Books & Magazines · Family & Friends

Chinese mothers, Jewish mothers, Filipino mothers

There’s a lot of discussion going round about Amy Chua’s book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, in which she relates raising her two daughters using methods which Barbara Kay says “would have gladdened the heart of Simon Legree.”

After reading this review of Ms. Chua’s book and Barbara Kay’s comment, all I can say is, there are Chinese mothers and Jewish mothers, and then there are Filipino mothers. I often joke that my childhood was the original Fear Factor, without the prize money. My mom didn’t hesitate to pour alcohol on my scraped knees, made me eat whatever she put on the table, and yes, spanked me when not even a certain look in her eye could stop me from misbehaving. I had a curfew well into my teens, and when I didn’t do well at school, she would demand to know the reason why.

But there were fun times, too. She would read to me on drowsy hot afternoons in her big bed, buy me treats like chocolate milk and crayons, and let me watch cartoons on Saturday mornings. As we grew older, my sisters and I would pile onto her bed with her and talk for hours.

Today, whenever I’m faced with something difficult that I need to do, I just imagine my mom standing over me with her look that meant do or die, and I take a deep breath and go for it. My mom never shamed me into doing anything, but I knew that giving something my best shot would always make her proud. To her, it wasn’t the result that mattered, it was the effort. I’m no prodigy and my mom will be the first to say she never wanted me to be one. All she ever wanted was for me to do the best I could and to be happy.

I think there’s much, much more to being a mother than finding your child’s inner prodigy and horsewhipping it into shape. I’d say the best kind of mothering is that special blend of tough love and tenderness that my mom lavished on me.

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