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Dec 13 2013

A Father’s Letter to His Unborn Son

By at 12:17 pm

father holding newborn son in arms

You are coming soon. And when you arrive, we will bless you. But for whom is this blessing? Is it for you? Or is it for us?

I can already feel the moment. It’s January, and the wind is leaking through the window. Your mother will be spent, and in the drafty night, crankily demand that I try to soothe you.

You will be at my shoulder, both of us stuck between sleep and alertness, barely able to see.

And then will come my blessing for you, remembering how my father and I recited the Shema together before bed. We would name each aunt, each uncle, each cousin, and then finish with a patriotic flourish that invited God to look after “all the Jewish people, the United States, and all Earth.”

Jacob to Manasseh and Ephraim. All the way down, from me to you. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 4 2011

The Kind of Mom I Want to Be

By at 1:57 pm

"Little did he know that when he pulled out his plastic doctor’s case and gave me a few firm pats on the back declaring, 'there, I fixed your back' how right he was."

I never thought my kids would motivate me to take care of myself.  Over the past three years, when it came time for self-care, they didn’t exactly turn into my personal coach.  Instead, in all of their cuteness, they would distract me (on a good day) and sap the living daylights out of me (on a not so good day.)

But over the weekend, after wrestling my almost three-year-old into his Shabbat clothes (who wants to wear a button down dress shirt when its 80 degrees out?) and pulling a muscle that rendered my lower back non-functioning, I had never been so motivated to heal, both physically and spiritually.

When it first happened, the biblical story of Jacob wrestling with the Angel came racing into my mind (I was on the way to synagogue, so a biblical story would be appropriate.)  Jacob wrestled with an Angel (aka God) and his hip was dislocated as a result.  Wrestling with kids is nothing new for a mom.  Many a bedtime has ended in tears wrestling the little guy into his pjs.  But wrestling to the point of personal injury?  Really?

This game of nerves (who can yell the loudest, Tamir? I don’t want to get dressed, or Imma? We are getting dressed now!) came on the heels of a little vacation that he had with his dad down in Florida to visit grandma.  While he was away (and I only had my infant daughter in my charge) I reveled at how much free time I had and how much less work I had on my plate.  When they returned, while I was glad to see them, I was a bit resentful that all the work returned too.

But last week, when I was injured and my mobility severely curtailed (think healthy woman in her late 30s turned centenarian), I was crushed when I was incapable of doing even the slightest bit of caretaking.  While I wasn’t exactly able to reframe all of the physical pain as a blessing there were some things that reminded me of the kind of person and mom I want to be.

Slow down – I am always doing 10 things at once (sound familiar?)  Because that simply was not an option, it was a thrill to realize that if the dishes didn’t get done, that e-mail didn’t get answered, or the laundry didn’t get folded, the world would not collapse.  Once I was situated on the floor to play with them, I stayed there and delighted in whatever game was on hand.

Have compassion – Whenever I encountered someone in emotional or physical pain (pre-injury) I listened to them and offered help when I could.  But the long list of other things I needed to do would sometimes distract me from giving them my full attention.  While my day would continue, pain-free, theirs wouldn’t.  I am developing more patience and capacity to be fully present for those who need me.

Have Courage – While I try to cultivate this quality in my children, it’s certainly easier said than done.  When my chiropracter told me that the only way to heal was to “keep moving” (the most counter-intuitive thing when each step hurts!) I did.  After being my own little cheering team (“you can do it” muttered with each step.)  I found that my 3 year old was happily joining in “you can do it imma!”).

Being temporarily incapacitated did not only have an impact on me, but effected them too.  My son, with his own hands clutched on his back, identified with me, “my back hurts too”, and gave me a lot more hugs.  Little did he know that when he pulled out his plastic doctor’s case and gave me a few firm pats on the back declaring, “there, I fixed your back” how right he was.

Feb 4 2011

Friday Night: Helping Your Kids Be Themselves

By at 12:15 pm

Before I had my daughter, I worked at a synagogue. I was a full-time religious school teacher and immersed myself in the life of the community. A few times a year, we would have a communal Shabbat dinner for all of the families. After the kiddush and before we ate challah, I would lead the families in the traditional blessing over their children. I liked to share a little parable with them. I wanted to share that same story with you.

Rabbi Zusya, a great Hasidic master of the late 18th century, used to say, “When I die and meet God, God will not fault me for not being Moses. God will not ask me: ‘Why weren’t you Moses?’ but God will ask me, ‘Why weren’t you Zusya?'”

In parenting, our goal is not to turn our child into Moses. We don’t want to force our children to become the best readers, the fastest runners, the smartest scientists, the strongest pianists–or our vision of who our kids ought to be (though the Tiger Mom wouldn’t agree). But rather, our goal is to help our children live up to their individual potentials as human beings. It is our task to listen to their needs, help them develop their interests, and do what we can so that when they are asked, they can state with certainty: “I was me.”

So when a friend shared with me these words for blessing my daughter, I adopted them as my own. They’re written by  Marcia Falk, a modern-day liturgist (prayer-writer):  Heyeyh asher tihyeh. Veheyeh baruch ba’asher tihyeh. Now I wish for each of you this same blessing:  Be who you are, and may you be blessed in all that you are.

(And click here for the traditional blessings for your child on Shabbat).

Shabbat Shalom!


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