Growing up biracial, with an African-American father and a Filipino mother, not only was I raised under a strict house hold, the cherry on top was that I raised by a Tiger Mom. I remember the times I was reprimanded for asking if I could attend a slumber party in elementary school because as my mother explained, “it is embarrassing to spend the night with someone who isn’t your family.” I remember crying for all the times I was never allowed to go to the movies in high school with my friends because it “studying was most important.” And even in college, I still had to ask permission to go out and, report when I arrived what time I was coming home.
There also the many times my Tiger Mom made me feel incompetent, insecure and anything but beautiful simply with her words. I used to feel resentment and sadness when thinking about my past but I have now reached an age where I know there is only so much time that my parents will be on this Earth. As tough as it was, as Sac Lu explains in his memoir “I Love Yous Are For White People,” I now understand my mom displayed love the way she knew and the best she could.
So for all those with Tiger Moms (or parents) here are some three life lessons I learned to value from my mom:
“Don’t look cheap.”
It always annoyed the crap out of me whenever my mom would pick a fight over the clothes that I choose to wear – “Are you really going to wear that out of the house? Don’t you have anything else better to put on?” It was as if she could not accept the person that I was, that I was capable of making my own decisions and that I didn’t need her approval to do so While even today we argue about what constitutes as fashionable, I have come to realize that whenever my mom said “don’t look cheap” she meant “look presentable.”
My mother would often stress that growing up in the Philippines, her family did not have much money nor did they live a very glamorous life style. When she moved to the United States and was able to afford clean clothes and even expensive name brands from Coach to Burberry, it astonished her to see Americans who would spend money on clothing and items that were made of cheap materials or just looked like they were about to fall to pieces.
My mom’s take away message: it does not matter how little or how much you spent on your clothes as long as you wear clothes that make you look presentable and decent in the eyes of others because some who are unfortunate may not have the luxury to wear even shoes and ultimately, why not look your best?
“No one likes a girl that drinks.”
Even when I turned the legal drinking age, any mention of the word alcohol and drinking would make my mom throw a fit (note she has never taken a sip of alcohol in her life) especially over her belief that men don’t like women that drink.
As envious as I was of my friends that actually drank with their parents and could go out for a night of drinks in college (I couldn’t get away with that living at home) I was glad my mother’s strict rule about drinking made me learn that I never needed alcohol to have fun and how to drink on my own terms.
My first taste of alcohol was during my freshman year in college pre-gaming for a concert. One bottle of Smirnoff, two jello shots and a bottle of beer later, I puked my brains out after the show. Future run-ins with alcohol were at house parties where the red cup given to me was always filled with something strong sans chaser. I didn’t understand why people drink shit that actually tasted quiet nasty so the majority of my college years were spent alcohol free because of that reason.
While my mother doesn’t cringe as much at the fact that I do drink, I have learned that getting completed shit faced is not a requirement to enjoy cocktails (which taste a hell of a lot better than Jameson on the rocks.
“Don’t eat too much if you want to stay sexy.”
This is by far probably the number one thing that drove me up the wall and made me cry uncontrollably. I will never forget the accusation and disgust laced in my mother’s voice whenever she asked me “is that what you’re really going to eat?” While her delivery could have been more tactful, I could understand, (when I wasn’t pissed off), her concern. With a history of diabetes in my family, my mother was harsh with me about my weight because of fear for my health. The truth was she was right – the Freshman 15 hit me hard and I packed on well over 20 lbs during my undergrad when I was a size 5 all throughout high school. Quite frankly I ate because I loved to eat.
Even if what she said hurt, it took me time to realize my health was not what it used to be when I was 16 and I was lying to myself saying I was happy with my body. While 20 lbs was not life threatening, it changed how I felt and saw myself in the mirror.
As each year of my 20s goes by, I realize eating all though chili cheese fries and double bacon western cheese burgers is starting to catch up to me. While I still indulge in the occasional plate of something totally delicious but lack any nutritional value, I have now chosen to live a healthier lifestyle by exercising four times a week (which includes sometimes doing Zumba with my mom), eating when I am actually hungry and sticking to a veganish diet with the intend to, not stay sexy, but to feel beautiful inside and out.
While the way my mother expressed her love and concern were not ones that I always agreed with or found beneficial, I can now at least say I understand where she was coming from and appreciate that she always tried. And I love her for that.
Do you have Tiger parents? How has their parenting style impacted you? Drop me a line below.