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Nov 18 2014

Baby-Led Weaning is Pretty Much the Best Thing Ever

By at 2:20 pm


I love to cook and I love to feed people. At the theatre commune where I interned during college, I was the one who baked the vegan cookies for the Tuesday night “Shapenote Sings.” The happy stress of preparing the seder for 20 of my closest non-Jewish friends is the highlight of my spring. I love cooking so much that in the summer, when I could be relaxing and enjoying my time off, I run a small bakery and breakfast restaurant. I assume it comes with the territory of being Jewish, although my Italian grandmother-in-law stakes a big claim to the food-is-love territory, too.

My daughter Penrose is 6 months old, which means it’s time for her to start eating solids. I take all things cooking and eating seriously, and so after talking with friends and doing some reading, my husband and I decided to go with Baby-Led Weaning. And as disdainful as I can be of capital-letter parenting methods, this is one I’m on board with all the way. For the uninitiated, BLW entails giving appropriately sized and seasoned (with no or very low salt) pieces of food (no honey, egg whites or peanut products for now) to a baby for them to play with, drop, feed to the dog, or eat as they see fit. No spoon-feeding, no rice gruel. Lots of mess and actually, lots of fun. Read the rest of this entry →

What I Learned Chaperoning 45 6th Graders to the Holocaust Museum

By at 1:13 pm

What I Learned Chaperoning My Sons to the Holocaust Museum

The bumpy ride and cacophonous roar of the kids’ voices were giving me a headache. I was on a bus with 45 sixth graders, full of hormones and fart jokes, on our way to the Lower East Side in Manhattan. I’d volunteered as a chaperone for my twin sons’ class trip to visit New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage—A  Living Memorial to the Holocaust. I was interested in the exhibits but I also wanted to be close by as my boys witnessed a memorial to the darkest time in modern Jewish history. I wasn’t sure how they, or the other kids, would react upon seeing such vivid images, and if they had the requisite maturity to process what they’d be witnessing.

The kids had been studying World War II in their social studies classes, so there was certainly preparation by the teachers in an age-appropriate manner. However, I knew there was a difference between learning about the Holocaust in an academic setting, and actually seeing the depth of the destruction that took place from relics and vivid documentary testimonial.

As we made our way through the narrow streets of the Financial District, a kid shouted, “Look, there it is!” I was surprised at their enthusiasm about spotting the museum until I realized that the kids had spotted the gleaming Freedom Tower, the new building under construction in the former location of the World Trade Center. We all craned our necks and took pictures of the magnificent building and I realized that the kids had historical context from their own lifetime with which to understand the Holocaust. Read the rest of this entry →

How My Jewish Grandma Came to Embrace My Gay Marriage

By at 11:03 am

How My Jewish Grandma Came to Embrace Me, Wife and All

My Jewish grandmother is stereotypical—and proud of it. She’s short, round, warm. She loves to bake (or, as she puts it, “to potchke in the kitchen”) and to play bridge and Mah-Jongg with her friends. She finds nachas in her family. Perhaps above all else, she’s desperate for great-grandchildren.

So when she found out that I was gay, her first response to me was a despondent, “You’re not one of those, are you?” Then she sobbed. And for a while, she would only say, “We’ll see,” when invited to meet my partner.

My partner, now wife, wasn’t upset by any of this; her parents had her quite late, so her mother is of the same generation as my grandmother, and thus Fi is experienced with the quirks and prejudices some elderly people can have. She kept me calm by reminding me that it would take a while for my grandmother to absorb this news, and that we had to understand that it’s painful for people to give up on the dreams and expectations they have for their relatives. And, if the worst happened and Grandma never came around, well, that would be dreadfully sad, but we reside in another country and could just go on with our lives as we liked. She felt sure we’d get through this together, as we had gotten through many other things. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 17 2014

My Husband and I Forgot to Date

By at 3:52 pm

My Husband and I Forgot to Date

With our 8-year wedding anniversary coming up (whoa!), my husband and I were talking the other day about going out to celebrate. We were trying to decide on a dinner spot when suddenly he asked, “Actually, when’s the last time we went out by ourselves, period?”

I thought about it and realized: The last time we’d gone out on a real date was… our 7-year anniversary. Almost an entire year ago.

