In Amy Tan’s “Two Kinds,” the differences between the mother and daughter showcase the different perceptions of the American dream and how expectations of parents can disrupt their child’s self-actualization. Jing-Mei’s mother believes that her daughter could accomplish her goals just because of how Shirley Temple showed how she was a natural phenomenon on TV or how the little Chinese girl playing the piano illustrated her mastery of the instrument. Jing-Mei declares, “My mother believed you could be anything you wanted to be in America.
” (305) Media can truly sway some people into thinking they can be movie star or a sports star; it usually only displays how well a person can perform what he or she is good in, not the diligence and endeavors it took to get to that point. Parents’ expectations can also get in the way of their child’s self-actualization. With the influence of the media, parents’ expectations can truly prevent children from choosing their own destiny.
Undoubtedly, many immigrants come over to the United States to seek better lives not only for their selves, but also for their families. Lots of people have different approaches of what the American Dream actually means. To some, it is finding happiness in life. To others, it may be becoming successful and evolving into a wealthy person. There are endless amounts of visualizations of what it means. But to the mother in the story, I believe she presumes that it means her daughter maturing into a prodigy in something like acting or music and being able to take part in activities her mother couldn’t. At first, the mother convinces Jing-Mei that she really can be a prodigy:
In fact, in the beginning, I was just as excited as my mother, maybe even more so. I pictured this prodigy part of me as many different images, trying each one on for size. I was a dainty ballerina girl standing by the curtains, waiting to hear the right music that would send me floating on my tiptoes. I was like the Christ child lifted out of the straw manger, crying with holy indignity. I was Cinderella stepping from her pumpkin carriage with sparkly cartoon music filling the air. (306) But soon after all of her mother’s overwhelming tests and stories, Jing-Mei comes to the realization that she does not have the intellect nor the dedication required to become a youth prodigy. She states, “I pretended to be bored. And I was. I got so bored I started counting the bellows of the foghorns out on the bay while my mother drilled me in other areas.” (307) The mother had the wrong idea of Jing-Mei like some foreigners do when they think they can come to America and have a quick rise to fame and riches without hard work and dedication.
Likewise, a friend of mine named Tony Nguyen, similar to the mother in the story, traveled over from Asia with his family to pursue better lives. They came from the slums of Vietnam and his parents wanted him to become a successful person. Like Jing-Mei, Tony’s parents wished for him to be successful in life and try to become a doctor, engineer, or surgeon. But he also did not want to follow any of the career paths his parents mentioned. He wanted to chase his own dreams and achieve his own legacy, so he decided to attend SCAD and major in film. Tony never took into account that his parents set those goals for him because they wanted him to be something they never had the opportunity to be. He did not realize the sacrifices and hardships his parents experienced to give him a more prominent life, much like Jing-Mei.
Indeed, Jing-Mei’s mother really pushes for her daughter to become a mastermind even when Jing-Mei clearly proves she didn’t have the work ethic for it. Jing-Mei even shouts, “Why don’t you like me the way I am? I’m not a genius!” Her mother then slaps her and bellows, “Who ask you be genius?” (308) But was her mother wrong for pushing her? Jing-Mei came off as ungrateful and ignorant to me, especially when she said, “Then I wish I wasn’t your daughter. I wish you weren’t my mother,” and “I wish I’d never been born!” (312) She should’ve acknowledged that her mother was only trying to offer her opportunities she could not have at her age. But then again, the idea that parents’ expectations can prevent a child from becoming who they truly are comes into play. Maybe if the mother would’ve backed off some and let Jing-Mei decide what she wanted to do with her life then circumstances would’ve gone a lot better between them.
Nevertheless, the way Jing-Mei’s mother was hard on her all boils down to culture. In America, individualism is valued much greater than other countries. Places like India and Japan are much stricter on education than the US. Many parents in those countries have the same expectations of their children, such as becoming a doctor or an engineer. Parents in the United States are usually less strict and aren’t set on their children having one goal in life. But how should parents go about introducing their offspring to career passageways? Parents should open their children’s eyes to assortments of activities to truly broaden their horizons and let them figure out what they want to be; rather than setting for them one distinctive motive and telling them what they will be in life.
In conclusion, what the media portrays can manipulate what the American Dream means to some. In the story, Jing-Mei’s mother envisions her daughter becoming a true child prodigy after watching television shows such as ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ and ‘Shirley Temple’. The way her mother wants her to be a superstar truly holds Jing-Mei back from fulfilling her individual potential and finding out who she really is. Her mother thinks that just because she saw girls Jing-Mei’s age on television, her daughter will be able to mimic them effortlessly. Jing-Mei’s mother wanted to accomplish her own dreams through her daughter, but she should’ve actualized that what the media demonstrates isn’t for everyone.