Tag Archives: 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?

Spelunking in the Lost and Found Box

At the beginning of the school year I bought Diego two hoodies and a new rain jacket. His public school has a uniform policy so the hoodies complied with the policy and were blue and grey and free of any logos. I thought that  three new jackets, coupled with the two that still fit from last year would be enough to get him through the winter months.

I figured he had at least one to use, and one to lose. Diego, however, took this literally. Too literally, because this morning as we made our usual dash out the door I asked Diego where his jacket was. He looked at me blankly. “Well, I left it on the playground and I can’t find it.” I went to his closet, hoping to find at least one of his 4 other jackets. What was I thinking? Good thing we live in Southern California and we aren’t experiencing frigid temperatures like the rest of the country. Diego made do with his long-sleeved uniform shirt.

I rushed him into the classroom just as the tardy bell rang, and rummaged through the classroom closet, hoping to recover a lost hoodie. No luck. I walked outside to the deserted playground hoping to spy a lone hoodie hanging from the money bars or abandoned on the empty field. Nope. This meant only one thing. I headed towards the school cafeteria, wishing I brought my rubber gloves and shower cap. I knew just where I needed to look, the Lost and Found Box. When I saw the box, I gasped.

There was not just one box..

There were TWO.

Two big boxes overflowing with blue, and grey jackets and an occasional non-regulation, illegal logo laden jacket.  I got squeamish at just the thought of having to pick through those boxes to find Diego’s missing jackets. I thought maybe it would be easier to go buy some new ones, but my cheap thrifty side would not allow it. I tried to keep my breakfast down as I picked through the box. Almost immediately I spied last year’s hoodie. It was easy to find because, in desperation, I allowed Diego to wear it to school even though it was both white and had a logo. Next, I began my Where’s Waldo quest trying to find the navy blue and  grey hoodie. As I dug towards the bottom of the box, I tried to keep my thoughts from racing about all the germs I was being exposed to. Then, I spied it! I found the grey hoodie! I could tell it was Diego’s because his name that I had written on it had not completely faded. Two down, two to go and one more box of bacteria laden, germ infested jackets.

I kept thinking about all those jackets carrying who knows what kind of mites or possibly, (gasp) lice. As I plowed through the second Lost and Found box I came across–could it be? His rain jacket?  Similar style. Same color. No name. Wrong size.  The rain jacket was probably lost forever, gone into the vast universe of unmated socks and missing clothing.

 I took another breath and dove back into the box,  this time emerging with a blue hoodie in Diego’s size 7! There was no name on it but I took it anyway. I don’t remember if I had the foresight to put his name on this jacket, or if the writing had faded enough preventing me from seeing it. I figured this was karma. Maybe,  in the cosmic universe of Lost Clothing and Un-mated Socks, this was a way of rewarding me for braving the dark, germ infested depths of the Lost and Found Box.