Aug 4 2014
The most poignant lesson I learned about parenting happened seven years before I became a parent.
Unlike many friends of mine who married in their 20s, adulthood was not “delivered” to me in a pink or blue receiving blanket, cooing and drooling. Instead, I became entrenched in the world of directing summer “teen tours,” which involved supervising a bus full of about 50 teenagers, as well as a group of recent college-grad counselors.
In preparation for running this “camp on a bus,” counselors and directors participated in an intensive weekend of First Aid and CPR training, exercises in group dynamics, and instruction on how to light a lantern without setting fire to the campground. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 29 2014
Like a lot of primates, I really don’t like snakes. In Maine, we only have non-venomous, ecologically beneficial, pest-eating garter snakes and rat snakes, but the unexpected sight of one gliding eerily past my feet in the garden gives me major willies.
This wasn’t always true. I remember happily holding a little red-bellied snake that a preschool classmate brought in for show and tell. I was 3 or 4 years old. Shortly thereafter, I was playing outside when my Birkenstock-clad mother nearly stepped on a snake on the way to the mailbox. She reacted like many people would–an operatic shriek and a leap backwards. And from that moment on, I reacted the same way.
As outlined in this article from Parenting Science, some fears have to be taught. And some are learned very quickly, whether by baby humans or baby monkeys. Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 13 2014
This post is part of our Torah commentary series. This Shabbat we read Parashat Shlah. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.
As a kid, my parents affectionately referred to me as the “Queen of the What-Ifs.” I could what-if with the best of them. New experience? Bring on the what-ifs. What if I don’t make friends? What if I don’t like it there? What if I don’t pass that test, get accepted into that school, find my way?
My folks would jockey with me as much as possible, and often, they’d try and help me live with the uncertainty. Not an easy feat. Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 25 2014
Growing up, my parents liked to take Sunday drives around the scenic parts of Connecticut: to watch changing leaves, visit aging relatives, drive over covered bridges. During one of these outings, I fell asleep in the car and when I woke up, I asked my parents if we were in Texas.
Their shock and horror likely prompted them to make the generous offer, some years later, to send me abroad my junior year of college: a last-ditch effort to provide me with some geographical context. I declined, citing a commitment to my position in student government. Obviously the Brandeis Student Senate would suffer mightily in my absence. I stuck with that story, even in my own mind, for a long time.
All that year, I received postcards from friends in Israel, London, Spain, Australia. They told tales of impromptu weekend trips to Florence, milking cows on a kibbutz in southern Israel, and late-night rendezvouses with strangers encountered in youth hostels. What could possibly make me choose “Robert’s Rules of Order” over these exotic adventures? Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 20 2013
I walk up and down the aisles of a local discount store, filling my cart to the brim. My kids are chattering happily about swimming suits, beach towels, matching flip-flops, and sand pails. I have an unsettling feeling in the pit of my stomach.
“Mommy, what does the beach look like?” my 4-year-old son asks. We live less than a three hour drive away from the ocean, and even closer still is the bay, and yet he’s never been to either. “I know how to swim,” exclaims my daughter excitedly. “I’ve been practicing in the bath!” I smile uneasily. I know it’s time I really teach them to swim, to teach them all about water safety. I can’t keep avoiding it. Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 15 2013
It’s a bit embarrassing. I didn’t even tell my friends. But now that it’s over, I confess: my new year’s resolution for 2013 was to take driving lessons.
Yes, I already had a driver’s license. I’ve had a license since I was 17 and living in the New York suburbs. But I left for college in Boston shortly before my 18th birthday, and ever since, I’ve lived within walking distance of Boston’s T or Washington’s Metro system. I never owned a car and never really needed one. I took the train or a bus nearly everywhere. Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 19 2012
The fear can sometimes be so intense that it feels nearly unbearable.
True, being a parent brings with it unparalleled joy, fulfillment and, of course, exhaustion, but the knowledge that our primary responsibility in this world is to keep our children safe is almost too much to handle; it is both an incomparable responsibility and incomparably fear-inducing.
We need to keep our kids safe from choking while nibbling their first soggy Cheerio. We need to keep them safe in the bath, even when the water is no higher than their chubby thighs. In the car we strap them in. On the playground we call out “slow down!” We try to protect them from the wind on their chapped cheeks, from the rash on their tush, from the concrete as they learn to walk, and run, and bike. Read the rest of this entry →
Nov 20 2012
I remember a conversation I had with my grandmother not long before she died. She was in a hospital bed that had been set up in the dining room; she hadn’t been able to climb the stairs to the second floor of her house for years. I pulled a chair close, and asked her if she used to light candles on Friday night back when she was a little girl in Northern Italy.
The question had been chosen carefully, and with great intention. I knew that if I asked her if she was Jewish, if we were Jewish, she would vehemently deny it. But when I asked her about the candles, my grandmother smiled and told me about cleaning the house every Friday, about cooking all afternoon, and yes, she told me, of course they lit candles. Read the rest of this entry →
Nov 12 2012
Three weeks after Jared was born, he started spitting up. At first it was normal baby barf, but it became heavier and more frequent.
By his 4-week birthday, Scott and I were living out of the washing machine. We left it full of soap and water, dumping soiled onesies, footies, burp cloths, bibs, and our own vomit-soaked clothes into it throughout the day. We ran the washer at night and as we needed new clothes for ourselves or our son, we pulled them out of the dryer. At the height of the worst, Scott changed Jared’s clothes five times in one hour. The footies were soaked from head to toe and front to back. Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 21 2012
“Mommy, who’s going to take care of me when you and Daddy die?”
This from the mouth of a child who is not yet 4 years old. My child. My first born, my daughter who has a tender, anxious soul and wisdom beyond her years. She made me a mother and challenges me every day to question my beliefs and face my fears.
She’s been curious about death lately. I’m not sure where she heard the word, but she seems to have grasped the concept. She understands that death means someone is gone and that they’re not coming back. She’s still struggling with the details; she recently asked “where we fall” when we die, or if we “pop.” I can handle those questions–even if I don’t have the right answers, I’m ok muddling through until I find something good enough that seems to work for her little brain. (We finally settled on “you just stop” as the answer to what happens, and that seemed to work for her.) Read the rest of this entry →