Skip

I'm not your Tiger Mom
September 19, 2013 8:59 AM   Subscribe

Thirteen years ago, about to enter fourth grade, Cheng Cheng was approached by her mother. “I’m not your real mother. I’m just providing for your education up until you finish university. After that, don’t count on my help anymore."

Concerned that her prosperous upbringing put her on track to become one of China's spoiled and arrogant fu’erdai ("second generation of the rich"), Cheng Cheng's mother, Shen, decided on a radical plan to make her daughter more independent and successful: Lie to the daughter that her real mother was dead, and set a date when the obligations as guardian were to end.

Previously. Also previously.
posted by 2N2222 (54 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Man, that's harsh. I don't believe for a second the benefits of being more independent outweighs the damage of feeling like your mother doesn't love or care about you during your upbringing.
posted by gkhan at 9:04 AM on September 19, 2013 [12 favorites]


There's probably a less ruthless way of doing this.
posted by demiurge at 9:04 AM on September 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


Telling, I think, that there's no input from the daughter in the article.
posted by Iridic at 9:05 AM on September 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


I wasn't really going to shoot you, I just pointed this gun at you because an elevated heart rate is the key to good aerobic exercise.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 9:07 AM on September 19, 2013 [26 favorites]


"I’m just providing for your education up until you finish university. After that, don’t count on my help anymore."

This would've worked just as well.
posted by nooneyouknow at 9:09 AM on September 19, 2013 [27 favorites]


This makes the dad in A Boy Named Sue look positively benign.
posted by arcticseal at 9:09 AM on September 19, 2013 [15 favorites]


Meh, sounds like my parents (and a few others - I've heard similar); provide room & board until 18, then gtfo. The difference is that they/we were not in the same socioeconomic class as Cheng, just standard lower-middle class America.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 9:13 AM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seems like an unnecessarily roundabout way to do it. My Dad just told me I was on my own after age 18.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:14 AM on September 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


I know this is awful, but having brought up my kids on their own, with their other parent feeding the kids this same kind of mindfuck while also not paying child support, "providing for your education through university" is a pretty good deal.
posted by headnsouth at 9:19 AM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


It sucks that so many stories on Mefi about non Western cultures have to be oriented towards the weird. A little more background on Chinese culture and differences in generational attitudes would have been nice.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:19 AM on September 19, 2013 [12 favorites]


I went to school with a guy whose parents told him as a child they were kicking him out of the house when he turned 18 and he'd be on his own from that point on. And I'm not sure if they were 100% serious but he left when he turned 18. Prior to that, instead of working hard in school he missed more and more of it in favor of his job at McDonalds, and lived in poverty while the rest of us with at least some basic level of parental support went through school and moved on. He worked hard, but was always depressed and quiet and I'm not sure he got anywhere beyond where he was at 18, a manager at McDonald's. I hope he did. But he didn't graduate high school and had little motivation to do much more than he already had. And I don't think he had a very good relationship with his parents, if there was one at all.

This type of shit is in no way a guarantee of being a motivator for the child, and the added fiction of "your parents are dead and I'm just paying for you" is so beyond asshole I can barely comprehend it.
posted by Hoopo at 9:20 AM on September 19, 2013 [50 favorites]


My parents used to "joke" that I was a foundling they'd picked up in a dumpster, among other "hilarious" antics.

They did support me quite a bit though, even when I fucked up and lost my scholarships in college.

In conclusion, Chinese parents are a land of contrasts.
posted by kmz at 9:22 AM on September 19, 2013 [23 favorites]


It's pretty obvious that this particular Chinese mom is not going to get a lot of love from Metafilter denizens. This reminds me of Robert Hayden's poem "Those Winter Sundays,", with its last two lines: "What did I know, what did I know / of love's austere and lonely offices?" (Offices meaning duties.)

"Love" can mean many things. Especially in faraway lands.
posted by kozad at 9:23 AM on September 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think ideas like this come from the rather unhealthy idea that parents are somehow obligated to be supportive at all costs, and anything less is being a bad parent.

