My son Joey is turning 10 this fall. His development has been anything but normal.
Since Joey was 18 months old, we have seen countless professionals who have attempted to evaluate and diagnose him. None of the doctors, therapists, psychologists, or teachers were ever able to satisfactorily define Joey’s behavior. I often wondered if he was autistic, but that didn’t totally fit. He also exhibits a lot of Asperger’s characteristics, but again, not a complete match.
Many of us who grew up watching Robin Williams in so many dazzling roles are left reeling at his death at age 63 and the tragic circumstances surrounding it. It’s odd to think that a man who brought so much joy to so many people was quietly struggling with such severe depression, and a sobering reminder that mental illness can touch anyone, no matter how seemingly blessed and glittering the externals might appear.
Like other children, I watched “Aladdin” with rapt attention when it came out in 1992, and became an instant Robin Williams fan at age 6–though I only put a face to the Genie the following year when Williams starred in “Mrs. Doubtfire.” Since then, I’ve followed his career, along with a few million other people, and the canon of work Williams left behind is vast and the stuff of cultural legends. A few of the movies in which he starred have taken on an added meaning for me since I became a parent, and in re-watching some clips in the wake of Williams’ death, I found two parenting tidbits from his movies to be particularly powerful.
First up, in what is generally considered a lighthearted comedy, “Mrs. Doubtfire” actually contains one of the most moving monologues I’ve ever seen Robin Williams deliver in character and certainly one of the most touching discourses about parenting from any movie I can easily recall (and I watch a lot of movies). Towards the end of the film, the judge presiding over the custody case between Williams’ character, Daniel Hillard, and his ex-wife Miranda (played by Sally Field), asks whether Daniel has any closing remarks to make to stake a claim for partial custody of his children. In response, and with reference to his cross-dressing antics, Daniel says this: Read the rest of this entry →
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 →
I tried to block out those words as I carried the small red suitcase of tiles to my first lesson. I had fully assumed I wouldn’t like it, but honestly, once I understood the whole “crack bam dot” business, it was a blast. Challenging, fast moving and competitive, all of the qualities I like best in a game.
On “Live with Kelly & Michael,” Maggie revealed that she had no idea her given name was not actually Maggie until she decided to take husband Peter Sarsgaard’s last name in addition to her own. Her parents rummaged around for a birth certificate and found that–surprise!–Maggie is, in fact, short for Margalit.
I am 5 years old. I am learning to spell my last name. N as in Nancy. A. U. M as in Mary. B U R G. No, that’s B U R G. I decide that when I grow up, I am going to change my last name to Whitney, like my best friend Elizabeth who lives next door. I’m not sure why her name seems so much better than mine, but it does.
I am 8 years old. I start learning about the Holocaust in school. My egocentric child’s mind becomes hyper-focused on figuring out whether or not I would have survived. I know that my father’s family were all German Jews (I wouldn’t come close to the truth of my mother’s family for years), but I have the blue eyes, light skin, and straight blonde hair that was the Aryan ideal. I tell myself that my looks would have saved me.
I am 14 years old. I am going to Spain for the summer on a student trip. I find my fellow travelers in the international terminal of Kennedy airport. I introduce myself; they respond with confused looks. “Naumburg? You’re Carla Naumburg? That’s funny. You don’t look Jewish.” Apparently they had been studying the roster for the trip, trying to decide who was Jewish and who wasn’t. I didn’t know how to respond. Read the rest of this entry →
“Are you sure?” my OB asked at my very first appointment. “Yes,” I replied without hesitation. “Absolutely.”
Joking about my husband, the rabbi, she scheduled my third C-section for December 24th because “of course, the rabbi’s kid should be born on Christmas eve.” I laughed and then immediately requested that my tubes be removed during the surgery.
I was 37, it was our third child, and I knew we were done. My husband and I had discussed it already and had both agreed. Read the rest of this entry →
Our children are listening. When we pore over news sources and incessantly check our Facebook feeds to find out the latest from Israel and Gaza, our children are watching. When we whisper in muted voices or cry out in protest about the situation in the Middle East and the resurgence of anti-Semitism around the world, our children are hearing.
Madonna has been trying to negotiate an end to the bloodshed in the Middle East via Instagram for a while now, even providing step-by-step instructions–if only the leaders of Israel and Palestine would pay attention!
Obviously, the proposal involves objectifying hunky half-naked dancers with religious symbols painted on their six-pack abs. When you add The Queen of Pop, the blinding hotness of it all will surely make both Israel and Hamas lay down their weapons.
The above photo was captioned, “No Separation! We all bleed the same color! #ceasefire #peaceinthemiddleeast #livingforlove”