Continuing The Story

I first heard of Amy Chua from my daughter M. She was home for the holidays, and we were in the kitchen making her favourite tart tatin. She claims that my version is better than what we had at Le Perigord, a French restaurant in midtown Manhattan. I agree. : )

M’s friends at college were fuming at Chua for claiming that Chinese mothers are superior, and she started reading to me the Wall Street Journal excerpt of Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother. I thought it was a satire until I was told that it was how a Yale law professor raised her daughters.

I could not believe it! I had very traditional Chinese parents, and I could not believe anyone raised the way I was would choose the same parenting methods! And someone with a Harvard and Yale education, too!

I wanted to tell Chua that if admission to an Ivy League college was the ultimate goal, I managed to raise a daughter who was accepted by Harvard, Yale and Princeton without threats and hysterics.

And that is why I started this blog. I uploaded all the essays I wrote as a present to M when she graduated from high school four years ago.

It has been a little less than two months since I began calling myself the good chinese mother. This blog has had more than 40,000 visitors, and I am still finding it hard to believe that what I have written is actually being read and enjoyed by strangers.

I find it even harder to believe that this blog has led to a column in the Washington Times.

I continue to tell the story of being mother to M, and you are warmly invited to listen.



14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. e2thec
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 19:30:06

    about the piano thing: your daughter will probably get back to playing… and she’ll enjoy it!

    I think there are a lot of things wrong with the way music ed. is handled in many places. Your choices were (imo) much better than those that many schools – and piano teachers – make.

    my personal feeling is that if someone clicks with an instrument, well… go for it. and if not, then not.


    • haha
      Mar 06, 2011 @ 20:32:22


      Thank you for visiting my column.

      Sadly, we do not have a piano right now, and I do miss listening to M playing The Carpenters.

      While I understand the importance of developing technique, I never imagined M as a concert pianist. She asked for piano lessons because her friends had them, and later, because she wanted to play Close To You by The Carpenters. I thought it would be best for her to enjoy her lessons, and to develop a desire to get better naturally.

      As a parent, there were just too many battles to fight on a daily basis. I chose to fight those that I thought were truly important because I did not want to live in a war zone, and waste the precious few years that I had with M constantly in argument with her. Playing the piano was just that not important to me, but strangely enough, aligning her shoes when she took them off was vital!

      While not everyone plays a musical instrument, we all take off our shoes! I guess I was just practical!



  2. e2thec
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 22:19:10

    I think you made some wise choices.

    I’m a percussionist, and… I didn’t find “my” instruments until I was in my early 30s. As a kid, I tried woodwinds; later, various stringed things. None of them, as they say, took.

    We all develop at a different pace, and – although I’m not a parent – I think it’s good to allow kids to choose activities that they’re genuinely interested in. (Whether that’s because their friends are doing it or for whatever other reason…) I once sold a child’s drum set to a mom who had been saving for it for a long time – it was for her 9-year-old daughter’s Christmas present. I had met her daughter previously, and she loved playing snare drum and the other instruments that her school band program gave to her.

    I think both of them had a very happy Christmas morning – the mom more than her daughter, maybe.

    And yeah, I know… drums! But that mom was <i.encouraging her child to do something she truly wanted to do, for the sheer joy of it.

    I’m sure the daughter probably wanted to get out of a lot of her practice drills, but I bet the battles over practice weren’t anything like those that happen when adults are trying to get kids to do something that gives them no pleasure at all.

    Bach, Brahms – all the rest – composed because they wanted to. I doubt any of them would want to hear people playing their music because they have to.

    To my mind, technique is secondary to love of music and a desire to be able to play well. (Or to play just enough for one’s own satisfaction, which is what a lot of adult learners are after – I think kids should have that choice, too.)


    • haha
      Mar 07, 2011 @ 00:18:43


      So, you are a percussionist. To be honest, I wish M learned how to play the drums. It is the epitome pf cool to me! It never ceases to amaze me that parents think of the drums as the easy instrument to play. It might be compared to the piano and the violin. I have no clue, but I have learned from experience that it is no walk in the park!

      When we were back in Tokyo, M took lessons in taiko drumming, and as always, I joined her. I quickly discovered that it was not just a matter of hitting the drum with a couple of sticks! Not only did I have to remember where to hit the drum, I also had to control how hard I hit them. It was a challenge for the mind, and physically demanding!

      I introduced M to classical music by taking her to see Tchaikovsky’s ballets, and later, to Verdi’s operas. M adored stories, and ballets and operas are tales in motion. I would always give her the books first, and we would listen to the music as she read the books. By the time we got to the performances, she was so familiar with the music that she would hum along.

