What may be even more difficult than having a Tiger Mom is being the mother of a daughter who has a friend who has a Tiger Mom. My daughter’s best friend at school is a girl – let’s call her Lauren – who has recently come to Canada from Beijing. Lauren is very sweet, very smart, and I’m happy that she and my daughter are friends.
But I became less happy about their friendship only last week, when both girls scored 14 out of 15 on a school math test. While I was thrilled that my daughter did so amazingly well – only the week before she got 7 out of 15 – my daughter told me that Lauren was very upset.
“She thinks that 14 out of 15 is bad. She says her parents are going to be mad at her. Is 14 out of 15 bad?” my daughter asked.
“Are you kidding me?” I responded. “Fourteen out of 15 is amazing!”
“Then why does Lauren think it’s bad?” my daughter asked.
Seriously, I would rather talk about sex than talk about strict parents – or any type of parents. I’m not judging how Lauren is raised, but it’s starting to affect how my daughter thinks about herself.
It was hard enough at the beginning of their friendship, when invitations went out for my daughter’s birthday party. Lauren, I was informed, had never gone to a birthday party before. “Can you believe that, Mommy? She has never been to a birthday party!” I had no idea what to say, because I’m not up on childrearing in Asian countries. Perhaps no one has birthday parties. Flash forward to me calling this mother frantically (she did not RSVP) because my daughter really wanted her best friend at her birthday party. It was clear, after all, that this girl really hadn’t been to a birthday party. (My daughter, as a gift, received a card. Don’t get me wrong. She got plenty of presents. I’m just pointing out the differences.)
Then there is the fact that my daughter is jealous of how well Lauren plays the piano. Lauren was asked to perform at a school function. “Well, how often does Lauren practice?” I asked my daughter. Apparently, unlike my daughter who has piano lessons once a week and may practice twice a week, Lauren has been taking piano lessons five days a week since she was 3 years old.
“Well, of course she’s amazing,” I told my daughter after I witnessed Lauren’s performance. “That’s what happens when you have piano lessons five days a week for five years!” Then I had to explain she’d be that good, too, if she practiced and had lessons almost every day, but then she wouldn’t have time for playdates or dance classes. I told my daughter that she couldn’t have it both ways. She either has lessons five days a week, or she can meet up with friends.
“I'd rather have play dates,” she decided.
Now my daughter has been asking for Lauren to come over for a playdate, and especially a sleepover. The problem is, I know that Lauren will not be allowed over for a sleepover – maybe ever. I know this because I tried asking Lauren’s mother if she could come over one weekend afternoon for a playdate. She said, “Maybe. For an hour to try out. But I’ll have to talk to my husband.” I never heard back from her. And though my daughter still asks for a sleepover – I’ve told her it’s doubtful that will ever happen – and a playdate with Lauren, it’s hard to explain other parent’s parenting style, or that Lauren’s mother won’t let her have a playdate. I certainly wasn’t going to mention that Lauren’s mother needed to ask Lauren’s father, because we live in North America and I don’t believe in asking a man for anything (except to fix my toilet or hang some pictures).
I have talked to Lauren’s mother, briefly, at school when I run into her. I’m positive she doesn’t care about my daughter’s friendship with her daughter. But the differences between our families are so great. I let my daughter watch TV pretty much whenever (Lauren doesn’t have a television at her home). My daughter was in the school play (Tiger Moms don’t allow this). My daughter has playdates at least twice a week, is allowed to get not perfect grades – “As long as you do your best!” I always say – and she loves sleepovers.
I'm pretty sure Lauren’s mom doesn't judges me, so I can’t judge her. But her parenting is affecting my daughter, who now worries that 14 out of 15 is not a good grade, that playing the piano better than any adult is normal for 8 year olds, and who can’t understand why Lauren can’t come over to play. What can I say except that I hope that Pamela Druckerman sends her kids to my daughter’s school. Because, in the meanwhile, whenever my daughter compares herself to Lauren, or asks why Lauren can’t do something, all I can say is, “C’est la vie!”
(Photo: John Foxx)