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Entries in Monkeys (1)


Book Review of the Monkey Father

Okay, I’ve read it—the often argued, widely discussed, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. If you haven’t heard about this book, you can catch up here, and here.

Caught up? Already formed an opinion and ready to do battle?

Yeah, that’s the normal reaction.

I kept getting asked about this book so I had to read it. (Despite confusing the gentleman next to me on the plane, as the back of the book reads: HOW TO BE A TIGER MOTHER. Go back to reading BassMaster Quarterly, sir. It’s research!)

The book definitely hits a pop-culture nerve in that we’re all part of this weird, doubt-riddled parenting cycle. At least I am. Perfect parents with perfect, well-adjusted children can stop reading NOW, as this does not apply to you.

Amy Chua's future son-in-law, Billy. He's just big boned.But most of you know what I mean. We had strict forebears, so now as parents we’re more lenient, more tolerant, more nurturing, and thus raising tender, artistic, intellectual children. But low-and-behold, our kids are back-talking, Kardasian-watching, texting-in-movie-theater zombies of the 21 century. Not mine of course, but you know, those other people’s kids.

And in Chua’s book, the tongue-in-cheek theory is that Draconian parenting produces better kids—or at least higher-performing kids. But the sub-text that a lot of people miss amid the whole American vs. Chinese parenting thing, is that it doesn’t really matter. All of our kids will need therapy anyway.

But the specific question people ask me is, “Did you have a tiger mom?”

No, my mother was a kitten mom. But my dad could be demanding. How demanding? Well, here's an example: My dad taught me judo in the backyard, because his uncle taught him in the backyard—without cushy mats to break your fall. And one day while he was demonstrating a takedown which required gripping an opponent’s shirt, I spouted off, “Yeah, but what if he’s not wearing one?” To which my dad said, “No problem,” and flipped me to the ground...by my hair. (And he wondered why I’d occasionally forget that Fathers’ Day card?) But beyond the bruises and grass stains, he was a actually a tenderhearted guy.

My Chinese grandmother however—in her prime, she was definitely a stern matriarch, more of an intellectual tiger mom. But she mellowed with age, though she'd still occasionally correct my letters in college, sending them back to my dorm, addressed to: Master James Ford. I miss those days.

She also told me that the monkey was the preferred zodiac animal. That the birthrate in China would soar every twelfth year, as parents rushed to have children born under that lucky sign. Which I later learned was a fabrication, but what the heck? She was clever that way. She was a Monkey too.


And on a lightly-related note, I submit to you: High Expectations Asian Father.