My parents have always been really supportive I had more of a self imposed "I will not move back home after graduation," and while there's nothing wrong with that, if I had been a different kind of person I can see how that becomes a crutch. This is opposed to say my boyfriend's family where there was a very clear idea that they wouldn't support him if he didn't have any plans. And do think its totally possible to have certain boundaries and limitations. I don't think there's anything wrong with saying we will only support you so far, but what gets me is the extreme lengths she went to achieve this.
posted by KernalM at 9:23 AM on September 19, 2013


"Love" can mean many things

Including, in some cases, emotional abuse.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:25 AM on September 19, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm not really your kid, hope you saved enough for your retirement and hospice/palliative care!!
posted by Hoopo at 9:28 AM on September 19, 2013 [54 favorites]


When I read articles like this, I wonder if they're true. Could something have been misinterpreted, I wonder, because this is terrible!

I've gone through jaw-dropping shit at the hands of my caretakers, but this, it's almost just too heinous to be believed. What could have led this mother to think that disavowing the child was the answer? I've known my share of rich kids who didn't end up behaving as though they were entitled, so how did their parents teach them not to be lazy, selfish, or expect handouts their entire lives? It certainly couldn't have been this way.
posted by droplet at 9:29 AM on September 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are certainly less abusive ways of instilling your children with a sense of independence and resourcefulness.
posted by borges at 9:31 AM on September 19, 2013


i don't think anyone is balking at the "i will only provide for you until your education is done" it's the whole "your mother is dead and i have no attachment to you" stuff. my dad told me the first stuff starting about the age of 8 (except college wasn't included in the deal and he encouraged me to drop out of high school), but he also always told me that he loved me. it's a pretty big difference.
posted by nadawi at 9:32 AM on September 19, 2013 [10 favorites]


To quote an old Albert Brooks routine: "So I went to my dad and said, 'Wang Fu, am I adopted?'"
posted by Dean358 at 9:35 AM on September 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Horrible. Abandonment doesn't benefit a child.
posted by prefpara at 9:35 AM on September 19, 2013


I mean - I get that it's kinda shitty to do this, but I think people acting as if this girl doesn't have a lot of perks and privileges as it is (2nd generation of the rich) and will somehow suffer detrimentally if the parents don't pass on something to their child is sort of problematic. Fuck, I man, this is how feudalism exists: I HAVE A RIGHT TO PASS ON MY SHIT TO MY KIDS AND BREED LONG GLORIOUS LINEAGES OF GREAT AND POWERFUL LEADERS AND DON'T YOU DARE PASS "A DEATH TAX" ON ME! (yes, I'm using USian rhetoric in that last part).

The fact that this woman is trying to do something besides that this is commendable. We commend Bill Gates and Warren Buffet for saying their kids won't inherit a lot.

This is a more extreme version of that.

The problem I have is the lying part. That's just fucking brutal, and at such a young age. That will leave some damn scars.
posted by symbioid at 9:37 AM on September 19, 2013


but I think people acting as if this girl doesn't have a lot of perks and privileges as it is (2nd generation of the rich) and will somehow suffer detrimentally if the parents don't pass on something to their child is sort of problematic.

i have seen exactly zero of this response in this thread.

The problem I have is the lying part. That's just fucking brutal, and at such a young age. That will leave some damn scars.

this is what i'm seeing all the wtf responses to be about.
posted by nadawi at 9:41 AM on September 19, 2013 [11 favorites]


I think it is better, in cases where we have no control, to robotify a little bit and neutrally observe outcomes (the plural here as this would be a single case of a single style of 'harsh' upbringing).

Its not my child, I don't have a child. I am not responsible for how that individual is treated by people who are not me. I can, though, observe that individual (in as much as it is not creepy/invasive/immoral) and compare to other cases. If I am not a person as am instead an institute, I could even observe several hundred such cases in each region and begin to determine if there was, actually, a 'best' way.

As it might be that there is no 'best' way, no proven method for success. You do what you think is right, hoping that it equips your progeny to survive future problems, that no one can foresee or properly plan for, when you are unavailable. Some people's choices work (and look at a glance like wise decisions), other choices do not work (and look at a glance like negligent parenting or worse), and some might have little to no effect at all (though development of an individual certainly seems to be a fairly important part of their ability to survive in our non-natural world).
posted by Slackermagee at 9:46 AM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess what I'd say is that parents - in China and elsewhere - sometimes try strategies to help their kids that are not actually that great. My father, who is of German and English descent, said a couple of things to me as a kid that really fucked with me. He meant well. They weren't good choices, but he also provided a lot more to me in other ways and I am thus not a broken person. You could read this through the lens of "lower middle class farmer town men whose families originally immigrated because of crushing poverty and Prussian brutality" and I think you'd get some not-totally-useless stuff just because we are formed by our heritage, but you could also look at it as "smart, intellectually lonely lower-middle-class guy who is worried about how his kid will negotiate a lot of life things" and also get useful information. I would be upset if someone wrote an internet thing about the weirdness and exoticism of the Ways of My Father, though.
posted by Frowner at 9:54 AM on September 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


