Sorry is the Hardest Word

I get lectured a lot by my Tiger Mom. Like, A LOT. These are usually unsolicited and unprompted lectures and they cover the gamut of possible subjects – why one must find a suitable husband, why x person should be my role model, why news anchors and princesses are good inspirations for appropriate attire, why one must read the newspaper regularly, and so on and so forth.

Sometimes a lecture is prompted by something I did or failed to do, and I genuinely feel remorseful. But I just can’t bring myself to apologize for it.

For example, recently, I forgot to call my parents for an important occasion. I felt terrible about it and wanted to tell my parents that. Instead, as my Tiger Mom berated me, I dug my heels in deeper and refused to acknowledge that it was a big deal.

I should note that this only happens with my parents. I have no problems apologizing to my boss, to my coworkers or to my friends if I am in the wrong. Some of my friends have noted that they also experience this phenomenon.

Why can’t we apologize to our parents for things for which we’re genuinely sorry?

My theory is two-pronged: (1) because Tiger Mom won’t let it go, and (2) because in most Asian families, we don’t know how to talk about emotions.

They Just Won’t Let it Go

if I concede I’m wrong about something, it will go into my permanent record

I find a large part of why I hate to apologize to my Tiger Mom is because Tiger Mom just won’t let it go. Even after I concede that I’m in the wrong, Tiger Mom will continue on, sometimes for another hour, about how I am an unfilial daughter and how other people’s adult children are so filial.

Often Tiger Mom will dredge up a multitude of examples from my past, evidencing my long history of delinquency. So I feel the need to stand my ground. Because if I concede I’m wrong about something, it will go into my permanent record, to be dredged up again, and again, and again.

What Emotions?

On top of that, in most Asian families, we don’t talk about emotions. So instead of saying how she feels, my Tiger Mom defaults to guilt-tripping.

“You’ll wish you did xyz when we’re gone.” “When we’re gone, you won’t be able to see us even if you wanted to.” You get the idea.

I plan on writing a whole post on this at a later date, but suffice to say that we Tiger Cubs are not taught to express our emotions in a healthy way because our parents don’t know how to express their emotions in a healthy way.

And as I’ve discussed in my previous post, we have a tendency to revert to our childhood selves when we’re interacting with our parents, even though we may be perfectly functional adults in other contexts. So my ability to have difficult conversations in other contexts is in no way indicative of my ability to talk about serious issues with my parents.

That is to say, in lieu of saying “mom/dad, you are important to me and I’m sorry that I forgot to call you on this important occasion,” I resort to crossing my arms, rolling my eyes and grunting.

Where Do We Go From Here?

So we’re at a cross-road. We can either continue to cross our arms, roll our eyes and grunt, or we can behave like the highly-evolved and articulate humans that we are. But how? Tiger Moms seem to bring out the Neanderthal in us.

In my previous post, I urged you to be a co-pilot. Now, I urge you to be the adult in the relationship. If you feel an apology is warranted, apologize, even if it will go into your permanent record. If your parents are important to you, tell them, even if it feels weird and out of character.


I called my parents and told them that I didn’t mean to forget the important occasion and that I did feel badly about it. Tiger Mom’s lecture was only 5 minutes long this time and the conversation moved onto other matters.

Maybe my approach will backfire horribly and my Tiger Mom will have a long list of crimes to recite back to me upon my next infraction. Then again, Tiger Mom may surprise me.

Will I come to regret this? Will Tiger Mom surprise me? Follow me @CordeliaQ888 on Twitter or Instagram and I’ll keep you posted!

I would also love to hear your stories. Let me know in the comments box or send me an email at

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