“You ver-lee speh-so”
Me thinks Chinese Tiger Moms are a special bunch. I was raised by one and it was an unforgettable experience.
Chinese Tiger Moms have an unwavering tenacity to steer their kids in the direction of their choice and not of your choice. Whether by shame, by guilt or just by giving us a certain look, Tiger Moms know how to motivate their kids (and that’s putting it kindly) to be who they want the kids to be.
Like all Tiger Moms, my dear Mom expected us to be academically great and artistically inclined. Piano lessons, ballet lessons, Saturday Chinese language schools. Throw in extra extracurricular weekend homework ~ ahh, there you go. The ultimate Tiger Mom’s kid.
Beethoven is your friend!
Tiger Moms always pushed music lessons onto their kids. Of course! Piano and violin lessons were the go-to’s. I think we had a try at the violin but maybe our screechy violin playing irritated our Mom. So, piano it was. Dah, dah, dah dun!
We hated hump day….
Every Wednesday after school, Tiger Mom would trudge me and my older sister to Mrs. Rosentreater’s house. We would make the 2 mile walk to her house and have our lessons in one of the musty smelling rooms.
Mrs. R. was a sweet lady in her 80’s. I remember she smelled of rose perfume and menthol.
I think she had a touch of dementia because sometimes she would forget where we left off midway through our piano piece and made us play it over again…and again. But Tiger Mom taught us never to talk back to elders so, lessons lasted forever.
Cocoa mix and lemon twist
When one sister would be stuck with Mrs. R., the other would be outside hanging with the neighborhood kids. That was the best! We would play hop scotch, lemon twist and suck cocoa mix powder through a straw. Have you ever sucked cocoa powder mix through a straw? It was so against a Tiger Mom’s rules. Mom would’ve said something old wives tale-ish, like “Didn’t I tell you that sucking cocoa powder will make you too heaty and you’ll end up with bad acne?! And no man will want to marry you.” Alrighty then.
You are mine, muhhaha!
After Mrs. R. passed away, we thought, “Yay, no more piano lessons.” Nope. We moved on to another piano teacher – Mrs. Stevenson. At this time, my baby sister was of age so she was also sucked into the musical family fun.
Now, Mrs. Stevenson was ambitious. She was also much tougher than Mrs. R. and her memory was scary stellar. When Mrs. Stevenson made you play a piece over, it wasn’t because she had a little bit of dementia. It was because she wanted you to play that piece to perfection.
I think she had really grand plans for me and my sisters. Concert pianist type of grand plans. Shudder.
Practice, practice, practice
We hated practice time. Practice piano for what? We didn’t want to be concert pianists. I wanted to be “The Bionic Woman” or my sisters and I would be “Charlie’s Angels.” ( I was more tom-boyish so I would be Sabrina.) We would rather take down the bad guys, not pound on piano keys.
No fun, practice first!
We just wanted to play outside. Just let us be normal kids, Tiger Mom! But whenever we wanted to go outside and play, my Mom would say in Cantonese – “No fun, practice first!” So guess what? 1 hour practice sessions every single day. My sisters and I hated this. We played so carelessly that my Mom would get so frustrated with us, she would make us practice even longer.
By the way, we have a brother, who somehow got out of lessons, after I think, only a year. That’s because he was a boy. So Chinese, so unfair. I got him back by tearing the head off of his GI Joe doll. Take that little bro!
Just wanna play Wiffle ball, Mom!
Wiffle ball was so fun. But we had to drudge through practice and it was a drag. Practicing piano meant less time to play wiffle ball with Celeste, Stacy, Amy and Leslie from next door.
It meant we couldn’t put on our metal-wheeled roller skates to whiz around the block right after school.
How about the big wheel, just waiting for one of us to pedal it down the semi-slopey sidewalk, and turn its handle bar to make those big black skid marks on the concrete? (That was the coolest thing, wasn’t it?) No, we had to practice, practice, practice. Ugh!
Play in front of … HER?!
The lessons continued. Tiger Mom and Mrs. Stevenson got more ambitious. So, unbeknownst to us, every quarter, Mrs. Stevenson would hold piano recitals for friends and family. “Hey. Not cool. This wasn’t what we signed up for,” we thought.
Good gawds, that meant we had to perform in front of our Mom. That was the worse case scenario. She was the most critical of critics – we rather be critiqued by the meanest, most snarkiest Yelp reviewer than have my Mom critique us.
Why, why, why Mrs. Stevenson? You had absolutely no idea about our Mom, did you?
And I hated to be in front of people. It made me feel barfy. Probably because I dreaded having THE MOMENT.
Well, guess what? I had THAT MOMENT. Me. Only me.
Have you ever watched the “Joy Luck Club”? Watch the video and you will so understand!
The moment when I messed up royally in front of my Mom.
That was me – June in the flesh! I think I had that same look on my face. I remember as I stood up to bow, I just felt sorta dizzy, breathless and yeh, barfy. And that look on my Mom’s face? Scary.