(Well fuck me, just did a quick Google stalk on my old friend I talked about upthread. Apparently he managed to graduate with honours in a business admin program and is now working as a financial planner with a major Canadian investment broker. Right on, man!)
posted by Hoopo at 9:55 AM on September 19, 2013 [40 favorites]


Also, of course, the Shenyang News thinks this is a weird enough story to report on it and quotes a bunch of people expressing their skepticism. This sounds like one of those "a parent, who is Chinese, does something extreme and other people who are also Chinese are skeptical" and gets spun as "a Chinese parent did something extreme!!!!"
posted by Frowner at 9:57 AM on September 19, 2013 [10 favorites]


i totally agree that it's a story that gained traction because of the perception of weirdness of chinese parenting as seen through a western lens. i agree with the skeptical chinese people -this mom sounds, maybe unintentionally, abusive.
posted by nadawi at 10:01 AM on September 19, 2013


Yeah, I don't think any Chinese people in that article thought this was a good idea except for the mom.

It's sadly telling that the mom boasts about her daughter's material accomplishments—fancy education! handsome husband! $$$ career!—but says nothing about the kind of person the daughter is except for her "independence," or whether they have any kind of relationship now. Was she free? Was she happy? The question is absurd: / Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.
posted by nicebookrack at 10:09 AM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


This mom was working out some weird and probably really awful shit she went through during China's turbulent recent past by telling her daughter these lies, and the justification is merely a veil to conceal her true motives from the mother herself.
posted by jamjam at 10:21 AM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


This lady, her tactics, and those linked in the Previously, are unwell people exhibiting self aggrandizing, egocentric and sick, sociopathic tendencies in the guise of "parenting"

Treating your own children as sociological experiments is up there on the list of douchey things you can ever do as a parent, and regardless of its superficial outcome, psychological help should be mandated for people like this before they are allowed to continue to breed.
posted by Debaser626 at 10:35 AM on September 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Slackermagee, I'm confident that "lying to your daughter for a decade about her parentage", "telling her you don't love her", and "telling her she will be abandoned" are bad without "neutrally observing" the outcome. Because those kinds of abuse are quite common, at least the latter two, and rarely lead to emotionally healthy children.

It's reasonable to teach your kids that you expect them to be independent once they get out of college; the other stuff, yeah not so much.
posted by tavella at 10:39 AM on September 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


The father is just as complicit in this nonsense as this whack job. A well adjusted partner would have nipped this in the bud and sought therapy for and/or kicked the other to the curb.
posted by Debaser626 at 10:42 AM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Okay, I know this article SEEMS HARSH, but come on, you guys!
She was disobedient!
posted by GoingToShopping at 10:44 AM on September 19, 2013


Also, of course, the Shenyang News thinks this is a weird enough story to report on it and quotes a bunch of people expressing their skepticism. This sounds like one of those "a parent, who is Chinese, does something extreme and other people who are also Chinese are skeptical" and gets spun as "a Chinese parent did something extreme!!!!"

The South China Morning Post isn't Gawker or something.
posted by kmz at 10:47 AM on September 19, 2013


Yeah, but both of the people they interviewed were kind of like "WTF LADY, WHY" in a polite, measured kind of way. I think that's meant to suggest that her parenting style would be viewed as pretty extreme by the average Chinese person-on-the-street/professional.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:49 AM on September 19, 2013


Slackermagee, I'm confident that "lying to your daughter for a decade about her parentage", "telling her you don't love her", and "telling her she will be abandoned" are bad without "neutrally observing" the outcome. Because those kinds of abuse are quite common, at least the latter two, and rarely lead to emotionally healthy children.

It's reasonable to teach your kids that you expect them to be independent once they get out of college; the other stuff, yeah not so much.


