EST. May 2000 (AD)


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Tiger Mothers/Seething Cauldrons


By Pamela Miller

Hello Tiger Mothers:

It’s been a tough time in the Tiger den. Despite appearing on several important morning talk shows, a few moderately interesting nighttime shows, and a humor show that I clearly don’t get, it seems that many people are somehow upset about my firm and inflexible belief that all Western childrearing is wrong.   My thesis is this:  Childhood is not about fun or happiness.  It’s about the relentless effort towards a goal, and mediocrity is not acceptable.  I guess I should have done some research prior to the media blitz.  But then I would have had to buy a TV or a popular news magazine, and who has time for that.  I have a full-time job, a husband, a household, and two children to micromanage lest they develop an independent thought.  I come from a long line of high achievers, and my children are not going to break off on their own to take part in activities that do not lead to medals, awards, honors, or respect.  I never had a sleepover, a play-date, appeared in a school play, or complained to my parents about anything, and I expect the lack of those individual elements led to my highly successful life. 

Because so many of you think I’ve limited my children, I’m allowing my favorite daughter to share her thoughts.   When I say favorite, I’m not kidding.  She never disobeys me or questions a six-hour piano practice session, followed by three hours of extra math problem sets.  She knows she isn’t allowed to place second on any test, quiz or writing assignment.  Thanks to me, she is several years ahead in math and science, speaks Mandarin, performed on the piano at Carnegie Hall, and understands that there is a difference between nurturing and coddling.  She is my number one daughter, and I’ve fully forgiven her for once allowing a little South Korean boy to beat her score.  My less obedient younger daughter will be allowed to share her thoughts once she graduates from college.  Just to be fair, I’m allowing my children to choose either law or medicine for their future careers, but only if they continue to practice the piano or violin for four hours a day. 

From Number One Daughter:

Dear Sir or Madam:

I appreciate the opportunity to share how wonderful it is to be a constant achiever. I have been told it’s enjoyable to play the piano for hours and hours a day.  Music is as engaging as math and science problem sets.  Both of my parents are law professors, and they’ve allowed me to read about the sad plights of people without standards.  If I should fail to meet their expectations, I will end up a felon with a drug problem or a drummer.  I want to do everything my mother tells me to do because I know she is always right.  My mother is not a monster.  She doesn’t care if I’m not the best in gym. She only cares about the important classes and the worthwhile extracurricular activities.  My mother tells me what I need to do in order to be a true success like she is.  My mother is not telling me what to write, but she does have final editorial authority. She just informed me that my grammatical skills are garbage and my syntax is sloppy and is assigning me to rewrite this whole piece, just as she insisted I rewrite her birthday card.  And now she is telling me it’s time to return to the piano.   

Thank you for your kind consideration. 

From Number Two (Yet Still Amazingly High Achieving) Daughter

Hey there,

Just hacked into my mom’s computer and wanted to add my thoughts.  My mom basically wrote her Tiger Mother manifesto because I went a little wiggy in Moscow.  Here’s the deal:  I broke a glass cause I was tired, hungry, and she was forcing me to eat caviar after practicing the violin for eight straight hours.  I was, like, thirteen.  Forget that I had jetlag and really just wanted to be home.  So I had a little meltdown and told her that despite the constant nagging, I wanted to give up the violin and play tennis.  She gave me daily notes on what I needed to do on each measure.  She doesn’t even play the violin!  So we agreed I could take tennis lessons, but she tried to micromanage that, too.  I’m not trying to become the next tennis champion.  It just seemed a better idea to whack at a ball then dreaming about impaling my mom with the violin bow. 

Not sorry that my mom quotes me calling her Lord Voldemort.  Just a little worried someday she’ll know what that means. 

Peace Out.

©2011 Pamela Miller