Tiger Mom’s hate to lose face
Oh no! I made my Mom lose face and losing face as a Chinese Tiger Mom was the worse thing possible. Yikes, I’m going to hear the Tiger Mom spiel ~ “Why you mess up?” “You practice no good. You lazy, practiced more, you no mess up like you did.”
There was more. “You make me look bad.” “I try raise good daughter but not good.” SHH. (Shaking her head.). Worse, she gave me that Tiger Mom look that just cemented the fact that, I had another thing coming. “You practice 2 hours instead of 1 now.” Good-bye wiffle ball and roller skates. Don’t miss me too much Mr. Big Wheel.
Well a consolation for that day ~ my sisters did well at that recital. Thanks sisters! At least 2 out of 3 daughters came through. See Mom. You didn’t lose face entirely, right? Phew!
One day, we were on our way to Mrs. Stevenson’s house and it just felt like this day was the day! The day to quit piano lessons forever. It just wasn’t in us anymore. We were teenagers after all and how dare our Mom make us take piano lessons at our age. We were liberated!
We are quitters, yes!
So we turned around and went home. This was an intensely bold move because Tiger Mom’s do not like quitters! Well, we were going to be quitters that day and the universe couldn’t have stopped us if it tried.
So, my sister and I turned away from Mrs. Stevenson’s house and walked home. No more recitals! Buh bye!
Ooo, Mom is going to kill us!
As we walked home, we started to regret our decision. “Ooo, what did we do! Mom’s going to kill us!” Well, it was too late now. We were home and there was no turning back. She saw us walk through the door. “Why you not at lesson?” she asked. We tried to be bravely defiant and managed to squeak, “it’s boring and we don’t want to do it anymore?”
Crossing Tiger Moms – really wanna go there?
Naturally, she gave us the “wrath of Mom” look. Believe me, when you cross a Tiger Mom, be ready to take her wrath. Don’t try to hide because she will find you!
Tiger Mom raged, roared, and tried to march us back to Mrs. Stevenson’s. Oh my gosh, maybe she was going to cut our fingers off with that Chinese vegetable cleaver! She was mad!
The Asian Guilt Trip
After the major ragefest, I think she was resigned to the fact that we were getting older and it had to end sometime.
But before she let us off the hook, Mom took the the opportunity to make us both feel the Asian guilt. Just picture Mom saying this in Cantonese. Let’s reiterate ~
- You kids should be glad for this opportunity and you blew it. (Boom!)
- Other kids would be glad to be in your shoes. (Right!)
- Your cousins are such good kids – still taking piano lessons. (Haha cousins.)
- You are very ungrateful kids. (We don’t care.)
- I work so hard so you can have everything. (We didn’t ask for everything.)
- If I had this opportunity as a kid, I would not quit. (You can take our place.)
- Some day, just one day — you will thank me for making you take piano lessons. (Ok, you got us on this one.)
Bless your heart Mom because – guess what? She was right! Even though we hated it so much, to this day, we are so thankful she made us take piano lessons. Every time I sit down at the piano and play Beethoven’s 5th, I whisper a little “thanks Mom” for pushing me to do this.
Hey, am I supposed to be a Chinese Tiger Mom, as well?
Here’s my dilemma. Am I supposed to take after my Mom and be part of the Chinese Tiger Moms Club? I mean, should I be continuing the legacy?
- Make my kids take piano lessons (violin is the other choice).
- Make them do extra homework on the weekends.
- Make them recite the multiplication table in Cantonese until they know it by heart.
- Read all of the Encyclopedia Britannica books from A-Z (this was before Wikipedia, people).
- Watch only educational shows and not Felix the Cat?
If my Mom were alive today, would she say I should be more of a Tiger Mom? Would she say I’m doing my kids a disservice by not pushing them to do more and be more?
Nah, I’m a Kitty Mom
I’m a little softer than my Mom. I “purr” more than I “roar“. I can’t even make my daughter take a shower everyday! So, good luck with anything grander than soap and water.
Yes, it would be nice to have my kids know how to play Beethoven’s 5th. I’ve attempted to teach my daughter to play the piano. Yep. My inner Tiger Mom was trying to get out.
But after she rolled her eyes a few too many times and gave me super attitude , I just told her to talk to the hand.
Sorry, but I would make a bad Chinese Tiger Mom. I just don’t have it in me.
Chinese Tiger Moms only want the best for their kids
As I reflect on the many things my Mom expected of us, demanded of us and instilled in us, I could say that she wanted only the best for us. With Tiger Moms, they are not out to be mean or indifferent.They just show love in a funny sort of way – not by affection but by action. Our Mom wanted us to be well-rounded individuals with talents and ambition.
Part of why I’m braving to own an online business is in fact, due to one of my Tiger Mom’s teachings – Be all that you can be.
It is ingrained in a Tiger Mom, my Tiger Mom to make her kids more than who she was. And for that, I am grateful.
Thanks again for reading my post, “Chinese Tiger Moms ~ Memoirs of A Piano Lesson Survivor.
If you enjoyed this post or would like to share a Tiger Mom experience, please leave a comment.
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Again, thanks for visiting Liberation 2035. Much blessings to you!