What does Tan reveal about the significance of relationships in one’s life through "Two Kinds"?

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I think one of the key takeaways from this story is that although we sometimes have struggles and conflict within our relationships, it is important to keep working through those moments of friction.

Both Jing-Mei and her mother shoulder some of the responsibility for the tension, as is the case in most relationships experiencing conflict. Jing-Mei's mother has high expectations for her daughter, wanting her to become an American prodigy. She forces lessons on Jing-Mei that Jing-Mei herself has no interest in. There is a growing frustration because Jing-Mei resents her mother's goals for her. However, Jing-Mei's performance at the recital proves that she hasn't been truly practicing at all those lessons, and she later hurls one of the worst insults possible at her mother:

And that's when I remembered the babies she had lost in China, the ones we never talked about. "Then I wish I'd never been born!" I shouted. “I wish I were dead! Like them."

This is raw portrayal of the way relationships look at times. They can be painful, hurtful, and full of tension.

Yet this is also a relationship of love. Jing-Mei's mother pushes her to excel because she loves her daughter. Jing-Mei's anger is partially due to her lack of life experience, and it also comes from a place of self-doubt: "Unlike my mother, I did not believe I could be anything I wanted to be."

For many years, the two keep working through their conflict of expectations. Jing-Mei finds in the end that she has been "two kinds" of daughters to her mother. This reflects the nature of significant relationships. People we love deeply are worth the struggle it sometimes takes to better understand their expectations and point of view.

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