The conflict between Jing-mei and her mother is over Jing-mei’s piano lessons. Jing-mei does not want to play anymore, but her mother wants her to become a prodigy.
When Jing-mei’s mother decides she should be a prodigy, Jing-mei is on board at first.
"Of course, you can be a prodigy, too," my mother told me when I was nine. "You can be best anything…”
Jing-mei is interested in being a prodigy. She plays along for a while, trying to become some kind of prodigy. It doesn’t take, and Jing-mei gets frustrated. When her mother tries to get her to take piano lessons, she is not excited.
"Why don't you like me the way I am?" I cried. "I'm not a genius! I can't play the piano. And even if I could, I wouldn't go on TV if you paid me a million dollars!"
But Jing-mei’s mother insists, and she starts the lessons with the elderly—and deaf—Mr. Chong. Unfortunately, she figures out that she does not really have to learn anything pretty quickly. As a result, her first concert is an embarrassment for Jing-mei and her mother.
Jing-mei and her mother have a big argument when her mother tries to get her to continue playing the piano after the disastrous conflict. Her mother drags her to the piano bench to practice, and Jing-mei tells her she wishes she was dead like her twin babies in China. Her mother is so saddened that she drops the issue.