A girl hunches over her desk, scribbling over a piece of paper. She dashes back home, almost skipping giddily, her heart light. After a rapid series of knocks, she holds up her drawing.
“Mommy, daddy, look at this drawing. This is what I want to be!” she says. “A firefighter.”
No one moves.
Finally, her dad breaks the silence by ripping the paper from her hands and tearing it in half.
“No,” he says. “This is who you want to be.” He shows her a picture of a man with glasses hunched over a computer.
She’s too shocked, too hurt to even speak.
Six years later, that same girl comes to school with bruises on her arm. She covers them up with long sleeves, but during art class, as she’s reaching for a paint dish, her sleeve slips. She quickly pulls it down, hoping that no one will notice. But it’s too late.
“Hey, what’s that on your arm,” her best friend asks.
“No…nothing,” she replies, counting the seconds slowly. One. Two. Three. Four. As if that will somehow make time pass faster.
“No, no, you’ve got something on your arm,” her friend replies. “Let me see it.”
Trapped, the girl raises her sleeve and shows her the bruises.
“See, it’s nothing,” the girl smiles, hoping that her friend won’t notice the fear, the nervousness pulsing through her body.
“Holy crap,” her best friend sucks in a breath. “Did your parents hit you? Oh. My. Freaking. God.”
“It was nothing,” she says. “We just got into an argument. That’s all.”
“No, no, no.” her friend points a finger and stares at her. “Your. Parents. Are. Seriously. Messed. Up. You should hate them.”
And, at this point, she really does.
She hates them.
That girl is my best friend. I’ve known her since kindergarten. Her parents are also immigrants from China, who have had to deal with the stresses of raising kids while working without other family support.
Her parents are what I think of when I think of “a tiger mom.”
Before she told me about her parents in seventh grade, I never truly appreciated how caring and supportive my parents are. Every day, my parents come home with bags under their eyes, and every day, they have to deal with the stress of not having grandparents around to raise us, but, they still manage to talk to my sister and me about our school lives and our dreams. Rather than shoot my dreams down, my parents always encourage me to pursue whatever I believe in. When I was in fifth grade, I went through a writing phase, and I desperately wanted to be a writer. As I told my parents this, I could see their mouth grimace and their eyes squint in disbelief, but they still told me to follow my dreams.
Even though my parents and I don’t see eye to eye on issues sometime, we’ll fight, but they never beat me or hit me. I never truly appreciated this until I heard my friend’s story and her misery.
When I asked my parents about this, they told me that although it’s hard for them to understand their children’s Americanized mindsets—which are a lot more independent and creative than the ones that they grew up with—they always believe that raising a child with love and care is the best way.
And, for that, I’m grateful.