15 Jun 2011

The Tiger Mother

So, I’m in the audience listening to a speech by my heroine, Amy Chua, Tiger Mother supreme.She’s of course immaculate; tiny frame, amazing hair, uncompromising attitude.

And in this debate, she reprises her Chinese mantra of parenting for us London slackers. No sleepovers, no playdates, no electronic games, only piano or violin, only A grades. For how long?

“Between the ages of 8 and 14”. Everyone laughs.

They don’t laugh when her fellow-traveller, Spectator columnist Theodore Dalrymple gives a devastating view of our teenagers; fat, illiterate, disrespectful. Well, given the shocking disparity in our education system, who is surprised?

I get up to speak. Every head turns around to watch me.

“I’ve got four children and I’m a helicopter mother” I announce, feeling like a member of AA.

“But when everyone is tutoring their kids up to get into state selective schools, and those who can afford it go private, who can blame us? No wonder we grab tutors, Kumon, violin lessons like drowning people. We have to!”

I sit down to fervent applause. People come up to me in the Ladies afterwards and contgratulate me. What can we do but turn into Tigers and our children into Tiger Cubs? Get home at 10.00 starving hungry and cross, to find Child No 3, age 8, still doing her blessed Kumon. This makes me even more cross.

The debate, by the way, was on the motion “Western Parents don’t bring up their children properly.” Before the speeches, there were 149 Yes votes and 325 Nos, with a hundred or so abstentions. After, there were 315 Yes votes and 280 Noes, with 59 absentions. It was a Tiger Night.

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