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Oct 11 2013

Torah MOMentary: How Do I Tell My Kids to Go Forth When I’m Not Ready?

By at 11:35 am

little girl running away

This post is part of our new Torah commentary series. This week we read Parashat Lekh L’kha. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.

There is little that breaks the heart of a parent more than leaving their child in the care of a stranger for the first time. Daycare drop off, new babysitter, even the first day of kindergarten–these necessary experiences all yield that same gut punch: letting go of a sweaty hand, watching your tiny child–did they ever seem so small?–walk forward into the unknown. Your stomach drops. You inhale sharply. Did I just do that? Did I just send my baby off, alone?

Maybe she’s looking back at you, eyes enormous, and crying. Arms outstretched, in that moment, she doesn’t think she’ll survive without you near, and you don’t think you will either. Or, maybe he’s bolted forward and found a friend, a toy, or a teacher he takes to quickly. Maybe it’s a matter of hours before your child has adjusted; maybe it takes your kid weeks or months. Maybe your baby doesn’t ever adjust but you keep trying, you keep dragging her to the edge of the pool and throwing her in. “Go!” you say, “Swim!”

In this week’s Torah portion Lekh L’kha, we watch as God throws Abraham into the water. “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you,” God commands. Leave your home behind. Step into the unknown. Trust me.  Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 23 2013

On Losing My Mother & The Lesson of “And”

By at 10:19 am
rachel hochheiser schwartz and mom

My mom and I, pregnant with my firstborn.

It all started with a Groupon. I had bought it months earlier for a mani/pedi and massage at a favorite salon. As I do with every Groupon, I didn’t use it until I realized it was about to expire and then I made an appointment for the expiration date, May 15, 2012. It was a Tuesday, but I didn’t want to miss out on using it and with my daughter’s 2nd birthday two days later and me being 33 weeks pregnant, I decided to take the entire day off to get pampered, treat myself to a nice lunch, and take care of the party preparation.

That day, the one scheduled based on an expiring Groupon, was what I came to think of as my last happy day.

On May 16, 2012, as I was driving home from a play date that had followed a swim lesson for my daughter and her friend, I received a call. The caller ID read Mom, but it wasn’t her. It was her colleague calling from her office. My mom, a psychologist, hadn’t shown up for work and her colleague couldn’t reach her since she had been on the phone with her three hours earlier and the call had suddenly dropped. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 29 2013

How to Help a Recently-Widowed Parent

By at 12:32 pm

how to help recently widowed parentAbout a month ago, one of my husband’s closest friends lost his father. As so many deaths go, this one was one of those that happened too soon and left little time for his family to contemplate and digest what was about to happen to their family and to say goodbye. A gorgeous, sentimental obit appeared on Facebook thereafter, and my husband, Heath, quickly hopped a flight to support his friend through the trauma, albeit necessary and cathartic, of burying a parent.

Naturally, Heath remained in touch with his friend over the next weeks to see how he was doing. After one late-night conversation, Heath asked me if I wouldn’t mind calling his friend to suggest “what to do with his mother.” As if I were some expert on how to handle the parent who survives? I immediately bristled and went to bed before I could compose a single thought about “what to do” with the parent who just lost the love of her life, and who, it seems in the moment, won’t be able to survive the death of her soulmate.

I still haven’t called our friend. But I’ve been thinking about him, and his mother, for weeks. In these weeks, I’ve also been thinking about whether I’ve done my part in helping my own mother survive my beloved dad’s passing (it was six years ago this past June). I can’t say I’ve been as dutiful as maybe I should have been. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 7 2013

The Stranger Who Spoke at My Father’s Unveiling

By at 12:39 pm

stone on jewish gravestoneI don’t believe in God.

I am uncomfortable admitting this here and I mean no disrespect to those who do believe. If anything, I’m envious. I have books on meditation stacked by my bed. I have a gift certificate for yoga classes burning a hole in my wallet. I’ve read studies and I’ve witnessed the effects of a strong spiritual center. There’s security, sometimes there’s even peace. I wouldn’t mind some of that.

