A few months back I noticed that Amy Chua was making the talk show rounds discussing her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. After watching a few of the interviews, I sort of knew that I would probably never read the book, and I sort of knew that I would never want to be friends with Ms. Chua. Her kid made a birthday card for her and she gave it back and demanded something better?! What sort of parenting is that?!
My church book club selected Battle Hymn for our summer book, and I quickly signed up for it at the library because I knew that I didn’t want Ms. Chua to receive any royalty cash from me. When I made my library request, I was something like request number 394,492 with four copies in circulation. It was doubtful I would ever see the book. No big deal.
Apparently, some sort of hiccup took place in the system, and I got the call from the library a few days back. Please know that I’m sort of glancing around the room before I type this next sentence for fear that Katie Couric will walk out of my bathroom and roll her eyes at me, but: After reading the first 68 pages, I’m finding that I’m actually agreeing with MANY of the points that Chua makes in her book. MANY of the points! (I don’t really care if Katie Couric rolls her eyes at me. I think we could make up over burritos, and everything would be Just Fine.) ((Do you know that I make my kids correct their homework, because I find it unacceptable for them to make mistakes when they have the convenience of time to complete things accurately? I’ve also been known to make them correct things that they bring home from school. I know we’ll eventually reach a time when I can no longer enforce Correction, and I’m hoping the habit sticks so they eventually do it by choice, or just get things right the first time. We’ll see.)) (((How about that burrito, Katie Couric?!)))
It is now becoming clear to me that most of the people who interviewed Ms. Chua never read the book. Like me, they received the bulleted points that most of the articles puke out—the points that make Chua look absolutely callous and semi-abusive. And, sure. On the surface, it might seem a bit weird that Chua loaded the car with her daughter’s dollhouse and threatened to donate it to the Salvation Army piece by piece if the child didn’t perfect a particular piano composition by the next day. (Do you remember when I, smelling like a freshly showered Cinnamon Bun, went on a rampage and threw all of my kids’ toys away? We all have our moments, no?)
Anyway, peppered throughout the book (at least the first third that I’ve read so far) are things that really hit home (and sometimes sting a bit). For example:
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.
As Chua has said time and time again, this is NOT a parenting manual. This is a memoir. AND, if you treat it as a memoir and NOT a handbook, it’s not difficult to find the humor in it. (By the way, it’s very refreshing to be reading it simultaneously with Let’s Panic!) I’m actually considering purchasing the book when my library time is up, just so Penguin can shoot a fraction of a cent toward Ms. Chua for me. It bothers me that Joy Behar gave her such a hard time. It bothers me that I did That Thing where I judged another parent before knowing the whole story. (And I don’t even know the whole story! I know only 68 pages worth of the story!) Once again, we’re all doing our best, and my best is different from your best, and our best is different from Joy Behar’s best, but the fact remains: Everyone (probably) Loves Cake Balls. And later this week, I’ll show you exactly how to make them.