Tiger, Mama

I was born in 1975, and for years I thought this pointed to me being a rabbit. Never quite comfortable with the designation, I wondered why my personality was in such opposition with the Eastern zodiac.

Zoologically speaking, I don’t really resemble a rabbit. I’m small and quick, but that’s where the similarities end. Bunnies are sweet, soft, gentle, harmless (except perhaps in the eyes of the farmer). Scroll through the traits of the hare in the Eastern zodiac designation and the contradictions to my fundamental personality continue: soft-spoken? Reserved? Not so much. Tendency to be stubborn – ok, I’ll give ‘em that one, but tendency towards superficiality? I’ve been accused of many things, but superficiality is definitely not one of them.

And then, at some point in my late 20s, a Chinese friend pointed out the error of my zodiacal ways: My birthday is January 6. Chinese New Year in 1975 was February 4. I’m not actually a rabbit.

I’m a tiger.

Daring. Passionate. Restless. Affectionate. Obstinate. Sincere. Moody. Generous. Quick-tempered. Colourful.

Now this makes sense to me and the people that know me. My husband’s reaction to my revised totem animal was a dry, ‘Of course.’ I feel much more at home with jungle cats than meadow bunnies. I feel like whatever stock I put in such things is restored, which is comforting.

I am a tiger friend, a tiger daughter, a tiger sister, a tiger wife, and for the past almost 6 years, a tiger mama.

And tiger mamas have been getting a bad rap lately. So I’m here to reclaim the title.

This tiger mama keeps her babies close, and makes her den a place of safety, security and love.

This tiger mama is not afraid to take risks and once her littlest cub no longer has to go down the stairs on her bum, will encourage them to do the same.

This tiger mama knows that being caged, forced to perform or berated for failing will not make her offspring thank her later.

This tiger mama works hard to retain realistic expectations of her cubs as they grow, and keeps her paws stretched wide open.

This tiger mama offers love and affection as a constant, not as a reward.

This tiger mama expresses her feelings openly, and knows how to roar. And so do her cubs, and this tiger mama loves the sound of their powerful voices.

This tiger mama is a leader, not a dictator.

This tiger mama parents by instinct, not fear or statistic.

Amy Chua makes perhaps a few reasonable claims for parenting the way she does, but make no mistake, she is not a tiger mama.

A tiger mama – a real tiger mama – would eat Amy Chua alive.



  1. OMG! This it totally me. I have always referred to my protectiveness of my children to be like a mother tiger protecting her cubs. Letting them learn and grow with a watchful eye, but as soon as there was any threat my instinct was to get them safe and defend. I realized it within weeks of having my first child, 10 years ago.

  2. I will say, my chinese animal has always made way more sense to me than any astrological sign. And you? SO a tiger. I think she may be more like a dragon lady, personally.

  3. The Amy Chua article was an intense read.

    I tried not to react to what seemed to me to be verbal abuse as a parenting tactic, and assume that things are 'different' and 'acceptable' for kids of Chinese Mothers.

    The only problem is I have to friends of Asian descent who have talked to me about their eating disorders, and compulsive academic striving, so I just can't buy it.

    If you assume your child is strong that doesn't give you license to test their strength.

    Anyways, you sound like a wonderful human mama and I can't wait to meet your kids.

  4. oh that Mir, was Mir, of college street days. Blogger has some weird old email for me.

  5. Wow, I just read that article. And ... wow. Just, wow.

    I understand that there are cultural differences, but I can't get behind what Chua says. But then, in spite of my own academic success, I'm not inclined to believe that is the pinnacle of achievement. School is important, but it is just one thing. It's not everything.

    I'm sure there's some value in challenging your children, but I think there are better ways to do it. Like, you know, your way. :)

  6. My mom is a tiger, too.. but I never really see her as well suited to it.
    I'm a boar... as are all the others in this house.
    It shows.

  7. I was hoping someone would make a comment about that article.
    you couldn't have put it better.
    love it.


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