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.I would watch Jill’s mom lug the 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 high school.
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.