I am a westernized tiger mom, the type that has mixed my own mom’s traditional tiger ways with my free American spirit. While I push my children every day to academically excel and don’t hesitate to sternly discipline them, I also believe in making sure to keep things lighthearted and fun most of the time. The product of my parenting style has given me results I am proud of but like any parent, I have been humbled by unexpected situations that have no way of resolving without making matters much worse.
A few months ago, while I was driving on the highway, my youngest, Noah, kept pointing and asking me questions which I directed to be answered by his siblings while I focused on the road ahead. Suddenly, in the midst of a question about the color of a car next to us I heard my 6-year-old son Daniel exclaim, “NOAH! You just cursed! Maaaaaooommmm! Noah cursed!” “No I didn’t,” Noah replied defiantly, as all 3-year-olds do so well, shortly before asking quizzically, “What’s a curse?”
“Yow pointed at the ka with yow middle finga Noah. That’s the cuwse finga!” Daniel said with a Brooklyn accent that only comes out during these momentous opportunities to get his little brother in trouble. At this point, Noah’s indiscretions became a sibling lecture affair where my two oldest decided to chime in and educate Noah on the importance of keeping his middle finger down and inactive at all times of his life.
“But what if I have no other fingers left?” Noah questioned. “What if…” I cut him off before the situation went further out of hand: “Okay, enough kids. Don’t give him attention for negative behavior." And thought I ended the issue by saying, "Noah, please don’t use your middle finger, it’s not nice.”
Two weeks later, in the midst of a torrential spring downpour, Noah, Daniel and I were sitting having lunch at a neighborhood establishment when a locally successful female entrepreneur and I struck up a conversation about community issues. With the two of us in heavy discussion, Noah sensed the need to grab my attention and started tapping me on the shoulder while exclaiming with delight, “Mom, Mom, look what I’m doing.” Promptly, my acquaintance and I turned our attention over to my nagging toddler only to see him standing there flinging not one but two birdies straight at me.
The eastern tiger mom in me would have threatened breakage of the two body parts in action but my American half reminded me of western institutions like Child Protection Services. Running out of the restaurant was also out of the question as I witnessed our neighborhood experiencing the monsoon of the year through the windows so, I did the next best thing... I ignored him and pretended to be blind while hoping my company next to me would also experience the same loss of vision.
"Mom, he cuwsed! Noah cuwsed! Yow didn't see it. He cuwsed again! Wit bowt fingas dis time!" Brooklyn Daniel with 20/20 vision announced to the whole restaurant.
Expecting my new friend to experience a loss of hearing on top of her new-found blindness was certainly out of the question so I relied on the original tiger mom version of time-out for Noah: sitting facing the corner with your finger on your mouth. This method of time-out had worked not just for me during my childhood but for my older three kids as well. Facing the corner prevents the child from losing his attention to the matter at hand while the finger reminds him to remain quiet as reflects on his bad behavior. The method was failure-proof for the past 35 years but Noah managed to change that within moments.
As he sat facing the corner, a local senior resident approached Noah endearingly and asked him why he was in trouble. Knowing the rules of staying silent during time-out, Noah attempted to answer her by demonstrating his misdeed with his one free hand. Horrified, the elderly woman looked over at me with a look of judgement only my mother could compete with. Accepting defeat, I picked up my bag, grabbed both children and decided I would much rather face the monsoon outside than stick around for the storm my children were brewing indoors.