In Amy Tan’s short story “Rules of the Game,” Waverly Jung has a difficult relationship with her mother Lindo. Lindo has a lot of strict, traditional expectations for Waverly. However, Waverly’s mother feels that her methods of parenting are necessary to help her children given their socioeconomic context. Recall how Waverly says,
My mother imparted her daily truths so she could help my older brothers and me rise above our circumstances...I didn’t think we were poor.
So it is not that Lindo does not care about Waverly, but that her strict expectations escalate into a pressure that overwhelms Waverly and creates tension between the two of them. Tensions really begin to escalate when Waverly begins to succeed at chess.
Lindo is proud of her daughter’s success, but to the point where Waverly feels a bit used. Consider how her mother would make Waverly walk to the market with her on Saturday so she could introduce her to people as her daughter. Lindo also becomes so involved in Waverly’s chess career that it makes Waverly feel tense and overwhelmed. For instance, Waverly explains,
My mother had a habit of standing over me while I plotted out my games. I think she thought of herself as my protective ally. Her lips would be sealed tight, and after each move I made, a soft "Hmmmmph" would escape from her nose. "Ma, I can't practice when you stand there like that," I said one day.
This quote really shows the complexity of their relationship. Her mother thought of her overbearing presence as "protective," while Waverly saw it as unbearable and stressful.
Another noteworthy passage that demonstrates what their relationship is like occurs when Waverly becomes so overwhelmed that she bursts out her true feelings:
I knew it was a mistake to say anything more, but I heard my voice speaking, "Why do you have to use me to show off? If you want to show off, then why don't you learn to play chess?”
This outburst brings some concrete honesty into Waverly’s relationship with her mother. But it also escalates the tension in their relationship to a breaking point. When Waverly finally faces her mother again after saying this, she knows that she is in tremendous trouble and wonders where to go from here. In the end, she faces her mother as an “opponent,” suggesting that they will each need to use strategic strategies of communication to argue for what they want and maintain a relationship.