I grew up in a quiet, White, suburban town, raised by two first-generation Filipino immigrants. My home housed three generations – my brother and I; my parents; and my maternal grandparents. Needless to say, my house was an oddity. If the walls of our 2,000+ sq foot home could talk, they would tell you that my brother (J.R.) and I were taught to keep going. Keep dreaming. Keep succeeding. Keep moving forward. We weren’t lazy children. We were the opposite. The do-gooders. The overachievers.
For the next several years J.R. and I were constantly going full steam ahead. Dance lessons, piano lessons, basketball, band, choir, homework, and anything else that was thrown at us. We did it. We excelled at it. We bitched and moaned about it, mainly because we were tired. But there they were, our parents, telling us to keep at it. Keep going. Don’t stop. Won’t stop.
And all throughout the years we kept going, not realizing what our parents had done. They conditioned us to thrive; to maintain our ambitious drive and achieve greatness even when you’re burnt out and exhausted. They made sure that their children were fighters. That even if it was too hard to keep going, you had to. It’s the idea that you should learn to do something hard and difficult to see how you can overcome.
Today, I sit here in my apartment questioning my parents’ methods. Did they know? Did they know that when they pushed us to keep going and going, they were teaching us important lessons of life? Did they know that our lives would face harder challenges ahead testing our courage, and the strength of our dreams? Did they know they were toughening our skin and equipping our souls? Well, did they?
In 2008, as our nation welcomed the first Black family to the brightly painted White House, the floor of the middle class fell. The result of 8 years of a conservative business owner running our country. A newly graduated student, I had loans to pay and not a job that could help me pay it. Our parents’ small business was losing thousands a month and to help, J.R. and I ran it for free. It was tough. Man, it was extremely tough. My brother moved home. We shared a car. I had no health insurance and had to go to Planned Parenthood for care (thank you, Planned Parenthood). But as a family, we stared the challenge straight in its face. We said, “It can’t be like this everyday. We just have to keep on going, because even if it’s too hard, we have to.”
Looking back now, I’m extremely grateful my parents taught us to keep going. Forward and steadfast. I understand now. I do. They didn’t instill these traits because they knew the economy would crash. They didn’t insist we keep dreaming because they knew that the job market would falter. They didn’t create fighters because they knew that women’s rights or worker’s rights would come under attack. They did it “just in case”. They did it to move us forward. They did it because it would make us stronger as a collective – collective family, community, and society.
I’ve heard parents complain that this technique – the Tiger Mom/Dad – is insane and unhealthy. That this technique destroys a child; makes her lazy or burns her out. Granted, my parents aren’t completely in that genre. We had the ability to watch The Simpsons. We had video games all over the house (I still play with my NES and O.G. Gameboy when I visit them). We watched rated R movies all the time (sorry, Mom and Dad). Regardless, there are other parenting techniques that can lend a hand in producing lazy or burnt out children, like neglectful or indulgent parenting. I’m sure you know a few folks who are the products of such parenting styles – even call them “spoiled”, “bratty” or “difficult” perhaps? Think about it.
And besides, my brother and I are not lazy or burnt out.
In fact, we’re doing okay. J.R. recently graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a B.A. in Communications. I graduated from one of the most politically active universities in the nation, American University with a B.A. in Political Science (of course!). He’s making magical memories happen at Disney and I’m making political moves in D.C. The kids are alright – all thanks to our parents.
So when they say it makes kids lazy and burns them out – nope. Turns them into DREAMERS and FIGHTERS. I’d choose quasi-Tiger Mom/Dad any day.
‘Til the next time,