My Tiger Mom: A Tribute to my mother: October 2011

Mom and I: Last Time She was in Florida: Summer 2010

There is a huge brouhaha brewing about the concept of an “Asian Tiger Mom”, who is pushy and demanding.

As the child of such a Tiger Mom, I can attest that she was demanding; however, it was not always about getting an “A” in academics or winning medals. It was always about excelling and doing the best that I can do, in every situation.

The first recollection of her absurd demand was when I was maybe five or six years old.

She took me to the front of the High Court building in Dhaka (one of the tallest buildings a five year old can imagine), and told me that I strive to grow as tall as the building and always stand up straight. I had no idea how to accomplish this unnatural feat. Only today,  I realize what that powerful statement meant in a little child’s mind.

She defends her children like a real tiger; no one criticizes her cubs. She always maintains that her children can be anything they choose to be. This insufferable defense and dogmatic belief in our own success, makes one feel secure that you imagine that you can climb any mountain you choose.

I remember, during my Freshman year in college, during those pre-internet, pre-mobile phone days, my mother wrote me a letter every week. Having experienced her own “immigration” at an early age, she understood the loneliness of an international student away from home. Her weekly letters, with instructions of how to do laundry or how to cook Keema, were all behind my surviving the first year in college in a desolate, foreign land.

Later in life, to be able to enjoy the sparkle in her eye, sitting through my Master’s Thesis presentation or visiting my first home in Toledo, or my first workplace,  was amazing.

Last year,  she visited me at South Florida. I took her to my new office and asked her to sit in my chair. She had tears in her eyes – and the only thing she could tell me is that she wished my dad was alive today to see what I had accomplished.

Without her tiger-like inspiration and constant “nudging” to strive higher – everyday, it is hard to imagine, where I would be today.

Recently, I heard that a childhood friend lost his mom yesterday.

Next week, I start my eight thousand mile journey back to my birthplace; I know, from the moment of my landing, till the moment I leave, she will want to speak to me. She worries about my health, my happiness and well-being. Even at this adult stage of my life, she feels responsible for protecting me.

She sees me hurt and agonize over decisions; she urges me to pray, re-assures me, that everything will be ok; “Allah only gives challenges to those, that can handle the challenge”, she says on the phone.

From a thousand miles away, she feels helpless. Even with her crumbling health, she offers to come and help me in my distress. This is what mothers do.

So what, if a Tiger Mom is possessive and defensive about her children! So what, if they see their children doing nothing wrong! Without this courage to face off the complicated, angry world, our lives could be so different.

Mom, I know you have protected me all my life; I know you have prayed for me every day, sometimes, five times a day. In sickness and in health, you have asked for nothing back.

I wouldn’t have my Tiger Mom, any other way.