      That did not prevent me from taking her to Broadway musicals as well. We would listen to Smokey Joe’s Cafe on the way to school. In addition, we listened to The Supremes, Steely Dan, and The Eagles. I guess I wanted her to get a taste of everything so she can decide for herself. And as it turns out, she simply listens to all kinds of music!

      What would I have done had M been blessed with the talent of Mozart? I would have encouraged her, but I would not have driven her to be like Mozart who made a lot of people happy with his music but who was not all that happy himself. I would rather the world not have a Mozart than have M lose herself in pursuit of excellence.

      BTW, you are one perceptive music store sales person!



  3. e2thec
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 06:43:51

    It sounds like you and M had a wonderful time sharing *many* kinds of music, theatre, dance – all of it. It kind of makes my day to hear about that; much the same as the mom and daughter that I wrote about in my last comment.

    One reason I remember them: seeing that kind of joy on anyone’s face is rare, and they both had a spark of it. Also, I’ve rarely seen an adult so genuinely happy during the madness that is Christmas retail.

    The place where I sold that drum set was a big clearinghouse for band instrument rentals – a part-time job, just to pick up some extra money during the rental season rush.

    The thing is… so many kids came in (with their parents) who were being made to play because the parents thought they should. The kids weren’t happy, and many of those parents certainly weren’t. But the hardest thing was when kids came in with their parents and… the kids really wanted to play an instrument. Not because they had a passing interest, but because the kids were drawn to music in a way that comes from within – nobody can make a child have that feeling; it’s either there or it isn’t.

    Many of the parents in those cases were indifferent; even hostile toward their kids and the kids’ desire to learn music. I tried not to let it get to me, but there were times that it did. In some cases, i think the parents had no understanding of what the arts can mean to a child; in others, I think they saw no reason for the time and expense involved, and in still others – deeper problems were there. (I got the feeling that some adults really didn’t care that much about their children as individuals – as people.)

    Thankfully, those adults were in the minority… but it was always nice to work with parents who genuinely understood and encouraged their kids in a healthy way….

    About taiko: wow – that’s a very demanding thing; almost a martial art, in terms of its demands on the body. (more so than drum set, i think… although I am a hand percussionist, not a set player.)

    We don’t really have taiko ensembles and groups here in the East, but i wish we did, as I’d like to learn. (And get fitter, i suppose. ;))


  4. e2thec
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 06:45:58

    and thanks so much for your kind words! (meant to say that in my previous post, but I forgot…)


  5. z-chan
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 10:25:15

    Wow – Good Chinese Mother – you’re now a columnist! Congratulations!

    You emailed me after I’d read all your stories to M. Thank you for taking the time to do so – it was lovely to hear the full chronology of your amazing life as a mother and globetrotter!

    I will certainly be following your columns in the Washington Times for tips on how to be a better nursery teacher, (future) mother, and just a positive influence on others!

    Thank you xx


  6. e2thec
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 19:57:54

    oh, and… I agree completely about Mozart. He was forced to perform as a child and that had to have done a lot of bad, bad things to his psyche, poor kid. (Apparently his sister Nannerl suffered even more than he did… )


  7. pandamom
    Mar 11, 2011 @ 01:26:49

    Congratulations on your column! Your writing is entertaining and insightful – keep up the good work, GCM.


  8. Cherry
    Mar 21, 2011 @ 12:01:27

    Hi GCM
    Hope your family is ok in Japan.


    • haha
      Mar 28, 2011 @ 10:58:17

      Thank you very much for thinking of us, Cherry. We have no friends or family in the areas hit by the tsunami.

      It is at trying times like these that we are most proud to be Japanese. Recovery and reconstruction will be difficult, but I am convinced Japan and the Japanese will come out stronger.



  9. Remi Windsor
    Mar 25, 2011 @ 18:07:38

    Bravo. I am a venture capitalist in the Silicon Valley with a degree in physics from UCSB and a law degree from Stanford. My parents were kids from Chicago who moved to California and became beatniks–albeit a corporate CEO beatnik and a stay at home Mom who became the President of several non-profit organizations. They raised me in a free-thinking environment, with just the right amount of pressure and discipline.

    I now have my own VC firm and invest in many companies where the founder was not raised by a Tiger Mother (very few of those) but the Chief Technology Officer was. Almost all raised in Tiger Mother-type environments say they have profound psychological scars and blame that environment with their struggle to be true entrepreneurs and break in socially in the Silicon Valley.

    I am so glad I found your blog, because I have been so peeved at the attention this so-called Tiger Mother has been given over what I think amounts to child abuse.


    • haha
      Mar 28, 2011 @ 10:50:50

      Thank you very much for reading my blog.

      Uploading the essay collection I wrote as a present to my daughter was my way of protesting against tiger parenting. Being a mother to M will always be what defines me.



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