Now I know we’re not the only couple whose dating habits have changed drastically since having a child. We have plenty of friends who are happy when they get to go out once a month, or once every other month, or even 3-4 times a year. But what got me was the fact that not only had my husband and I not been out on a date in almost a year, but that we—or at least I—hadn’t even realized it. Read the rest of this entry →

Chatting With Adam Mansbach, Author of Those F**king Parenting Books You Love

By at 11:31 am

Adam Mansbach, author of "You Have to F--king Eat"

Adam Mansbach is an author of contemporary literary fiction, including the books “Rage is Back” and “The End of the Jews.” However, he’s undoubtedly best known as the author of the New York Times best-selling classic of subversive parenting, “Go the F**k to Sleep.” In that book, Mansbach articulated the deep, almost primal frustration of a parent whose kid just won’t go the…well, you get it. The book was an immediate sensation. His new book, “You Have to F*cking Eat,” taps into that same seemingly bottomless reservoir of parental annoyance, also to humorous effect.

Mansbach took time last week to chat with Kveller contributing editor Jordana Horn about Lenny Bruce, radical honesty and when it’s OK to unleash parental F-bombs.

When you’re not writing these books, would you call yourself a “potty mouth” in real life? Is your internal narrator a Lenny Bruce-esque salty sailor?

Internally, I’m very much a Lenny Bruce/Richard Pryor mash-up. I come from the school of thought that, when properly deployed, profanity can be the most eloquent form of language we have. I grew up around people who cursed with skill and took pleasure in it. When I’m talking to myself, I sound like this in my head all the time. Read the rest of this entry →

Can We Even Afford a Second Child?

By at 10:02 am

Can We Afford a Second Child?

I should expect to spend $2,500 out-of-pocket for a standard labor and delivery, according to my health insurance plan. Full-time childcare runs us around $18,000 a year in Seattle. Add the cost of diapers, wipes, goldfish crackers, and an occasional trip to the zoo—there’s another thousand at least, per year.

When we decided to have our first baby, we definitely didn’t factor in the cost or really grasp the financial consequences of having a child. I remember the first week of paying our nanny in Brooklyn and heading to the ATM to withdraw $400 in cash. I thought back to the last time I handed someone that much money in actual bills—it was when I paid my rent in shekalim to a man named Shimon, in Jerusalem, during my junior year abroad. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 14 2014

In Defense of Kim Kardashian

By at 11:47 am

in defense of kim kardashian

Kim Kardashian broke the internet this week, and all of cyberspace seems to be pretty disgusted. Everyone but me.

Yes, she’s the poster child for what-exactly-is-your-claim-to-fame pseudo-celebrities. Yes, she sets an appallingly bad example for young girls who are being taught that sex sells. And yes, she’s become the symbol for all that’s wrong with modern culture. But I give her a pass.

Why am I willing to put my beliefs that a woman’s worth should be determined by what’s on the inside and not on the outside temporarily aside? Because Kim looks just like me. Don’t get me wrong–we really look nothing alike. I’m not nearly as beautiful, glamorous, or, well, bootified. But I have dark hair. I have brown eyes. I have olive skin. I have a hard-to-peg ethnic look. I’m curvy. Hell, I’m even 5’2–the same height as Kim. Read the rest of this entry →

My Daughter Wants to Be a Baby Again

By at 9:55 am

little girl with cotton candy

My 5-year-old daughter was supposed to earn her yellow belt in karate last month. She’d prepared for months for this moment. When it was time to be tested, she stood proudly before her instructor. She kicked and punched and upper-cut like a pro. There was no doubt that she was ready to move forward.

But, when it was time to receive her new belt, she froze.

“I don’t want to give up my old belt. I’ll miss it too much.” Her lower lip quivered as she spoke. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 13 2014

