This is where the story begins

For way too long I've talked about my daughters impending application to American university.  I've moaned and groaned about the countless 45 minute drives one way to a stupid, useless, money grubbing SAT training school, which itself wouldn't feel complete unless it could brag about all the young high school Chinese it had streaming in and out of it's low slung brick building day after day, especially on weekends.

Weekends I'd much rather spend watching football.  Or hiking, or quite frankly doing anything else.  Alas, there are no "soccer mom's" when China Wife is concerned, only "soccer dad's".   I make the drive.  The summer drives are the worst.  The humidity in the American South is not fun.  Not so much the stickiness but the constant need for air conditioning while driving.  Turn it off but for a moment....and in an instant it is hot again.

Often I am carpooling several kids.  Boys, girls.  All quiet and staring at their phones. All children, like mine, of upper middle class Chinese parents(moms).  Some listening to music.  None studying.

But on this day three years ago I am tasked with picking my daughter up after work.

"Oh great", I say to myself.   That means I won't get home until close to seven.  No fun.
However, upon arriving for pickup I see a text from China Wife telling me not to bother.  Turns out a a parent of one of the kids is already there.

Well that doesn't sit right with me.  She can go home.  I've already showed up.  Case closed.  Once again I find myself feeling anger towards China Wife.  She could have told me before I came all the way up here, right? 

Especially as China Mom has been there all day. 

I'm told the other parent, a mom, is in a nearby Starbucks waiting.  I don't know her name.  All I know is she is a China Mom.  Can't be too hard to find right?

I walk in and see every seat in Starbucks taken.  The hustle, bustle of a typical Starbucks, common in China, not so much in the American South.   But this is an upper middle class neighborhood.

Right away I see a Chinese woman, nose down to an Ipad.  I walk over and ask her,

"Are you the one carpooling over at _______"?  She seems confused and says no.  I move on, face up scanning for more Chinese moms.  Only to be stopped a few steps later.

I'd totally neglected the Chinese lady sitting next to her, and right away don't understand why I did.  She was a beautiful middle aged lady.  Obviously smart, and confident.  (Just my type.)

Yet I knew what she was putting her own son through.  Like most Chinese moms, she was soft on the outside, "Stalinesque" inside.  She was currently putting her kid through eight hours a day of SAT prep.  And my wife was contemplating the same.  That is, until I stopped the nonsense.

That's right.  China Wife actually thought it might be a grand idea for our daughter to also study all fucking day at the SAT school.  Drone Central.

"Are you looking for me?", she asked.

Obviously I was.  She later told my wife I looked angry and agitated.  Right on all counts.  I was willing to stay to take her son and my daughter home, I explained.  She would have none of it. I went  home alone.  In hindsight, I think I would have very much liked to stay.  And hang out.  But I had an hour drive by now in rush hour traffic staring me down.  I left.

By the way she did, too.  They only lived a few miles from us. 

Her son later scored a 1590 on the SAT.  As a sophomore.  My daughter shall we say....scored less.

China Wife was devastated.  China Mom smug.  Who wouldn't be?  I braced for the storm about to erupt in our house. Yelling, mixed with condescending chaos. 

I knew the conversation by heart:

"Why couldn't you be like so and so!"
"You have your father's genes!"
"You will be lucky to go to a State School!"

But you see Pilgrim, this is where the story begins.

Fast forward 2 drama filled years later.....

My daughter has by now taken the SAT three times.  Crazy shit.
Son of Smug China Mom only once, as a sophomore.  My daughter in the low 1400's.

College applications have begun.  We decide to apply to both the "state school" and the nearby Engineering school in the city, which also has a business program. It is surrounded by banks, and "Southern Style" skyscrapers.  Unimaginative.  Concrete and rectangular.  But there are many of them, their shadows hiding a properly respective university.  Both schools are ranked in the American Top 50.   And my daughter has qualified for "tuition free admission", courtesy of the state lottery, should she be accepted.

She applies for "early decision" as opposed to "early admission".  This may be a uniquely American phenomena.  Alas, she is accepted to both.

Poor 1590 kid is rejected.

My daughter comes home from school with a mixture of glee and surprise.  Turns out he was rejected by the local engineering school. 

I'm sure you've all heard about affirmative action in America.  I doubt it exists in your country.  But it is very, very alive in mine.  And I took full advantage of it.  I have constantly told my freaking out kids that they should pity the Chinese, the Indians, as they are competing against each other.  "However, you are competing against a smaller pool", I tell them. 

It has always taken time to sink in.   Their mother never mentions this.  No, she wants them both to get perfect scores on everything.  Forever the Crazy China Mom.  Mind you my daughter wasn't dumb either.  She is about to graduate with a 4.7 gpa and a 92% percentile on her SAT. 

However, the "mixed race" box she checked on her application was only the tipping point.  She didn't need it.  But it helped.  And what helped even more was the fact she was a female applying to America's 2nd best engineering school......for a business major.

My daughter is the ultimate political player. She was President of all her clubs, a member of an elite summer program, and of a local leadership program for youth.  And MVP of her sports team.  She had the best resume in the county.   That was my job.  Her mom took care of the grades and SAT, up to a point.

Poor Kid of 1590?  No sport, no volunteerism, no nothing. 

His mom fell into the trap so many Chinese Parents fall into;  She played the game like a Chinese but forgot she was playing in America.   This poor young man's excellent SAT and GPA, along with music was "oh so boring".   His mom forgot the other stuff.  The "soft soft". 

Don't get me wrong.  Many Chinese "get it".  She did not.

Ironically, I'm sure the admissions team also noted his 1590 was scored as a pimply 15 year old.  Tell me they didn't notice that?

Sorry son, but shouldn't you be out popping wheelies on your bike?   Don't tell me that college admissions boards across this country of ours don't notice such "errant behavior"....I think they do.  And don't tell me they don't resent it.....because again, methinks they do.

Is China Mom pissed?  Of course she is! Do I care?  Nope!  She's lived here long enough.  And now her son pays the price for her ignorance of how to play the college admissions game in America.


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