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Nov 7 2014

That Time I Picked Up a Hitchhiking Bubbe

By at 9:37 am

hitchhiking thumb

We know the rule: picking up hitchhikers is bad. It’s been drilled into our heads from a young age, along with other stranger-danger situations and how to avoid them. Parents and educators teach children to be wary of strangers, and try to impart a survival savvy that they hope will never be needed. And in addition to the parental and school warnings are the many movies and TV shows that reinforce these concepts. We know that when a scene features a naïve driver picking up a hitchhiker, it will not end well for someone. Needless to say, we’ve been warned.

So then, what possessed me to pull over for a hitchhiker on my way to work?

I rolled my window down, and there she was: a woman with salt and pepper colored hair, a brown cardigan, and orthopedic shoes. She was at least 75 years old, and seemed to be in distress. She explained that she’d missed her bus, and was going to be late for an important doctor’s appointment. She told me the address of her doctor, which was coincidentally near my office, and she asked for a ride. What else could I do? I told her to get in.  Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 18 2014

Sh*tty Mom, Rebranded

By at 2:51 pm

Mojito

I call myself a “shitty mom” at least once a day. OK, more than that. A few times a day, minimum. That’s vague enough. Definitely every day those nine letters float across my busy brain.

I feel like a shitty mom when I don’t walk my kindergartner to his classroom because I need to make my 8:30 a.m. exercise class and he knows the way on his own. When I don’t buy my 8th grader the protractor he needs for tomorrow because I can’t face dealing with the Walgreens parking lot at rush hour for one protractor, and I thought I’d go later but one thing became 10 and I didn’t. When I don’t make dinner every night, or even ensure there is something, anything, to eat some time between 6-8 p.m. When my kids hear me curse, when I yell at them again, when I don’t volunteer for the class party. When I forget to remind my son to wash his face and put on deodorant (seriously?!), or when I tell my daughter her hair looks terrible. (I’m like Karen from “Will & Grace”: “Honey, what’s up with that hair?”)

Shitty mom, shitty mom, shitty mom. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 12 2014

The Risks of Being an Interracial Family

By at 11:20 am

ShadesofBrown

Less than a year ago, two blond children in Ireland were taken from their Roma parents because the police decided they didn’t look related, even though legal documents, including passports, were produced. Meanwhile, the same thing happened to a blond girl in Greece. Even though her DNA didn’t match anything on record in the Missing Child database, and even though her biological mother was found and insisted she had voluntarily left her daughter with a Roma couple, the State decided that little Maria should not be returned to her foster parents, but placed in an orphanage, instead.

I followed both cases closely because, in our house, my three kids are darker than I am, but lighter than my African-American husband. I’ve been asked in the past if I were their babysitter. And so has he. Even when I’m with them. The idea that the police or other authorities could just swoop in and take them away because, for instance, my oldest son has blue eyes and his father doesn’t, or my middle child is coffee-colored and I, according to my aforementioned blue-eyed son, am the color of chalk, was not a comfortable one.

I comforted myself with the thought that this was a European problem. Prejudice against the Roma and their lifestyle runs deep there, to the point where official country websites urge tourists to stay away, and local children are told to behave, lest they be kidnapped by Gypsies. (Because, you know, people living in poverty just love stealing other mouths to feed.) Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 30 2014

A Woman Threatened to Hit Me on the Subway In Front of My Son

By at 11:01 am

Subway

My husband asserts that one (among many) of the reasons why he married me is because I am not the sort of woman who picks fights in clubs and then runs to him to “take care of it.”

He’s right. I’m not one for public scenes. Raised by Soviet immigrants, I was taught to keep my head down and to avoid trouble, not court it.

Last week, while riding the NYC subway, I was reading a book when the sound of a child shrieking prompted me to look up. The source of the shriek wasn’t hard to locate. Two seats over and across from me sat a little girl, surrounded by four young women, one of whom, presumably her mother, was repeatedly smacking her along the head, while looking defiantly up and down the subway car and demanding, “What are you all looking at?” Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 21 2014

When Your Worst Parenting Fear Comes True

By at 2:31 pm

Worst-parenting-fear

Since the moment I found out I was pregnant for the first time, I have been terrified of stairs. My anxiety about falling down a flight of stairs peaked after my first daughter was born, and looking back, I see now that it was just one symptom of the post-partum anxiety I didn’t realize I was suffering at the time.

