Category Archives: Step-parenting

Battle Hymn of the Paper Tiger Step-Mom

Recently there was a lot of furor over the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom. It was a memoir that featured the tyrannical parenting style of a Chinese American mom and the clash between raising kids in our permissive Western culture of  self-esteem-as-paramount, and the Eastern culture’s value of hard-work-and strict-discipline as the key to successfully raising children. I have not yet read this book, nor can I say that I personally subscribe to any of these philosophies, although I must admit I have a lot of respect for the Tiger Mom who can pull this off and not cause her child to go into therapy over it.

There is one philosophy I do value in parenting, and that is consistency.  I am not saying I can’t be flexible, or that I am perfect, but I do believe that consistency is very important in parenting.  In most two-parent households, no doubt there are parenting disagreements, but it’s usually best if the parents maintain a show of unity and consistency.  What happens when you are in a co-parenting situation with four adults, three households and four kids? Chaos sometimes reigns over consistency.

As a step-parent, I know that I have no real ability to discipline my husband’s kids. My role is chiefly to support my husband in his parenting.  And, in a case like ours, where all the parents are generally amicable, I also support the girls’ mom in raising the girls. Even though I am not supposed to be a disciplinarian, I am sometimes asked to help out with enforcing rules. But truly, it’s the bio parents who should have complete authority.  And when the girls have been grounded for misbehaving, and I am asked, along with their dad,  to carry out their punishment and back up their mother, that is also my responsibility.  Even if it means that I feel like I am being punished too because I have to keep the girls housebound over spring break, a time when they would otherwise be out with friends, at the beach or having fun.  But in the spirit of consistency we carry out the punishment over our custody period, even though we were not the ones to impose the punishment.

We try to be consistent even though it means that the girls will complain and harp endlessly about how UNFAIR life is that they are in LOCK DOWN.  And so, for several days, I turn a deaf ear to the petitions, the cries and complaints about the grounding, just to be consistent. But our girls are stars on the debate team. Their dad and I are lawyers. They know that sometimes, if you plead enough, or if you take your case to another venue, your pleas might be heard, your request might be granted. They know that chipping away has proven effective, and if they chip hard enough, they will break your will.  Today, when we woke up, one of our girls showed us a text that had come in overnight from her mother, long after we had gone to bed, and long after we told our daughter to go to bed. The text read, “Sure, you can be ungrounded.”  This, after we were expressly asked to” ground the girls through the weekend.” Now we were being told by our daughter that she was ungrounded? What happened to backing each other up? What happened to consistency?

Needless to say, I was frustrated. I was going to keep my frustrations to myself, but then my husband encouraged me to write about it. I am sure I am not the only one out there with experiences like this. I know it happens all the time in blended families, and even in nuclear families.  When I decided to write about it,  my husband suggested the title. He was frustrated too, so I knew he was not referring to me as the “Paper Tiger Mom.” But now that I have just written the post, I can see that as the step-mother with no real authority, I too am the “Paper Tiger Mom.” What about you, do you ever feel like a paper tiger parent?

My Modern Familia

Modern Family

Image via Wikipedia

One of my favorite shows on television is Modern Family.  I enjoy the fact that the family on TV is not your traditional family, just like mine.  We are  a modern family too…a modern blended family….yours, mine, his, hers, and ours.  My family seems to have a lot of similarities with Phil, Claire and the rest of the familia Dunfee. My husband Juan could be Phil’s twin when it comes to his love for the IPad, and Claire and I seem to have the control freak connection going on. Not to mention the way the teen and tween sisters relate to each other and our own girls, Olivia and Erica’s love/hate relationship. Our kids seem to appreciate the similarity because we all usually  enjoy watching the show together, except for Wednesday night’s episode.

For those of you who don’t watch the show, or haven’t yet sat down to watch your DVR version, here is your SPOILER alert.

Wednesday night’s episode involved the three kids surprising Phil and Claire with breakfast in bed in celebration of their parents’ wedding anniversary.  Phil and Claire are also celebrating their wedding anniversary in bed, but they were not sleeping, if you know what I mean. The sight of Phil and Claire frantically grabbing at the sheets and the kids dropping the breakfast tray as they shrieked in horror at the sight of their parents, had Juan and I laughing out loud.

Juan and I thought the episode was hilarious. Erica, on the other hand was, well, mortified. She just sat there, shrinking into her chair, trying to make herself invisible.  When we realized that the awkward noises in the room were coming from Erica, who was squirming in embarrassment, Juan couldn’t resist. He made all kinds of remarks, which made Erica more uncomfortable, then he tried to reassure her with this exchange:

J:   Don’t worry, this could never happen in our house because Diana and I never have sex.

Me:   Nope. Never.

Erica:   Thank God.

J:   And I haven’t had sex with your mother in over 10 years.  Don’t worry, we only did it twice. (Chuckle)

Erica:    DAD!!!!

Me:   HeeeeHeeeHeeee!

Erica left the room in embarrassment. Now, we are not prudes and sex is not taboo in our house, but to a nearly 13 year-old girl, the last thing she cares to talk about with her older than old parents is SEX! The next day when Nico and Erica came home from school, Nico, who hadn’t seen the episode, was talking about the show. He said episode was the talk of the 7th grade. Nico asked to see the episode which has been lovingly preserved on our DVR. Erica ran from the room. Juan and I stopped what we were doing, sat down to watch, and begin to torment Nico. Bwahaahaa!