they think their children are heavy.

She does point out that not all Chinese mothers are Tiger Mothers. And she says some "Chinese Mothers" are Korean, Irish, Jamaican and Indian. She adds that the American comparison of soccer moms is incorrect. Face it - nothing can please this woman and no one is right but her. Heh.

As the mother of a girl from China, I see this book two ways. One as a garden-variety American parent. From that perspective, I wonder how we can compete at all. If Chinese mothers are tigers what are we? We're merely...humans. And we know what tigers do to humans. Heck, the list of things Chua's daughters weren't allowed to do look like my daughter's list of "Things To Do Today ." Right down to "not play the piano or violin."

But as an adoptive mom with a child from China, my mind immediately goes to the "what if's?" What if our daughter hadn't been abandoned? What if her birth parents had kept her? What if my defiant, rebellious daughter was being raised by a Tiger Mother? Would she even be defiant and rebellious? Would she even be...her?

I can't imagine my daughter without her defiant streak as much as I can't imagine her without her happy laughter, her sense of humor, her charm, her confidence, her intelligence or her creativity. Like every parent, I love watching her grow up and blossom into the person she's becoming.

I've always said adoptive families are a study in nature versus nurture and we'll never learn the answer. But in this instance, which would have been nature and which would have been nurture? What talents or characteristics would a Tiger Mother have squelched or brought out in my daughter that I haven't - and vice versa? Again, we'll never know.

All we can know is the one truth - I'm her mother. And I'm not a tiger. I'm a mommy who will help her become the person she wants to be, rather than create the person I want her to be.

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Sarah Roe discovered the art of couponing in 2005 when her son was diagnosed with life threatening food allergies and the rising cost of medications and food made it difficult to feed her own family. By 2007, Sarah began teaching coupon workshops in Tulsa, Oklahoma and founded Tulsa's Coupon Queen, LLC

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