In the mental health world we refer to them as “intrusive thoughts”–those upsetting or disturbing images that seem to come out of nowhere. They’re a hallmark of depression and anxiety, and in the weeks and months after each of my daughters were born, they came on fast and furious. Most of the intrusive images involved one of my girls dying; I wrote them off as yet another symptom of becoming a neurotic Jewish mother. But I just couldn’t escape my fear of the wooden staircase inside our house. I was terrified of falling down it while holding one of the girls; I obsessively donned a pair of thick cotton socks with rubber grips on the soles each time I had to walk downstairs, even in the heat of summer in a house without air-conditioning. I would walk slowly and carefully, taking each stair as if it was covered in ice.

It’s been four years since my second daughter was born, and the anxiety has dwindled down to average Jewish mother levels, on the high end of neurotic. But I’m still scared of the stairs. I still walk slowly down them, and I can’t stop myself from reminding the girls to slow down, look ahead, and pay attention each time they step off the top step. I always feel ridiculous for doing it, of course, and I try to tell myself to calm down and stop nagging, but I just can’t seem to keep my mouth shut. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 2 2014

How Do I Tell My Daughter That The Missing Israeli Teens Were Killed?

By at 1:17 pm

Israeli-desert

It’s been two whole days. Two days and I still haven’t told my daughter.

When my daughter was little, I used to worry that she didn’t have an appropriate sense of life and death–that she might do something stupid, even if I told her it was dangerous, because she didn’t realize what “dangerous” could mean. The first time she asked me about death, I grabbed the opportunity to try to reinforce the idea that death is serious and final–only realizing later that I had neglected any mention of a soul that lives on after the body, or any religious perspectives one might think a believing Jew should be teaching her child. It was so important to me that she grasp the great divide between life and death, I forgot that I believe in a continuum.

I say “when my daughter was little,” but she’s 8 now–is that still little? I don’t know. I still don’t think she grasps the possible consequences of “danger” as fully as I’d like her to. The other day I mentioned that some friends of ours are finally on the verge of aliyah, after putting their plans on hold years ago, because the father was hit by a bus. (I couldn’t bring myself to say “bus”; I told her he was hit by a car. I think that’s the biggest–maybe only–lie I’ve ever told any of my children.) Her big question? “Did he have to go to the emergency room?” Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 30 2014

Is The World More Dangerous Now Than When We Were Kids?

By at 9:51 am

dangerous

I was talking with a friend today about how parenting has become so hard. Everyday we see blog posts, new statistics, and another article on Facebook about how parents don’t like parenting. I admit to being guilty of these sentiments myself.

I readily admit that I used to love parenting until, six years later, I realize I am still doing the same things I have been doing all along: parks, playgrounds, constant vigilance, etc. Honestly, I thought it would have gotten easier by now.

Don’t jump to conclusions; I am familiar with the Yiddish expression, “Little children, little problems; big children, big problems.” I didn’t think it would be easier per se, just easier in a not-so-physically-demanding-every-minute-of-the-day kind of way.  Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 8 2014

After Emergency Rescue, Is it Fair to Judge the Couple Who Brought Young Daughters on Sailing Journey?

By at 12:10 pm
kaufman family sailboat rescue

via Eric Kaufman/YouTube

 

A story on the cover of the New York Times this morning has stirred quite the parenting storm–pun completely intended.

2 Tots, a Sailboat and a Storm Over Parenting” is about the Kaufman family, who decided to go on a months-long journey in a 36-foot sailboat from Mexico to New Zealand with their 1- and 3-year-old daughters in tow. Less than two weeks later, 900 miles off the coast of Mexico, the adventuresome family had to call for emergency help when they could no longer steer the ship. Their younger daughter, Lyra, was covered in a rash and had a fever, but everyone is safe and stable now.

Cue the opinions. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 21 2013

How Do You Explain the Violence in Israel to Young Kids?

By at 4:02 pm

israeli idf soldiers jewish quarter“Abba, what are those doors up there?”

“I’m not sure, I think it is some kind of a fence.”

“Can we go visit them?”

“No not tonight, sweetie, we are going home now.”

We are driving back from Tzur Hadassah, a suburb of Jerusalem within the Green Line (which separates Israel and the Palestinian territories). The quickest route back into Jerusalem (and into the beds of our two sleepy children) is past Betar Illit and kvish haminharot, the “tunnel road” which connects Jerusalem to the Gush Etzion bloc in the West Bank.  Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 24 2012

Guns Have No Place in My School

By at 11:50 am

security guard badgeLast week, the NRA responded to the unspeakable, horrific tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut with the proposal to have an armed guard in every school in America. Several NRA supporters went further: the phrase “arm the teachers!” frequented Facebook and my Twitter feed for days.

I fumed.

Guns have no place in schools. They have no place around children. They have no place in a learning environment wherein the most fundamental tenets are tolerance, respect, community, and peaceful conflict resolution.  Read the rest of this entry →

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