Oct 24 2014
This summer, my son wore his bathing suit and swim shirt for five days in a row—he slept in his bathing suit, wore it swimming the next day, and to bed that night. He did this for about five different weeks throughout July and August.
My kids (13 and 11) don’t make their beds every morning. They don’t do their own laundry either. Or take out the garbage. Ditto for loading the dishes in the dishwasher. Sometimes I feel guilty that they don’t help out more around the house. Once in a while I’d like my son to put on a clean shirt and brush his hair. But truthfully, I don’t care that much.
Before you start thinking that my kids are spoiled, entitled or just plain slobs, and before you think that I’m an indulgent parent, let me tell you what I do care a great deal about—I care deeply that my kids are good citizens of the world. A great deal of my parenting energy is spent trying to raise children who will grow up to be mensches. Read more →
Oct 24 2014
Listen very carefully: Tell your kids to go into the other room. Turn down the volume, or put on your headphones. And watch this video of some very adorable little girls dropping some very graphic language in the name of feminism (NSFW!!!): Read more →
Oct 24 2014
Around my neck, for years, I wore a gold heart-shaped locket. Instead of a traditional photograph of a cherished friend, boyfriend, or family member, when opened, the locket had two words scrawled in pen on each tiny side: “Reb Zusha” and “10 minutes.”
There’s a Hasidic story of the great Reb Zusha of Anipol who was found crying profusely on his deathbed. “Why are you crying?” asked his disciples.
“If God asks me why I wasn’t like Moses or Maimonides,” answered Reb Zusha, “I’ll say, I wasn’t blessed with that kind of leadership ability and wisdom. But I’m afraid of another question,” continued Reb Zusha. “What if God asks, Reb Zusha, why weren’t you like Reb Zusha? Why didn’t you find your inner being and realize your inner potential? Why didn’t you find yourself? That is why I am crying.”
Touched by this story, the scrawled letters inside the locket were a desperate attempt to remind myself that I needed to do art, at the very least, for 10 minutes a day. Somehow, all my time as a young single woman in her 20s was used up attempting to succeed in the workplace, leaving no time for artistic urges. My deep conviction that I had an artistic power began at the age of 16, when for the first time, an art teacher taught me that my messier, intense style and approach was indeed beautiful. He was the reason I continued on to pursue a painting degree. Read more →
Oct 24 2014
I walk a loop around a two-mile stretch of a neighborhood near mine in good weather. It’s uphill for the first half, downhill for the second. Sometimes a friend joins me. Sometimes my husband joins me. Sometimes my daughter joins me. Most times I go alone.
Until a few weeks ago, I always brought my phone with me.
Like most people these days, my phone goes with me everywhere, every time I leave the house, and wherever I am in the house. It feels like protection somehow, even if I just use it to check Facebook every five minutes (or fewer). I like knowing my kids can get to me anytime. I like knowing I can check emails right away, that I have access to, well, everything, at a moment’s notice. But I’ve always told myself I bring it on my walks in case of emergency. One time I wasn’t feeling well and, using the phone, my husband was able to come get me. Another time, it started to rain suddenly so I was able to call for a ride. See, I defended to myself, the phone is necessary. Read more →
Oct 23 2014
My family always asks me what Jews believe about the afterlife. My family is Mormon but my husband’s family is Jewish—they belong to a Reform synagogue—and my father-in-law is slowly dying. So whenever my family members ask me how my mother-in-law is doing and I give them the update—that she’s coping but still sad—they always shake their heads and say, “How does she do it without a belief in the afterlife?”