The point was less, this is OK and more, there's nothing we can individually do to stop this specific case (or many others), check in on the outcomes in the very long term in case it challenges some of our basic assumptions.
posted by Slackermagee at 10:51 AM on September 19, 2013


...check in on the outcomes in the very long term in case it challenges some of our basic assumptions

I don't think it's possible to check in on long term outcomes of psychological experimentation on children with any degree of accuracy or application.

Each individual will internalize, process, and react to this type of stimuli (or psychological torture as I'm inclined to call it) in their own respective ways, incorporate it into an infinite amount of additional life events, and no real knowledge or perspective could be gained other than:

"Case 12, Deceased, murder/suicide"
"Case 11, Successful software engineer"
"Case 10, Alcoholic"
"Case 09, Retired pilot"

In other words, treating people like shit is just a shitty thing to do, and we're not supposed to do shitty things to people. If we're shitty people ourselves, we should probably try to work on not being shitty, instead of continuing to shit on people and making life shit. So for next time, instead of taking a shit on someone and then looking for the peanut, maybe I'll just use the shitter like everyone else. Shit.
posted by Debaser626 at 11:13 AM on September 19, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'd rather have poor parents that loved me than rich parents that hated me.

Maybe I'm just weird that way.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:03 PM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


If we'd like to use this example as an experiment then somebody better be providing some control group.

And I'd like to see exactly what the criteria are for such a group.
posted by Blue_Villain at 12:10 PM on September 19, 2013


i don't think anyone is balking at the "i will only provide for you until your education is done" it's the whole "your mother is dead and i have no attachment to you" stuff.

I guess I'm assuming that the mother felt the first statement was completely unbelievable coming from someone's parents and the only way to make it believable was to pretend they weren't even her parents?
posted by jacalata at 1:49 PM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Less an experiment then and more a study of things we are too late to have meddled with and questionably could meddled with.

There's also the bias of cultural differences and how/when 'best' or 'Good' is determined.
posted by Slackermagee at 2:08 PM on September 19, 2013


What an unbelievably horrible thing to do to your kid.
posted by sarcasticah at 3:02 PM on September 19, 2013


There's one born every minute, I guess. How long have we had access to the series of tubes called The Internet? How many hoaxes and scams are exposed every single blessed day? Just how implausible does a tale have to be, before it triggers our BS detectors... never mind, I just saw a paper at the supermarket all about aliens having kidnapped Elvis - somebody has to be buying this or they wouldn't bother selling.

And here people are discussing this sorry tale seriously as if it had any connection with reality whatsoever. So where is there any corroborating evidence, witnesses, facts, interviews - anything, anything at all, other than this lonely tale in the shape of a home-made morality tale, devoid of all details and any supporting evidence whatsoever. How did this tale make its way into the paper with so little to back it up? Did the daughter call it in? The mother? Oh, the humanity. I do grieve for the daughter in this tale though, because whoever invented it, made her seem a very thick girl, unlikely to have done well in any studies - after all, the author wants us to believe that the poor girl for all these years never noticed a single feature of resemblance, "oh, I got my mother's nose, wait - she's not my mother, what a coincidence!". So isolated was this poor girl, that in all those years and years this tale supposedly spanned, there were no relatives she ever met who would have been Oscar level actors not to let anything slip, plus had to wear Mission Impossible style masks to obscure any family traits.

But sure, let's all get exercised over this silly thing. Next, I propose we urgently discuss the case of missing Elvis and the aliens, there's sure to be plenty of outrage material wherever you look.
posted by VikingSword at 3:30 PM on September 19, 2013


So I heard that this one American dad named his son "Sue"- a girl's name- in order to toughen him up, then disappeared. What the hell is wrong with those Americans!
posted by happyroach at 4:15 PM on September 19, 2013


This is of course horrible. However, it's news because it's unusual, and more than that, the story epitomises the fears of the society where it occurred.

