Jul 22 2013
Many, many people posted a link on Facebook to a Huffington Post Parents blogpost entitled, “Open Letter to My Daughter, the Camper.” In the piece, which is certainly nothing if not loving and fun, the father writing gives advice to his first-time overnight camper daughter. He tells her the proper way to roast a marshmallow, to try new things, to be herself and–repeatedly–to have fun.
This blogpost was a lot like a marshmallow in many ways–sweet and delicious, if ultimately insubstantial. I really don’t mean to come down like a wet blanket over the parade. But my boys are leaving for three weeks in a few days, and I find that I’m thinking about this a lot: what are my hopes for them? And what should their hopes be for themselves?
It’s the longest amount of time my boys have ever been away from home–and that’s saying a lot. I divorced their dad when they were toddlers and the boys have done the back-and-forth divorce vacation tango for more years than they haven’t. Moreover, it’s the first time they’ve ever been away without at least one parent within yelling range. That’s a big, big deal–both for me and for them. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 3 2013
They might as well be teenagers.
My daughters are 4 1/2 and 3, and other than their short stature, penchant for screaming rather than brooding, and a total inability to write snarky notes to each other, they’re basically teenagers. They’re in that unpredictable phase where one minute they want to be treated like grown ups (i.e. 8-year-olds), the next minute they want to snuggle on your lap and suck their thumbs, and God help you if you pick the wrong one.
The struggle for independence is alive and well in our house. I have no idea who’s winning, but I’m pretty sure it’s not me.
Exhibit A: 3-year-old has exactly two skirts she wants to wear. Whenever they aren’t clean (likely because she peed on them), she huffs and moans about how she “won’t be pretty” unless she has the right clothes. Read the rest of this entry →
In the old days, “independence” was something that happened to kids naturally. Children were swept into adulthood by responsibility–you grow up fast when you are responsible for the farm that gives your family food–or the tides of history. A kid has no choice, after all, but to grow up fast when their parents sent them to escape Russian Cossacks on a ship bound for America. They had no choice but to grow up fast when they were separated from parents by war, sometimes forever.
These days, in our coddled existences, we simulate circumstances of independence-generating separation by sending our children to overnight camp. These are supervised places chock full to the brim of fun where our children can, for a few weeks, live their lives without us parents around. Read the rest of this entry →
May 29 2013
I have finally unlocked the secret of parenting. Here it is: Most Of The Time, The Less You Do, The Better Your Kids Will Turn Out.
Counterintuitive? Perhaps. Throwing a goose into the rotors of helicopter parents everywhere? Yes. But true? In many cases, yes: benign neglect is GOOD.
Important caveats: obviously, this theory does not apply to babies, children with special needs, or children who deal with some sort of disability. This also does not absolve you, the parent, of any and all childcare related activities. And, of course, results may vary. Read the rest of this entry →
Nov 19 2012
To My Darling Daughter,
I watch your eyes glow when the kids in preschool want to play with you. I see how it matters to you what they say and how they smile.
I watch your bottom lip tremble when someone hurts your feelings.
And I watch you on the playground–your face flushed, and your breath staggered as you chase the child that was mean to you. I know you, and I know you are blaming yourself for their bad behavior.
I know you are trying to get a second chance at friendships not worth having.
You are so much like me that it takes my breath away.
Please. Don’t be this way. Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 23 2012
The sign-off at the bottom of my letter was a familiar one:
Miss you! xxoo
It was how I finished every bunk note I sent to my two sons, Noah, 14, and Chase, 12, at sleep away camp this summer. But when I went to press SEND on the last letter of the year, a nagging feeling came over me as I realized that this was just the fourth missive I had written to them in as many weeks. And it had been days since I had scoured the camp website to catch a photo of my precious punims. Suddenly the unthinkable reality was all too clear. I was lying. I did not, in fact, miss my children. At all.
What kind of Jewish mother am I??? Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 20 2012
I pride myself on being a hands off/free-range kind of dad, especially when it comes to the playground. I attempt to emulate my neighborhood moms in most ways, but I cannot fathom heading out into the jungle gym myself, unless explicitly invited by my daughter. The reason is twofold. Selfishly I want that time to space out or blissfully stare at my daughter from afar. (And yes, I will cop to furtively sneaking glances at my smart phone.) And unselfishly, I really feel that it is her space, and I want her to learn to navigate it.
I recently got a friend to take her to the playground so I could play frisbee in the adjoining park. This is easily simultaneously one of the geekiest and jockiest things I do. Appropriately, I injured myself on the first day of the season, diving underneath a fellow player, a medieval-bearded-kind-of-dude named Duvid, to intercept a pass. He landed on a part of my body that I didn’t realize could be injured, the meaty small of my back on the left side. Essentially, my love handle. I had the wind knocked out of me, but got back in for the next play, and promptly re-injured it, so I hobbled over to watch my daughter, who I had been feeling extremely guilty for leaving, anyways.
I found her on the swingset. At this point, pushing my daughter on the swing was not an option, so I obeyed my inclination to hang back. I saw her at the center of a group of moppets. I couldn’t hear her voice, but her pantomime was clear. The group of fellow 4-year-olds hoisted her in the air, like a group of moshers helping someone crowd surf. As her cohort pushed her, I saw a look of beaming pride I have seen few times on her face.
I felt completely validated in my hanging back to give space. “She doesn’t need me,” I practically purred. There are some family stories involving nameless relatives of mine lining up all of their playmates and giving detailed instructions of how they needed to play, but this was different. Ronia was the instigator, but was happy to give others a turn. I stood there, aching with love for my charismatic spark of a daughter.