Jing-Mei’s mother wishes that she would be an obedient daughter.
Jing-Mei and her mother do not always see eye to eye. Jing-Mei’s mother wants to be proud of her daughter, and she wants her to learn that working for something produces results. In trying to teach her daughter that success comes from trying, Jing-Mei’s mother’s tactics backfire.
Jing-Mei’s mother wants her to become really good at something, like the prodigies on television. At first, Jing-Mei is on board. She likes the attention and likes the idea of being a star. Unfortunately, they really don’t stick to anything long enough for her to be good at it. Her mother is trying to find some innate talent that Jing-Mei doesn’t seem to have.
Everything comes to a head when Jing-mei has finally had enough, and tells her mother that she does not want to keep up the prodigy-seeking. She tells her mother that she doesn’t want to play the piano, something she has put little effort into anyway. Her mother reacts in anger.
"I'm not going to play anymore," I said nonchalantly. "Why should I? I'm not a genius." She stood in front of the TV. I saw that her chest was heaving up and down in an angry way. "No!" I said, and I now felt stronger, as if my true self had finally emerged.
It is this fight that results in Jing-Mei’s mother’s proclamation that there are “two kinds” of daughters, in her mind.
"Only two kinds of daughters," she shouted in Chinese. "Those who are obedient and those who follow their own mind! Only one kind of daughter can live in this house. Obedient daughter!"
This statement makes Jing-Mei feel rejected. Her mother is not really listening to her, probably because of the defiant approach she takes. She tells her mother she doesn’t want to be her daughter, and even says, “I wish I were dead! Like them." This is a hurtful reference to the babies her mother left behind in China, a truth that agonizes and saddens her daily. Jing-mei knows what saying this will do to her mother.