My husband Jed took me aside. he told
me to stop insulting lulu—which i wasn’t even
doing, i was just motivating her—and that he
didn’t think threatening lulu was helpful. also,
he said, maybe lulu really just couldn’t do the
technique—perhaps she didn’t have the coordination yet—had i considered that possibility?
“You just don’t believe in her,” i accused.
“That’s ridiculous,” Jed said scornfully. “Of
course i do.”
“sophia could play the piece when she was
“But lulu and sophia are different peo-
ple,” Jed pointed out.
Motherhood is the strangest thing; it can be like
being one’s own Trojan horse.
—Rebecca West, 1959
“Oh no, not this,” i said, rolling my eyes.
“everyone is special in their special own way,” i
mimicked sarcastically. “even losers are special
in their own special way. Well don’t worry, you
don’t have to lift a finger. i’m willing to put in
as long as it takes, and i’m happy to be the one
hated. and you can be the one they adore be-
cause you make them pancakes and take them
to Yankees games.”
and wouldn’t leave the piano. That night, she
came to sleep in my bed, and we snuggled and
hugged, cracking each other up. When she per-
formed “The little White donkey” at a recital
a few weeks later, parents came up to me and
said, “What a perfect piece for lulu—it’s so
spunky and so her.”
There are all these new books out there
portraying asian mothers as scheming, callous,
overdriven people indifferent to their kids’ true
interests. For their part, many chinese secretly
believe that they care more about their children
and are willing to sacrifice much more for them
than Westerners, who seem perfectly content
to let their children turn out badly. i think it’s
a misunderstanding on both sides. all decent
parents want to do what’s best for their chil-
dren. The chinese just have a totally different
idea of how to do that.
even Jed gave me credit for that one. Western parents worry a lot about their children’s self-esteem. But as a parent, one of the worst things
you can do for your child’s self-esteem is to let
them give up. On the flip side, there’s nothing
better for building confidence than learning you
can do something you thought you couldn’t.
Amy Chua, from Battle hymn of the tiger
Mother. This memoir appeared in 2011, creating
controversy about Eastern and Western parenting
methods. In the book she observes, “What Chinese
parents understand is that nothing is fun until
you’re good at it.” A law professor at Yale University,
Chua published her first book, World on Fire:
how exporting Free Market democracy
Breeds ethnic hatred and Global instability, in
2003 and her second book, day of empire: how
hyperpowers rise to Global dominance—and
Why They Fall, in 2007.