My dearest Komal, Anjli and Amar,
So what went through your mind when you read the title of this letter? I base it on the book ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’ by Amy Chua. When I read it a few years ago, I could relate to many of her parenting methods!
Do read it yourselves and tell me if you relate in any way to her two daughters? At some points I found Amy’s methods very harsh but there were many situations that reminded me of my dealings with you. In these incidences, I gladly adorn the ‘tiger mother’ hat. Of course it was always for your good!
The way I saw it(and still do): if I did not push you the way I did then I would be failing you as a responsible parent. What ever the field: sports, academia, various personal challenges; we have always pushed you to achieve the top goals. If you aim high you can reach a higher goal and it does not matter if you reach the top of the mountain or not, the actual journey is more important. Not only is this great for your own esteem and sense of achievement, but also good for teaching you endurance. No top goal is achieved without blood, sweat and tears. If we let you back down at a difficult stage we would not be teaching you the value of endurance and this can easily carry on over to the adult life. This perseverance teaches you values of not only endurance but also resilience, and importance of hard work. We are always hoping to teach you life lessons that will help you lead a fulfilling happy life until your last days.
The times I have given in to your resistances is the times I have failed you. The times when I let you give up on, for example, a sporting achievement when it started becoming tough, like gymnastics, skiing, football; or let you stop learning skills such as a new languages or a musical instrument, is when I failed you. The proverb: ” it is cruel to be kind” always comes to mind. Many in your peer group are always expecting quick results, but look back into time and know that there is no such thing! Not only are quick results not long-lasting, but they haven’t given you any other lessons except the yearning for instant gratification!. Life lessons are vital. All parents(majority mothers) should have a university degree before having children! My thinking is :”A well-balanced child will produce a well-balanced world”.
Let me remind you of my ‘tiger mother’ behaviour.
- Amar’s swimming lessons: I remember shouting at Amar for not wanting to continue with his lessons. This was all happening inside a closed changing cubicle and I was blissfully thinking that we were the only two soaking up this harsh dialogue! Wrong! Another child who heard it ALL, related this exchange to her mother. This parent happened to be a very good friend of mine. My embarrassment at that moment almost allowed me to let him give up on the swimming. I am glad I didn’t for then I would have failed you. Do you concur Amar?
- Anjli’s time at Duke: It broke both our hearts to learn of Anjli’s unhappy time at the end of her first term at Duke University. What was more hurtful and shocking was that she only revealed this the night before she was due to return to the USA. Unfortunately my ‘tiger mother’ behaviour did not let me allow her to stay back home, but made me push her back to North Carolina to at least complete the first year. The rest is history. What is your verdict on this Anjli?
- Komal’s acting aspirations: Komal had always wanted to pursue her acting career straight after school. Strong headed she might be but her ‘tiger mother’ pushed her to getting a graduate degree first before plunging into the acting circles. I am not too sure what your feelings are on this Komal?
There are many other such examples for all three of you, but that would be writing a lengthy book! Perhaps you can give me examples of events where you feel I was harsh in handling the situation?
One big event that happened in my life and one where you(and myself) benefited in a big way was my attendance of the Harrow Council Parenting Workshop. We were a group of 6 mothers in this workshop. Besides learning great tips on parenting, I learnt that I was not the only one having difficulties in raising young children. Of the many lessons I learnt, these three always crop into my head at times of uncertainty:
- Children are individuals and not the parents’ toys.
- Parents need to be less of a perfectionist, for themselves as well as the children.
- A happy contented parent will cultivate a happy contented child.
It is a well-known fact that off-springs learn and imitate their parents.
So if a parent is lazy, weak-minded, prejudiced, unkind, unhelpful, easily agitated, it will be reflected in the child. The off springs will not be: hard-working, strong-minded, fair, kind, helpful,calm etc.
I learnt many of my life lessons through my parents.
My father’s attitude of facing his responsibilities. When he had to give up his wonderful life in Africa where he had been the boss in the family business, he did not hesitate to take up a low profile job in a warehouse to support his family, extended as well as immediate. I never remember him being depressed or inactive. On the contrary he was always thinking of new ways to improve income. I could write pages about his strong character.
My other teacher would be my mother. I have grown up with the knowledge of her eye and ear problems, but she has never used that as her excuse. Becoming a widow at the tender age of 47 has also never been an excuse for her, perhaps this made her the stronger individual she is. Her family circumstances meant that she spent most of her childhood in the village with her grandmother in a household without electricity or running water. She has had little formal education, but to me she is the most wise, contemporary woman who I know. Again I could write a book on her.
They are my role models, who are yours? Does your role model show you ways to achieve inner personal strengths and a fair outlook to everyday life? Confront your inner demons and then fight them. You will be a stronger person for doing so. Money is not everything, Inner happiness is!
It has been ages since I wrote to you, so big apologies. Luckily we have been able to meet up over these past few months. A long time went into hunting for the photographs and the photo gallery should really have been big in view of all your activities over the years. I have also not posted any recipes this time, but perhaps we can cook together over the coming holidays?
With all my love, hugs and kisses,
P.S. Really miss you Amar. Every evening I wait for the front door to open and for you to enter the house when we are watching TV!