I am from a small isolated country, and whenever I read a story like this from China, or India, or the US, I think to myself: there's a lot of people there, so no matter how nuts and unlikely a situation is, there will probably be at least one occurrence in that vast country.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 4:18 PM on September 19, 2013


She's a better parent than Keyser Söze was. That guy was awful.
posted by NedKoppel at 6:27 PM on September 19, 2013


VikingSword, your contempt is misplaced. Parents have incredible, almost magical power over their children. They have the power to make them believe many things that seem improbable.
posted by prefpara at 6:55 PM on September 19, 2013


A couple of things bug me, in addition to VikingSword's concerns. It says the mother married into wealth. So, she never had to earn any of her money, yet she expects her daughter to do what she never did. Also, how did the husband come across wealth? From what I've heard, the wealthy in the 70s and 80s come from more entrepreneurial wealth, while those later on, are more wealthy due to...government and party connections. So, even if the dad may not have legitimately earned their wealth.
posted by FJT at 7:06 PM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Conditions in China are different enough that I can totally understand this approach. Implicitly there's a cultural understanding and expectation that your family will take care of you. Traditionally this was children taking care of parents, but with one child policy that responsibility is shifting. A parent can threaten to cut off their child, but every Chinese kid knows that's an empty threat from a parent.

There's an abundance of shitty new rich only childs that squander their youth and will eventually become dependant on their parents for life. Really the education/testing system is structured that unless you perform consistently during adolescence, you will be irrevocably screwed for later life. Sure your wealthy parents can secure you a position throw nepotism down the road, but there's nothing more shameful than having a dependant slacker as your only child which reflects poorly upon everyone. Chinese society will never let you live it down. I guess, it's as equally genuine concern and selfishness.
posted by dirtyid at 7:18 PM on September 19, 2013


@FJT, it's horrible to say, but gold digging is legitimately hard work in China. Especially trying to hold on to a rich spouse when they can trade up after your expiration date.
posted by dirtyid at 7:24 PM on September 19, 2013


Free university? I'd take that deal.

Bonus: when you grow up and have kids you have a great motivator to be a better parent than the ones you grew up with.

In seriousness, I was cut loose when I was 18 because of my parents' bullshit Reagan-era boot straps philosophy. He'll, they put themselves through college, why couldn't I? Never mind that they constantly voted to defund the public education institutions they benefitted from, worked for military contractors that gave them great healthcare, pensions, and paid for their secondary education, things my sister and I will never see. Thanks, dad, lesson learned. You can't count on anyone in this world. Oh wait, i mean you can't count on any *assholes* in this world.

And that's how my sister and I wound up flaming liberals working in public service.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:17 PM on September 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm a bit amused that people think this approach might be more culturally acceptable in China. The whole reason why this story made Chinese news is because it's bizarre, both over there and over here. Like, remember that news story about the couple in the US who named their kids things like Adolfhitler and Whitepower, and the local Wal-Mart refused to make a birthday cake for one of them? That made the US news because it was bizarre, not because that behavior is actually much more acceptable over here.

I told my (Chinese) in-laws this story last night at dinner, and we all had a good laugh about it. My father-in-law said, "when the mother wants to retire, the daughter should say that she's not her real daughter, so she'll need to find someone else to take care of her in old age."
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:36 AM on September 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


The whole reason why this story made Chinese news is because it's bizarre, both over there and over here.

While I agree with you that it is an extreme case of parenting gone wrong, it touches a nerve because it is an exaggerated case of a certain type of "Asian Parent" syndrome.

I think it has both enough basis in commonly accepted views and enough rocket 'crazy' fuel behind it which makes it uniquely noteworthy.

I say this as a person who's early childhood (4-11) very closely resembled the bullet points in the first "Previously." No popular music, no popular TV, forced violin lessons, summers spent inside studying, hitting and lectures for anything less than a 98 percentile test score, tightly controlled friendships... and that's the more "tame" stuff.

Perhaps as a result of the above, when I was eventually tested for IQ in Sixth grade and got a 186, my parents thought they had done a wonderful job.

However, considering that by High School my life had devolved into a quagmire of alcohol, fear, codependency, anti-social tendencies, anger, and underachievement, which I only recovered from in my mid-30s, I would think that at least in my case, there may be some evidence to the contrary.

My therapist has been telling me for a couple years that I still have significant issues surrounding my childhood, and apparently by my vehement inner reaction to this article, while I haven't exactly told him he's wrong, perhaps it is time to readdress this in more detail in future sessions. So thanks for this at least.
posted by Debaser626 at 7:28 AM on September 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


« Older So long, and thanks for all the nibbles   |   But, Mr. Adams! Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post