I’d say my mom was a tiger mom (at least to me – for some reason I’ve never understood, she kind of let up on my sister and let her quit everything). So it’s kind of surprised me to discover that I’m not a tiger parent at all. Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising – for some reason, it seems like a lot of my peers who were raised by tiger parents (and there are a lot of them, us being 2nd-gen Asian Americans) have gone in a totally different directions in their own parenting, so I’m not at all unique. The thing is, for me, I had so little self-motivation as a child that I wonder to this day what would have become of me had my mom not pushed me so hard. (Although I also wonder how the cause and effect worked there – was I not self-motivated because my mom was doing all the motivation? Would I actually have been more self-motivated had she not pushed me? Or was she forced to push me (which is what she says) because I would have done nothing otherwise?) I’m happy with how my life turned out so there’s a part of me that wonders if, by not pushing my kids in the way I was pushed, I’m denying them certain opportunities in life, opportunities I received by being forced to achieve.

In the end, I just don’t care enough to push it with my kids. It’s arguably laziness. But a bigger thing is, I think 2nd gens realize that all the emphasis on academics that our parents pushed actually doesn’t matter as much in life outcomes as our parents thought. For them, it was the be-all and end-all. And it’s possible that from where they came, it was actually true. But that’s not true in the U.S. From what I’ve observed in my work life, at least in engineering education only matters to get your foot in the door, and then it matters almost not at all. So it’s difficult for me to get too riled up about it.

It’s also hard to care because there are other things more important, things like happiness. There’s the spiritual dimension as well. I think that’s the biggest blind spot of my parents generation. They wanted to make faith the highest priority, but in how they behaved, they practically placed academics first.

Anyway. Piano has turned out be important to me in my life, and it’s surprised me a bit that I don’t push piano with my kids as much as I was pushed, since I value it so much, and even though my parents don’t understand music to the level I do at all. Both of my kids actually have a decent amount of talent – if I really pushed it, and forced them to practice like an hour a day, I think they could be good. I just don’t think the fights are worth it, even if it means them not reaching their full potential. My goals for them with piano is 1/ to reach a certain level of proficiency, basically enough to play any pop music and 2/ for them to realize that with certain things in life, there’s no substitute for putting time into it, and as a corollary, when you put time into something, you get better. I’ve kind of arrived at a compromise of 20 minutes of practice a day – it’s enough (although barely for Abby’s level) to get better, but while avoiding the torturous fights that would ensue with an hour a day. At that level, they’ll never be amazing, but they should be good enough and learn what I want them to. I think it’s working, though not sure. They had a recital yesterday and they both seemed proud. I hope they’ve internalized the process by which they got there.

Jieun incidentally has different goals and possibly thinks I am a tiger parent with piano. She just wants them to be able to play worship music on piano. She would be fine with them quitting earlier than I want, and cares a little less about the practice. But I assure you, by the standards of my childhood, and by the standards of the better piano teachers in the area, what I ask for is nothing.

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