No Tooth Fairy in This House–But That Doesn’t Stop People From Asking

By at 3:35 pm

After many weeks of diligent wiggling, my daughter has finally lost her top, front tooth. It happened at school, during lunch, which meant that not only did she get to be the center of attention as blood gushed out of her mouth, necessitating a trip to the nurse—stat!—but she also got a cool necklace box to put her tooth in. It’s every 7-year-old’s dream!  But here is what else happened because she lost her tooth at school: A whole host of people, from kids to parents to teachers to even the security guard, made her promise that she’d tell them the next day what the tooth fairy brought her.  Except…the tooth fairy doesn’t stop at our house.  She never has.  I think it’s because the tooth fairy is a quintessentially American tradition, one that I didn’t grow up with in Soviet Russia. In fact, when I immigrated to the United States at the same age that my daughter is now and first found out about this fantastic creature, I was skeptical.  I expressed my skepticism to my classmates. (I was a very, very unpleasant child; I’ve already apologized to my mother for it publicly). They insisted it was true. So I ran a scientific experiment. The next time I lost a tooth (to little fanfare beyond my father yanking it out and then giving me a handkerchief to mop up the blood), I went ahead and put it under my pillow without telling anyone. And guess what happened? Nothing! Not. A. Thing! I returned triumphant to school the next morning to share my systematic findings, unaware my classmates weren’t too keen on the scientific method.  All of which is a rather long-winded way of explaining that the tooth fairy wasn’t a part of my growing up, so it never became a part of my kids’.  And they’re fine with it. They don’t expect anything. They actually like hoarding their baby teeth in specially designated containers and periodically taking them out for a look.  My fellow parents, however, are horrified. Back in preschool, another mom asked me if I knew what the going rate was for a tooth these days. She’d heard $20, but didn’t want to lowball and embarrass her son.  $20?  $20?!  I make less than that an hour! No one at my house is earning more per hour than I do for a basic biological function! What next, spare change for blowing your nose?  It’s not just the tooth fairy, though. It’s all sorts of other things. Like allowance. My kids don’t get one. And no presents on Hanukkah. As I explained two years ago, fed up with the sheer amount of crap my kids already have, I put my foot down: Instead of gift giving (and/or receiving), we would be spending our festive eight days doing good deeds.  My kids grumbled a little, then got with the program. Other parents, however, looked at me like I’d lost my mind. Not because they disagreed with the concept. In fact, everyone I mentioned it to said they thought it was a great idea. They said they wished they had the guts to try it. But, “There’s so much pressure on the kids.”  Pressure on the kids?  The kids?  (Do you notice the overabundance of question marks in this post?)  These parents were worried about how bad their kids would feel when everyone around them was showered with gifts, and they got nothing. They were worried they’d have nothing to boast about. It was keeping up with the Joneses (Jonesteins?). Won’t someone think of the children?  I am not about to parse these parents’ true motivations when it comes to Hanukkah gifts, allowances, or tooth fairy leavings. For one thing, it’s none of my business. For another, I have a hard enough time figuring out why I do the things I do; how presumptuous would it be of me to pass judgment on others?  All I can offer is reassurance based on experience: No one ever died from not wearing the hottest fashions, owning the latest iPhone, or vacationing at the same resort “everyone else goes to.” This, like my unfavorably peer-reviewed 2nd grade tooth fairy experiment, is scientific fact.  As for their potential embarrassment, social shunning, and inevitable descent into the dreaded low self-esteem…I suspect that trickles down from above. I’ve taught my kids to take pride in my cheapness and in their subsequent independence, not just when it comes to things like walking home from school alone in a blizzard but in their lack of attachment to material things. (We are all ready to flee at a moment’s notice should the Cossacks come. Again.)  At our house, because I’m not embarrassed to say I see no reason to distribute cash willy-nilly, my kids don’t seem to be, either. In fact, they take a sort of twisted pride in their suffering. I wouldn’t be surprised if, on the playground, I’m known as the mom who feeds them gruel in between stints at the sweatshop.  I have to confess, I did hold my breath to see what would happen when a friendly neighbor in the elevator asked my daughter how much the tooth fairy had brought her.  And I smiled in relief when she cheerily replied, “Nothing. That means I get to keep my tooth. It’s all bloody.” She held up her cherished necklace. “Want to see it?”

After many weeks of diligent wiggling, my daughter has finally lost her top, front tooth. It happened at school, during lunch, which meant that not only did she get to be the center of attention as blood gushed out of her mouth, necessitating a trip to the nurse—stat!—but she also got a cool necklace box to put her tooth in. It’s every 7-year-old’s dream!

But here is what else happened because she lost her tooth at school: A whole host of people, from kids to parents to teachers to even the security guard, made her promise that she’d tell them the next day what the tooth fairy brought her.

Except…the tooth fairy doesn’t stop at our house. Read the rest of this entry →

The Night We Became a Foster Family

By at 1:55 pm

The Night We Became A Foster Family

One Friday night in early August two strangers showed up at my door and dropped off a baby. It was almost anticlimactic.

My partner and I had gone through the foster care certification process months before, and had been patiently waiting for a call, but there was no morning sickness, no bloating, no endless doctors’ appointments, and no labor. There was just me, getting a call on my cell phone while I cooked Shabbat dinner. Would I like a 1-month-old baby girl? Yes? See you in a few hours.

Those few hours were a blur. I called my partner and told him we were having a baby, and could he stop on his way home and get diapers and wipes? (God bless Jesse Bacon for being the kind of person who was not only not horrified by this turn of events, but was in fact incredibly enthusiastic and happy.) Read the rest of this entry →


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