In defense of a “crazy mother”

I was a freshman at the time, probably only five feet tall, shrinking under the weight of my thousand-pound backpack, and I was — and still am — very fearful of confrontations with teachers.

But after missing 15 minutes of a mandatory school activity, I mentally prepared myself to ask a teacher about what the penalty would be, in an attempt to argue my case — as Dougherty students will often do. But because my absence was a result of me running late after being stuck in traffic for two hours while rushing from an AP Chinese Language test I took in San Francisco, and not a result of me dying and clinging onto my last breaths in a hospital bed, there was a consequence for my lack of punctuality.

Although I was a bit disgruntled that I had to lose points, I accepted an incomplete score for the activity grade and apologized for my tardiness. But the comment that followed was a harder pill to swallow:

“You shouldn’t even be taking AP Chinese as a ninth grader. These points off aren’t even that big a deal though, so don’t worry about it. Some parents can be so crazy.”

And then she nodded at me understandingly, even though I didn’t understand. Did she just call my mother crazy?

My mother is perhaps what people would like to call a “tiger mother.” Not because of her uniquely loud voice (roar!), but because of her strict nature and insistence on making sure my brother and I are always focused on finishing our math homework, practicing a certain number of hours of piano each day and getting good grades in all our classes. Even if that means confiscating our electronic devices, or, God forbid, her saying “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed” — though we know that she is most likely frighteningly both at the same time.

Because of this, she is deemed a tiger mother — who enjoys “torturing” her children with weekly piano classes and SAT preparation camps — and is diagnosed by people who don’t know her as “crazy.”

And because of this, people automatically assume that the reason why I sometimes sleep at 3 a.m. to finish assignments and sometimes cry when I get a bad test score and skip lunch to study for a test and ask a teacher about changing a grade and get pushed to the point where I will dramatically collapse on the stairs, roll into a fetal position and whisper “this is how it ends” is because my mother is “crazy.”

Not true.

Because as many times as these kinds of things happen, they’re not as plentiful as the number of times my mother has come to my room at 3 a.m. — after I’ve accidentally passed out with all my textbooks scattered on the bed with the lights still on — and helped organize my things, pulled my blankets over me and turned off the lights. And has admonished me after finding out that I skipped a meal, telling me that no test is important enough for me to ruin my health. And has hugged me after I got a bad score on a test and was in tears, saying that it’s okay as long as I did my best and that no grade defines me. And has told me that she would be happy with me just going to a public university close to home so she can keep cooking me my favorite chicken soup, even when I incessantly worry about what college to go to and what my future holds.

My mother may force me go to AP Chinese classes, force me to spend long nights learning new vocabulary words and force me to speak to her in Chinese when I’d much rather be speaking English — so that I can efficiently tell her every single slightly interesting thing that happened at school, even while I watch her groan when she hears me ramble about the same story for the third time.

But she will also use Chinese as a way to tell me stories from her childhood, to help me learn more about my native language and culture and instill in me the values and discipline that she has embodied since her childhood, during which she didn’t personally have someone always at her heels, pushing her and watching over her every second.

At age seven, she was the one who took care of her family, giving her one-year-old brother baths, washing her family’s dishes outside during winter in ice-cold water till her hands bled, cooking and cleaning while her parents — my grandparents — went to work.

And then in her mid-40s, despite the fact that I had carpooled to my AP Chinese test and my carpools’ father was already waiting there to bring us home, my “crazy mother” still spent five hours on the road driving from her workplace to San Francisco, picking me up and bringing me back to Dougherty. All because she was afraid that if I waited one more minute for my carpool’s later test to finish, I would miss the entirety of my after-school activity, let alone be late to it. She didn’t do this because she valued my grade for that activity but because she valued the importance and educational value of the activity itself.

So in attempt to dispel the rumors and stereotypes that disrespect my mother and many other “crazy” parents who are deserving of so much respect, I will clarify that I don’t take AP classes and stress about my grades because my parents have forced me to, or that I am scared of my parents or scared of disappointing them.

The pressure my mother places on me to be passionate about and diligent in all I do and the sacrifices she has made have made me a more persistent and determined individual.

She has never pushed me past my limits and forced me to do anything she knows that I can’t handle. But she has taught me the values of hard work and determination so that I can learn to motivate and push myself.

But perhaps how much she loves and sacrifices for my brother and I does make her a little crazy.