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Mothers, Tigers, Bears, Oh My

Jan 11, 2011

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Barrie Hardymon

Everyone and her mother (get it!?) has sent me the Wall Street Journal op-ed on the so-called "tiger mother."  The term was coined by its author, Amy Chua, and her piece is called "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior." It's also slightly terrifying to any new or about-to-be mother. Here's a taste:

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it's like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I've done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

o attend a sleepover

o have a playdate

o be in a school play

o complain about not being in a school play

o watch TV or play computer games

o choose their own extracurricular activities

o get any grade less than an A

o not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama

o play any instrument other than the piano or violin

o not play the piano or violin.

This is tough stuff.  And it's causing a raging debate on the Internet, and I think probably around dinner tables as well.  I am not well enough equipped to enter the debate at this point — I played viola as a child, but got many, many grades less than an A — but I wanted to draw your attention to this Jezebel post, which, at the very least, gives one a choice of several kinds of mother, animal and otherwise.  But here is what I want to know: why must we keep comparing mothers to animals?  It reinforces this idea that mothers are born, fathers are made.  I am noting that I write this now being only three quarters (seven months) a mother, so maybe I will change my mind entirely in two months ... And start carrying my baby around by the scruff of its neck in my mouth.

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