Today's guest post comes from Kim Wong Keltner, author of Tiger Babies Strike Back: How I Was Raised by a Tiger Mom but Couldn't Be Turned to the Dark Side. Today, in honor of Mother's Day, Kim shares her thoughts and appreciation of all the mothers who raised us, and who raise our children, whether or not they are our actual mothers.
I’ve been thinking of all the moms I knew
as a kid and how they welcomed me into their homes. On weekends, or in the
afternoons when their own kid and I would be doing homework or watching cartoons,
I was secretly watching these women, too. I was unconsciously taking them in –
their hairstyles, demeanor, and the way they talked to their children and me.
Did they yell? Did they swear? Did they enjoy our company or tell us to pipe
down? I took them in with my eyes and ears, and with my heart.
Also, I compared these women to my
own mom. I did not by any means love them more than my own mother, not even
close. However, for an afternoon or evening, or a semester or couple of years
when their kid and I were hanging out, I was also close to them. Through these
women I caught a glimpse of the domestic situations of other families. I did
not realize it then, but it was a gift to be invited to live in their world for
those brief, sometimes even mundane, moments.
laundry out the door, headed to the Laundromat up the street. When she would
get home, I would know to not sit in her special kitchen chair. She would make
dinner and as the water boiled for pasta she’d read her paperback novel while
Top 40 tunes played on the clock radio. Similarly, I would steal glances at
Barbra’s mother while we played elaborate games with our Barbie dolls. Amidst
our General Hospital-esque melodramas, she would be vacuuming, paying bills, or
doing the crossword puzzle.
I remember these moms and how they
rounded out my ideas of what defined, “mother.” They were each different, but
had things in common. They were all practical, juggling work and family life. They
all made dinner, did the dishes, and unbeknownst to me then, were navigating
their own femininity, friendships, and no doubt, occasional loneliness. And
they each welcomed hordes of other people’s kids into their homes and offered
snacks, comfort, and a break from our own family lives. These seldom-thanked
moms were beacons of light for us kids as we dog-paddled through middle and
Thank goodness for these mothers who
were helping us, saving us, and showing us love, even if they or we were not
even aware of this affection. I would traipse in and out of their homes like I
owned the place, as did countless other kids. Their kindness lasted months,
years, and even decades.
So on this Mother’s Day I want to say a big “Thank You” to
the moms who mother their own as well as other people’s kids. Thanks for the
sandwiches, the attentive words, and the rides to the basketball games. Thanks
for just being there in the corner at the school dance, or working in the Snak
Shak at the soccer match. No doubt you are busy with a hundred different tasks,
responsibilities, and obligations, and yet there you are, still here for all of
us. You are visible and available, a touchstone of safety. Moms, thanks for
everything you do even when – especially when – you don’t even realize you are
doing anything at all.
A battle hymn for every non-Tiger offspring of Tiger parents, Tiger Babies Strike Back
examines why generations of kids have been made to feel inferior,
isolated, suffocated, and humiliated in dogged pursuit of one goal:
making their elders look good. In search of answers, Keltner delves into
her own childhood, family history, and community traditions to expose
the seamy underbelly of perfectionistic parenting. Can the
Tiger-parented take back their emotional lives and love their own kids
unconditionally? Keltner herself is living, hugging, fabulously flawed,
Care Bear tea-party-throwing proof that they can. Read an excerpt of Tiger Babies Strike Back here.