Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tiger Mother: Coco's Response

Editorial Note: In recent weeks, there has been much uproar over Amy Chua's memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. In it, Ms. Chua chronicles her controversial parenting methods, including how she withheld food, water, and bladder-emptying privileges from her daughter until she mastered an obscure piano piece by an even more obscure French composer. Some pundits champion Ms. Chua's tough-love approach as an antidote to the flaccid, weak-willed parenting favored by non-lawyers who did not attend Harvard. Others claim her tyrannical style puts her daughter's psychological well-being at risk.

No one, however, has questioned how Ms. Chua's "Tiger Mothering" has impacted another member of the Chua household.

No, not her husband, Jed. That poor bastard will shut up and keep his head down if he knows what's good for him. I refer instead to Coco, the Rubenfeld-Chua's Samoyed dog. Chua devotes a chapter of her tome to her struggles with housebreaking Coco, obedience training Coco, and teaching Coco to bark in Mandarin.

And how does Coco feel about her "Tiger Mom"? No one has bothered to ask. UNTIL NOW.

I conducted an in-depth interview with Coco over a can of Alpo. The following represents her response to how she is depicted by Ms. Chua in the book. And yes, those are actual excerpts.

Coco is our dog, my first pet ever.

We had an earlier ordeal that was thankfully short-lived. When the girls were very young, Jed got them a pair of pet rabbits named Whiggy and Tory. I disliked them from the moment I saw them and had nothing to do with them. They were unintelligent and not at all what they claimed to be. . . Eventually, the rabbits mysteriously escaped.

Coco is a Samoyed . . . born on January 26, 2006. The runt of the litter, she has always been unusually timid.

. . . My first instinct was to apply Chinese parenting to Coco. I had heard of dogs who can count and do the Heimlich maneuver . . . [Samoyeds] were also the lead dogs for the explorer Fridtjof Nansen's famous 1895 attempt to reach the North Pole.

. . . I was convinced that Coco had hidden talent. I began to do extensive research. I bought many books . . . befriended other dog owners . . . I found a place that offered a Doggy Kindergarten class, a prerequisite for more advanced courses.

. . . [Eventually], the only skill she'd mastered was not going to the bathroom anymore on our rugs. Jed pointed out that Coco could also sit and fetch and that she excelled at Frisbee. Unfortunately, that was all Coco could do.

I did an Internet search for "dog intelligence rankings" . . . I scrolled down the list, frantically looking for "Samoyed" to appear. It didn't . . . Samoyeds were ranked #33 out of 79 -- not the dumbest dog but definitely average. I felt nauseated.

I accused [my husband] of being selfish and thinking only of himself. "What dreams do you have for Sophia, or for Lulu? Do you ever even think about that? What are your dreams for Coco?"

Samoyeds are notoriously difficult to train . . . [but] if the only issue was a stubborn, disobedient streak, that was nothing I couldn't handle.

. . . and then, Coco? Coco! I said, COCO!!! What IS it? I explicitly instructed you NEVER to interrupt me when I'm recording my mem-wahs! You shame me! You're GARBAGE! You're -- wait. What's that in your mouth? Bring it here.

Bring it! What's this? A present for me? Oh, Coco, you really shouldn't have. Actually, you should have, because you owe everything to me. But still. Let me open this. It's a -- it's a -- I don't believe this --


{hyperventilating} Keep breathing, Amy. You are a Tiger! Tigers. Don't. Faint.{THUD!}