And yet, I don’t believe in a higher power that calls the shots. I don’t believe that things happen for a reason (though I’ve repeated this cliché in an attempt to comfort friends). I believe that when bad things happen to good people, it breaks your heart and all you can do is get up each morning and try to be good to the people you love who are still here. I often fail at even this. It would be helpful to have a little faith. And yet. Read the rest of this entry →

May 13 2013

I Never Talked to My Kids About God Because I Wouldn’t Know What to Say

By at 9:44 am

graveyardThis post is part of our month-long series featuring different ways that parents of various religions have talked to their kids about God.

It wasn’t until I was asked to contribute to this series that I realized I had never spoken with my children about God. Or so I thought. Sex, yes, doubtless too soon and too often. Death, yes, memorably. But God? I couldn’t remember. So I asked my kids.

Miriam, our 13-going-on-28-year old, simply said, “Probably not,” then returned to reading her book (David Copperfield? The latest installment in The Clique series? You can never tell.) Ben, our 16-year-old guy’s-guy-and-proud-of it, had a vague recollection that some conversation had taken place, somewhere, some time. Maybe. “I think you told us we could believe whatever we wanted about God, and you would support us,” he said. “But then again, that’s the kind of thing you would say,” he added. I was still patting myself on the back for my parenting skills when he asked me for a ride to the mall, and it wasn’t till I got there that I paused to admire his highly effective flattery. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 11 2013

On Days Like These, I Miss My Mom

By at 12:45 pm

sarah tuttle-singer with daughterI let my children see me cry this morning. It was one of those drawn out dawns when everyone wakes up waaaaay too early, and the countdown til preschool drop-off stretches into forever until the last second before we need to leave RIGHT. THIS. MINUTE. DAMMIT.

And in that frenzy, my daughter flops on the floor like a 30 pound pile of jelly, and she shall not be moved. (People, it’s like she studied Nonviolent Resistance with Gandhi, and while that’ll be super awesome when she’s out there changing the world, it sure don’t fly at 6:55 a.m. when the carpool driver is waiting waiting waiting to take us to school.)

And when it’s time to go, and my daughter won’t get up off the damn floor and put her shoes on, and the phone is squawking and I know unless we get our asses outside RIGHT NOW that the person driving us who has her OWN commitments will be late and may say “no” next time we ask her to drive us, I want to scream.

And so I do. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 7 2013

Confronting Mortality… and Savoring Life

By at 2:51 pm

surgery operating roomLast week, my mother had hip replacement surgery. I don’t come from a family of medical professionals–I come from a family of active imaginations. We quickly imagine the worst.

I cried in bed every night last week leading up to the surgery. My husband was unable to console me about something that hadn’t happened and would probably not happen. I was shaken to my bones with the idea that I might lose my mother: my mother, my nucleus, my magnetic north, my everything. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 23 2013

On Tu Bishvat & Grieving for My Dad

By at 9:36 am

Tu Bishvat begins this Friday. For some, this holiday will only register because a child enrolled in Hebrew school (or Jewish Day School) will come home with a sandwich bag full of dried fruits and nuts or with a story about the Tu Bishvat Seder she participated in at school.

But for most of us, this admittedly minor Jewish holiday will pass without much (any?) fanfare. The concept is great: a New Year for the trees. The winter rains in Israel are on their way out; its time to welcome spring, to honor the earth in all of its life-sustaining glory, to get our fingernails dirty and plant something. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 5 2012

The Killing at the Pittsburgh Zoo

By at 11:00 am

Sunday afternoon a 2-year-old was killed at our zoo in Pittsburgh after falling into the Painted Dog exhibit.

The words “mauled to death” almost made me sick as tears welled up in my eyes. I take my kids to that zoo almost weekly. My 2-year-old just started walking on his own instead of seeing the animals from the safety of his stroller. I wear my infant and push the empty stroller, just in case he gets tired and wants to climb in for a ride. I am often preoccupied with the bulky stroller or fussy baby and he runs ahead a little. The other day I turned my head for a moment and lost him over near the Komodo dragon exhibit. A moment.

Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 1 2012

How to Talk About the Birds, the Bees & the Holocaust with Your Kids

By at 5:08 pm

As a parent, I’m fully aware that I have a slew of difficult, but necessary, conversations with my son ahead of me. We’ve already tackled one of the toughest: Where do babies come from? Despite reading a variety of parenting books and blogs, I still wasn’t sure how I would handle it when the time came, but at 3.5, when my son started asking questions, I found it was actually pretty easy. Read the rest of this entry →


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