HomeBlogsA Tiger Mom and Her Cub debate how to honor grandma.

A Tiger Mom and Her Cub debate how to honor grandma.

By Bethany and Deb Liu

Tiger Cub: 

My grandmother, who lived with us for the past decade, passed last month. My aunt and my mom hosted a memorial service for her a few weeks later. My grandaunts, granduncles, and cousins were flying into our town for the event. We hadn’t seen them in a while, and it was nice to spend time with them even if it was for a sad occasion. 

A few days before the service, my brother, Jonathan, dropped a bombshell. He reminded our parents that the Speech and Debate National Qualifier for our region was on the same weekend as the memorial service. Speech and Debate tournaments typically take the entire first day, with people returning for a second day if they make it to the finals. The speech division of NatQuals began on the Saturday of the memorial service, he would be gone for the whole day. I had not realized the conflict until he spoke up, and I was also signed up for NatQuals. That left both of us with a hard decision to make. 

Our paths diverged. I chose to drop out of the tournament, a combination of respect for my grandmother and my expectation that I wouldn’t be able to make it to Nationals anyway. Jonathan chose to forego the memorial service to go to the tournament with his teammates. 

In the end, Jonathan missed the entire day, from the memorial to the lunch at Grandma’s favorite restaurant with close friends and family. He then missed the internment in the rain and dinner with our relatives. 

My mom didn’t say much during the conversation we had or at the actual event. I was wondering what she was thinking. So this week, I asked mom to write about it with me. 

Tiger Mom: 

Honestly, I was really torn. I was surprised to hear just a few days before the memorial service that both of you had a tournament. Jonathan is just a few months from

turning 18, and I want him to learn to make adult decisions. The Tiger Mom in me was horrified he would even consider missing his Grandmother’s memorial, but I kept quiet. 

Life is not always about easy choices. There are times when conflicts will arise. While I was disappointed with his choice, I gave him a choice, and once he made it, I honored it. I never mentioned my feelings to him because of that. 

I wanted him to wrestle with it without my undue influence. I knew I could ask him to stay, and he would have obeyed. I wish I could say I was not sad he didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to everyone else, but I accepted it. 

Tiger Cub: 

Popo had been an integral part of our household for so long, but I know why Jonathan chose to miss the memorial service. Missing the service is not something I can begrudge him for. 

Jonathan was lost in high school before he found his place in the world of speech and debate. Extemporaneous Speaking, in particular, offered Jonathan something to be passionate about like nothing else. He is currently one of the captains of our school’s Extemp Squad and places a lot of value in being competitively successful. He is one of the top Extemp speakers at our high school. 

Given he is a senior, NatQuals was also one of the final tournaments he will ever attend. This was his last chance. NatQuals was his ticket to nationals, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

Tiger Mom: 

Popo’s funeral was also a once-in-a-lifetime event. A fact that I’m sure you were aware of when you chose to attend the memorial service. 

Tiger Cub:

You know that I have more tournaments to come, but this was the end for him. Getting to Nationals is the culmination of a successful speech and debate career. He was already going to the tournament of champions in Kentucky, but he wanted a shot at Nationals. I know you were happy that I went to the memorial service, but if it was my senior year and I were confident in my abilities, I might have made the same choice as him. 

Tiger Mom: 

I had no idea. I guess I assumed you were closer to your Popo and wanted to honor her memory. 

Tiger Cub: 

Going to the tournament would have been honoring her memory. I recall in Jonathan’s sophomore year, him pacing around the living room, furtively repeating the same tired speech on forgiveness. He was just pointlessly drilling words until the speech was memorized. Three years later, I can probably still recall most of the speech. 

I despised the practice; the droning was loud and frankly rather exhaustive to listen to. However, Popo never minded. She used to patiently listen as stories of tragedy and hope endlessly repeated. I think that Popo would have wanted Jonathan to go to NatQuals. Even after Jonathan changed events to Extemp—which is more or less listening to high schoolers improvise speeches on politics—and Popo’s health began to decline, I believe that she always cheered for his success. 

Tiger Mom: 

You are right that she was supportive. Your dad and I both participated in Speech & Debate in high school, and while our parents didn’t understand the whole system, they were proud of what we accomplished. My mom proudly displayed my trophies on the fireplace mantle. Popo would have wanted that for Jonathan and you. 

Tiger Cub:

I feel like there’s a but coming after that statement. 

Tiger Mom: 

I remember sitting at dinner that night with our family as your Dad looked up the tournament results. I said to David, “If he is going to miss his Grandmother’s funeral, at the very least, he better have broken to finals.” Unfortunately, he didn’t. I bit my tongue when he returned home because I knew he was disappointed for both not having made it to finals and not winning. He didn’t need me piling on even though a tiny part of me wanted to. 

Tiger Cub: 

There is always opportunity cost and I personally think that it was worth it for Jonathan to at least try. It was his choice after all, and it was an educated choice. He knows his skills the best, and he thought he was ready. 

Tiger Mom: 

I just wish he would have done better so that he could honor Popo’s memory even if he couldn’t have been at the memorial service. 

Tiger Cub: 

I like to believe that Popo was smiling down on him from heaven no matter his choice.

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