Defining An “Asian F” In My Family

if you haven’t heard of the term “Asian F”, let me give you the background. If you’re familiar with the show Glee, there’s a part during one of the episodes when one of the young men (an Asian) walks into Glee practice to inform his group that he could no longer be a part of the group. The reason? His father said he had to quit Glee club since he got a 99 on one of his tests.

When I heard that I laughed because it resonated with how I was brought up. Every time I got a grade below 95, the next question my parents would ask was, “what happened?”. Throughout the years I was in school, I was conditioned to always strive for a 100, if not close to it. Each time I got a lesser grade, my mother would lift one of her eyebrows and ask, “what happened?”. It was not enough that I got a 95 or that I got the highest grade, I didn’t get 100.

According to my parents, unless I got a 100 on any test or quiz, I didn’t do my best. It may be the Asian mentality of striving for excellence because anything short of that could only lead to unhappiness. My Mom believed that if you always came out number one, there was a nothing you couldn’t do or be. Excellence meant prosperity and financial stability in the future, but it didn’t mesh with reality.

Flash forward to the present and when my daughter came home to tell me that she had received an 92 on her quiz, I gave her the same look my mother gave me and said, “what happened?”. It didn’t dawn on me until I saw Shaina’s crestfallen face that I had done the same thing my mother used to do with me, belittle her accomplishment. All my daughter wanted was to share her accomplishment and with two words, I ruined the moment for her.

There was no excuse for my response and saying that it had been my mother channeling her standards on me was not entirely true nor fair to her. I am familiar with so many families who push their kids to be the best, especially within my family. Having a sister who is a dietician and another sister who is a nuclear physicist, I felt the pressure to be as successful as them. While I didn’t become a doctor or lawyer, I did pretty well for someone who followed her dream of becoming a writer, even if it meant not being as financially successful as my siblings.

Recently, when we got together with the family, Shaina witnessed how each one of us still had that Tiger Mom mentality, to some degree. Our children do get pushed to strive for excellence, but they also have lives outside of school. At this get together, Shaina understood how my sisters and I had differing levels of being a Tiger Mom. I don’t call myself one, but the cultural and familial expectations sometimes do get the best of us. I don’t believe that I’m a Tiger Mom, but I will concede that I want my daughter to strive for excellence, but on her terms, not mine. I can’t say that I won’t slip into the “Asian F” mentality now and then, but at least I know that it’s not a permanent condition, just old tapes that need to be worn down by common sense. That’s my take on this, what’s yours?

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