This is incredible to them. Mormons spend a lot of time thinking about the afterlife. For example, even though my uncle died tragically, before I was born, he was still very much a presence in my extended family. So much so, that when I was little and I would say my nightly prayer, sometimes I would ask God to put him on the line. Then I would say, “Hello, Uncle Rich. How are you?” and I would tell him things that I thought he might want to know about my grandma, my cousins, etc… (I kept it upbeat, so he wouldn’t feel bad about cutting out early). At my grandparents’ funerals we sang “God Be With You ‘Till We Meet Again,” and I meant it. To Mormons, the idea of an afterlife is the only antidote to the sting of death. Read more →
Oct 23 2014
As soon as the ultrasound revealed that my wife, Abi, was pregnant with a boy, I started worrying about the bris. Not worrying about who would perform it, or where we would order the cold cuts from, but about the conversation I would inevitably have to have with Abi about the fact that I didn’t want our son to have one.
Being an accomplished catastrophist, I have a knack (and a formalized strategy) for making things seem worse than they actually are, and when it finally came time to have the dreaded summit with Abi about the dissection of my future son’s penis, it didn’t go anything like I had anticipated. It wasn’t stilted or awkward or painful, it wasn’t violent or even dramatic. I said, “Look—I don’t want Elijah to have a bris. It’s a medical procedure and it should be done in a hospital by a physician.”
She patted me on the shoulder and replied, “Gabe, I know you hate being Jewish; it’s OK. We’re having a bris and that’s it.” Read more →
Oct 23 2014
Parenting a preschooler can sometimes feel immense and impossible. The sheer fact that my kid might have lifelong memories of something I did or said haunts me at night. I’ve already trudged through the muddy waters of newborn and toddler stuff and came out (barely) on the other side with some sense of confidence and strategy. But with my firstborn, I wake up each day to unknowns and I’m often up at night Googling how to best connect with him.
I have found that if I’ve talked with my son about something, it helps tremendously if the concept is reinforced by some sort of media. For example, we’ve been talking a lot about wasting water. Money and worth, in general, are very hard concepts for small children to wrap their brains around. I initially tried with “water costs money” and that approach was a giant intangible fail. So now, when the water is running while he is watching his tongue dance in the mirror, I tell him that we don’t want to waste water because it is a precious resource and it might go away someday. Just like the trees in “The Lorax.” He seemed to get that. Read more →
Oct 23 2014
A little over three months ago, my father died. It was sudden and devastating, but not totally unexpected. I held his hand, and with my mother, our rabbi, and sister on the phone, we said the shema and told him how much we loved him as he left us. We should all be so lucky.
My dad passed away just before Shabbat, which I think he did on purpose, to be sure that we’ll remember him at least every week. Not that he needed to worry about that, since I’ll miss him every day. He loved our Shabbat dinners around the table and singing a few zmirot before we lit candles. Shabbat became extra joyous after the first granddaughter—my gal Charlotte—was born. My dad added lyrics to one of his favorite Yiddish songs, “Shabbos, Shabbos, Shabbos, Shabbos, Shabbos, yidn zol zayn Shabbos,” to include “Charlotte, Charlotte, Charlotte, Charlotte, Charlotte, yidn zol zayn Charlotte.” Read more →
Oct 23 2014
There are some women who adore pregnancy and can’t seem do it enough, and then there are those who see it merely as a not-so-pleasant means to an end. I fall somewhere in between.
Both of my pregnancies have been relatively easy—not without little hiccups and anxieties, of course, but generally enjoyable.
Now that it’s been over a month since I’ve been pregnant with kid #2, I find myself truly missing some aspects of pregnancy—and really not missing others.
I do miss… Read more →
Oct 22 2014
I knew bat mitzvahs were a bad idea. I told my husband this in 2001, about 20 minutes after we returned from the hospital with our two new daughters and he said, “My parents want to know when the baby namings will be.”
I like to think of the baby naming as a “bris for girls,” a custom created by Reform Jews rather than God and therefore, in my mind, totally optional. So, over babies crying, I hollered as best I could—given the fresh incision across my abdomen—that there’d be no baby namings. Then, as I struggled to attach a newborn to each of my nipples, I added, “And there’ll be no bat mitzvahs either. So tell your parents not even to ask.”
But they did ask, and so did my husband, who typically asks for nothing. Read more →