Tuesday, April 26, 2011

About "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" and My Chinese Dad

When Seabloke first came to know about Amy Chua's book "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother", and how well it was selling, she was elated.

The book's almost a tribute to our Dad. 

Too impatient to wait for me to grab a copy myself, Sea passed me the book last week. Barely 2 days had passed and she was asking for a detailed description of how I felt about the book. 

Well, Sea, I just finished the last page. 

And this is what I think:
Amy's nothing like Dad. She was emotional, and at times, WEAK. If she's getting death threats for what she's written, I can't imagine what our Dad would have gotten had he written a book on how he raised us - specifically, ME. 

Remember the 10 rules and the 2 lists of "NOT-To-Dos" and "To-Dos" plastered to my wardrobe door? Remember that I was never allowed out of the estate without Dad? Remember that you get answers to questions while all I ever got was "Because I said so"? Remember I wasn't allowed to score "A-", and could only come in FIRST in the entire standard (In case you don't remember/know, I got a slap when I was ranked second in grade 2, coz Dad knew I hadn't given my best)? Remember that occasion when I stayed up til 10pm looking for a cassette tape and Dad remarked that it looked like I wasn't going to have a future (good kids with bright future turn in at 9pm latest and don't spend time looking for a stupid song)? Remember the number of spankings I got for doing things that every kid my age was doing? Remember how when I stepped on Dixie accidentally and Dad said I was so fat I nearly killed my dog just by landing on her? Remember how he would ask our family doctor what he could do with his fat daughter, and Doc would crack us all up by replying that I should give you my food? Remember I was told since the day you and Pilot were born that I MUST love my baby sister and brother, and because of that I had let you little rascals pinch, bite and punch me til I was bruised and scarred on almost all my limbs? And in return, you and Pilot were never allowed to call me by my name (hur...hur..hur....)? Remember that I wasn't allowed to whine like a girl, cry like a girl, and dress like a girl; have nice long hair like you did; and I have never been allowed to attend sleepovers and school outings? Remember that I wasn't allowed to talk to boys (and you had boyfriends when you were 9???) and MUST play the electric organ for an hour, swim for an hour, and be on the stationary bike for another EVERY DAY including Saturdays and Sundays? Remember you were allowed to play with dolls, and I was reading books on Buddha in traditional Chinese when I was 5?? Remember how I was told each day as Dad drove me to school to always be honest, humble, helpful, sincere, kind, polite, HAPPY, generous, DEMURE, gracious, confident, respectful, filial, grateful, considerate,  CHINESE, OBEDIENT, STRONG and ASSERTIVE??

But I also remember the number of times he told me privately how he loved my talking eyes, and how he both hated and loved it that I totally had a mind of my own. I remember too that whenever I got a beating, it was only because I had been bad. Even in his lousiest moods and most depressed moments, he would kiss my forehead when I had been good that day. Remember that last spanking I got when I was 15, just months before I was sent away for a decade? I had sneaked out to watch a GAZILLION thumbs-down movie, and came home to find - to my utter horror - Dad waiting for me. He was rushing out for a meeting, and instructed me to be ready for the cane when he returned. I had not a doubt that he was serious, and once he was out of the door, I went looking for the thickest pair of jeans I had. Granny asked if that would actually help. "You bet", I said. And then asked her to help record a show that was playing that day that I didn't want to miss. A few hours later, Dad came home, kept his word, and gave me a good caning. All done with not a shred of emotion. And for the first time, I didn't run around the house looking for cover. I think that was when Dad realized that even he couldn't control me anymore (Remember how helpless my teachers were when they told Dad I was a MONSTER, and how Dad would merrily relate to me what transpired during the meeting? Come to think of it, I think Dad actually took pride in the fact that he was the only one who could make me stop being hideous even if it was only for half a day).

I am glad I had a Tiger-Dad. All my life, it's never occurred to me to trade him for my friends and classmates' liberal parents who let their kids out of their sight, let them make their own choices (which we know are almost always BAD, except when they choose to do triple sciences in grade 11 of course....ahem....),  tiptoe around their feelings and around topics like pre-marital sex, materialism, vanity, alcohol and drugs. Dad was always point-blank."I am your father.That's WHY."

For someone who knew not a single word of Chinese, our Dad was amazingly CHINESE (fancy sending me to the only surviving Chinese school to study for six years - not that I'm complaining....I did love the Kampong school...perhaps also the cemetery right next to it). And way more COOL and RESILIENT than Amy (make no mistake, I totally love Amy Chua albeit her giving in to the girls eventually, coz she really made me laugh).

It's been almost 20 years and there's still not a single day that has gone by that I don't think of Dad . I asked D if it would ever go away - all those memories and the pain of losing him - and his answer was not very comforting to say the least.

And I know you've been waiting for this: no, you are NOT a tiger mother. Gremlins are bullying you! MUAHAHAHAHHAAA!!!! 

That's the reason they're camping at moi's, RIGHT?? 

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1 comment:

Teri said...

... you certainly do not appear to be a monster :P