I just blew threw Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom by Amy Chau. I know, I know, this book and this debate is old news, but I finally decided to brave the biography section with Cave. Cave managed to tear three whole rows of books of the shelf in the two minutes we were up there, but it was worth it. This book was like a train wreck I could not look away from. The defense of her aggressive parenting strategy for her two daughters, especially as it relates to their music education, it fascinating and at times horrifying. Yet, I understand her criticisms of Western parenting styles, and tried to approach the book with a very open mind. In the end, I found her self-proclaimed "chinese parenting" pretty inhumane and brutal.
Yes, I agree with her that Western Parents can be overindulgent, overly focused on praise and thus, produce lazy, under-accomplished kids. I too am not a huge fan of sleepovers or large quantities of TV for kids; and yes, I'll admit I find myself underwhelmed by gym and want my kids to work hard in school, but I feel she's swung so far to the other side of pendulum.
There is one particular section where Amy Chau drags her entire family, including the dog, on an eight hour road trip so her 2nd daughter, Lulu, can have a lesson with a famous violinist. After practicing 4 hours in preparation and 1 hour of a lesson, they return to the hotel at 5:30 pm and the poor kid just wanted to have dinner. Amy tells her daughter they need to get started immediately on the new pieces. Her daughter protests and Amy tells her she's made a dinner reservation and she can eat then. The reservation was for 9 pm!! A massive fight ensues.
|Poor Lulu and Tiger Mom|
It is true, that Asian-American children often excel both academically and musically. But as I said to Mr. P, if fighting, yelling, and shaming your child through 5 hours of practice a day is what it takes to reach musical mastery of an instrument, it's just not worth it! And yet, I so love a beautiful piece of music played by a talented and feeling musician. Her first daughter, Sophia, seemed to respond better to Amy's parenting style and truly mastered her instrument. Sophia's essay on her Carnegie Hall performance of Prokofiev's "Juliet as a Young Girl," written at the age of just fourteen, shows a sensitivity and an appreciation for the beauty of her art that I found remarkable. She writes:
Performing isn't easy--in fact , it's heartbreaking. You spend months, maybe years, mastering a piece; you become a part of it, and it becomes a part of you. Playing for an audience is like giving blood; it leaves you feeling empty and a bit light-headed. And when it's all over, the piece isn't just yours any more.
It was time. I walked out to the piano and bowed. Only the stage was lit, and I couldn't see the faces of the audience. I said good-bye to Romeo and Juliet, then released them into the darkness.
Tiger Mom pushed Sophia relentlessly and her daughter, despite her grumblings, truly loved both her instrument and the music with a real depth. And you can't deny that Amy Chua was a huge part of that. Lula, on the other hand, saw the violin as oppressive and became embittered. I found their relationship heart wrenching. Anyway, a fascinating read!
My final analysis was this: Amy loves her girls and wants the good for them, but she has a disordered view of the Good. She's very ambitious for her children in a very worldly way. This is not necessarily the money and materialistic goods, as much as it's about attaining honors, achievements and attaining absolute excellence in as many areas as one can. Her ambition trumps any sensitivity for children's feelings... ever. I think I'm ambitious for my children, but my ambition is for them to reach their final home in heaven. All the other things I hope they accomplish should not be at the expense of breaking their spirits. As St. Paul says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, less they become discouraged” (Col 3:21). And again, he writes, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). Amy Chua thinks provocation and discouragement leads to shame and that shame motivates children to work hard and achieve greatness.
I'd be curious to know if any of you read the book and have any thoughts on her biography?
On a heavier note, here is a picture of the only thing I made for Thanksgiving. This pumpkin cake with brown butter frosting is the bomb, but it literally took me an entire day to make! I can't imagine making this if I also had to make other sides, much less a Turkey! If you're looking to gain 10 pounds in a day, here is the recipe.