The term "Tiger Mom" has been widely popularized since the publication of 2011 memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by the queen of them all, Amy Chua. According to Chua, it's a traditional East Asian style of parenting using strict rules, discipline and tough love to raise children succeed academically and intellectually. To visually paint a picture, it's when a very proud and legacy driven mother wants to raise the most intelligent, athletic, musically gifted child and will take deep measures to do so, through education, tutors and top of the art piano lessons.
My mom is what you would call a "Tiger Mom". I was raised alongside my brother in a suburban Caucasian-dominated town in Connecticut, living in a modest sized house and educated in a great public school system taught by mindful teachers. We were secluded from all harmful unfamiliarity of the outside world, while raised embracing our traditional Korean roots. Korean was the only language that we spoke in the house, and I was encouraged to practice reading and writing the characters. I attended Catholic Church weekly, followed by Sunday school where I was taught the value of prayer, constant seeking forgiveness of my sins and various lessons of the Bible.
I was blessed with amazing opportunities, but was also held down from the freedom and independence that many teenagers my age reveled in.
Many "Tiger Moms" have their set of principles and list of strict rules, and my mom was no different. She authoritatively enforced rules including:
- Any sleepovers, parties, drinking of alcohol are STRICTLY off limits
- No swearing, or offensive language in the house (or anywhere, really)
- Dating or meeting with anyone from the opposite sex is forbidden
- Bad grades will not be tolerated
- No wearing makeup until college
- 6 p.m. curfew if you decide to hang out after school
- Adding onto Rule #6 write down on a piece of paper the list of people you are hanging out with, at who's house (address) and their home phone number.
Given the circumstances I was in, I became very rebellious.
Despite the number of tutors, tedious math lessons and pile of study books on my desk, I failed to became that epitome of a perfectly well mannered, musically talented, math prodigal young woman. I secretly put on my mom's mascara when she was downstairs packing my lunch. I constantly received bad grades throughout high school and slacked off in class. I snuck out from "studying in the library" to run around with my friends and instinctively lied about my whereabouts.
Yet, my mom kept driving me around in her Toyota minivan to swim class and piano lessons. Peeking through the window of the rehearsal room before my flute recital. Pulling the covers over my shoulders in the middle of the night and stuffing an umbrella in my backpack in case it rained on my way home from the bus stop. Her desire to shape me into someone talented and successful was resilient and she saw something in me that never made her give up. She saw beauty in my flaws and helped me turn these failures into a success.
To reach this euphoric success, she set big goals and put pressure on me to reach them. Yet, she proved that these goals are attainable. Now, as a grown up independent adult, I realize the affect she had on my life.
It was possible to attend the number one U.S. public university, even though it took me three years after high school to get my shit together.
I undoubtedly suck at math and science, but consequently discovered my passion for writing and can now pursue my career with a job I would enjoy waking up to every morning.
I'm not musically gifted, but I eventually found respect for classical music and can proudly share my extensive knowledge of Bach's Harpischord Concerto No.1 in D Minor.
As much as I hated being forced to read and write Korean, I'm now fully bilingual which allows me to interact with the dominant Korean community here in LA and also help me communicate with my grandparents in Korea, who enjoy FaceTiming and sending me messages through KakaoTalk.
Your greatest failures can become your biggest blessings, and these blessings make up your success.
Mom, I owe all my success to you.
All the tears, frustration and tantrums made it worth it.