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Feb 18 2014

Birth Trauma is Real: A Reminder to Be Kind in the Comments Section

By at 2:17 pm

comment

I was out of town without internet last week and when I returned and read through Kveller I was shocked when I saw the reader responses to Rachel Minkowsky’s  birth trauma post. I thought about it over the  weekend and all I can come back with is that the majority of the comments were so uncharacteristic of the Kveller community but clearly the post triggered a lot of emotions for our readers.

Rachel wrote about something that happened to her that she is struggling with and has struggled with for three years.  Common feelings about the human birth experience that many, many mothers share.  She was told that she has no right to grieve her birth because her baby was healthy, because she could have had it worse. Her opening her heart turned into a birth-trauma pissing contest for everyone to read and chime in.

Would we tell a mother who lost a child to get over it because at least she only lost one child when others have lost two? Where does it end? Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 9 2014

Pumping in the Amtrak Station Never Felt So Good

By at 3:22 pm

shutterstock_135106604

Three kids in, I will nurse (and have done) in front of anyone. Father-in-law? Check. Rabbi? Check. Boss? Check. Graduate students? Check. Everyone who goes to my local park, grocery store, coffee shop, and (obviously) doctor’s office? Check, check, check, and (obviously) check. To me, nursing is natural, life-giving and life-affirming, and simply a part of my baby’s nutritional needs, much like any other kind of food.

Pumping is a different story.

I barely let my spouse see me pump, let alone anyone else. Where nursing is a normal part of the routine, pumping feels utterly abnormal, both mechanic and animalistic, dehumanizing from every perspective.

I really don’t enjoy pumping.

And I have the easiest possible pumping scenario: I get a very generous maternity leave (by US standards) and will return to work in a private office with a door that locks and a small bar fridge. I don’t have to crouch in the corner of a public bathroom, or monopolize a private one, or face the wall and pretend that others can’t see or hear what I’m doing.

I really don’t enjoy pumping in public. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 8 2014

Tell Your Friends #WhatILikeAboutYou

By at 10:03 am

tell a friend #whatilikeaboutyou

“Let’s start 2014 with happiness. If you ‘like’ this, I’ll write something that I find beautiful about you!”

I saw a status message in this vein on a friend’s Facebook page. I clicked “like”–more to convey that I “liked” that she was doing such a nice thing, rather than “like” as in, “Send me a compliment ASAP.”

Perhaps fortunately, Facebook’s “likes” are not so nuanced. So I got a compliment from her. It made me feel warm, fuzzy, and appreciated. And so I decided, you know what? I’ll do this too.

I posted this as my status message. The “likes” started pouring in. And whether they “liked” it because of my intention or because they wanted to see what I’d say about them, I decided I was going to write something for each one of them.

I won’t lie–it was time-consuming. I wrote on my phone with one finger as I put my 14-month-old down for her nap. I wrote between dot painting projects with my 2-year-old. I wrote in the glider, the baby asleep on my lap. I wrote in the carpool pickup line (car in park, don’t worry). Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 8 2013

Tell a Friend: You Are a Good Mama

By at 1:56 pm

you are a good mama

Recently while traveling our family stopped at a mainstream chain restaurant; not fancy, but not fast food. As we set our kids up at the table (baby in a high chair and preschooler in a booster seat), we glanced over and saw the couple in the next booth over staring at us. They had that new-parent-deer-in-headlights look about them. The exhausted, exhilarated, stunned look that inevitably accompanied the newborn cradled in the husband’s arms. They asked us how old our baby was, clearly having no idea because they can’t imagine their tiny son a day older than what he was right then. They were looking at us like we had our shit together. Like somehow we knew secrets they didn’t.

Later on in the meal after attempts at a bottle, bouncing, and pacifier had been exhausted, their baby cried a signature newborn wail–the cry that you blink and realize your baby has outgrown and that sound has now been replaced with more vocal cries with actual tears. The new parents looked around, panicked for the reactions of others. I heard them apologize to the table beside them and as they turned to us with forgiving looks, before that Mama could say a word I said, “Don’t for a second apologize to us. He is a baby and you two are doing a wonderful job with him. You are not bothering us in the slightest.” My husband agreed and joked about how our children were only behaved because they were too tired to do anything else. The mother’s eyes softened and she said, “Thank you so much for saying that.” Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 27 2013

Whether It’s Storm Damage or Marriage Damage, We’re In This Together

By at 9:53 am

repairing bathroomThe Jersey Shore has been resurrected just in time for the beach season, while the only bathroom in my house, also a victim of Superstorm Sandy, is still in ruins. Fortunately the most important feature is in place, but the sink remains in a box in our living room, and the tub is encased in plastic wrap to prevent water from seeping into the walls where the grout should be. Showering is a bit like stepping inside a giant sandwich bag.

A combination of factors has seriously stalled the construction on our bathroom. Luckily I now know that I can adapt to almost any circumstance because of the current state of our home.  Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 12 2012

How to Raise Mentsches, Not Bullies

By at 2:06 pm

happy smiling kidsThe preschool teacher sent a nice note home: My delicious (OK, that’s my word) 2-year-old grandson L. had noticed that his classmate’s nose was running so he got a tissue and started to wipe the kid’s nose before the teacher swooped in with a lesson on hygiene.

L. should have given the lesson on empathy.

You read so much about bullying these days, but the two words I’ve never seen in those articles are “empathy” and “kindness.” And those are really the words that people need to understand, internalize, and teach to prevent and combat bullying. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 17 2012

I’m an Amazing Mom, Sometimes

By at 3:57 pm

mom holding twin babiesI was attending a small community gathering last week when a mom, who was holding a baby on her lap and watching a 3-year-old shake her sillies out, asked me if those two small people at my feet were my kids.

“Um, yep. All mine,” I said.

“Are they twins?” Her eyes grew big.

“Yes. And that’s my 6-year-old,” I said pointing at the kid who was pacing nearby.

“Wow,” she said. “All boys?” Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 7 2011

It’s Amazing What Happens When You’re Nice to my Kid

By at 10:00 am

baby girl with shopping bags

If you're not nice to my baby, I'll take my business elsewhere.

“If someone is nice to your child, you can forgive a lot,” my mother said. Seven months into motherhood, I consider that the ultimate truism.

If Lila and I meet you, this mother’s Jewish eyes may be smiling, but they’ll also be watching you like a hawk. Have you acknowledged Lila, and if so, are you treating her nicely? Those who bend over backward for Lila win my admiration, while those who ill-treat her may earn glares.

During our apartment search in July, the people who showed us around doted on Lila. That was a smart sales move on their part. However, at the fanciest building we visited, our guide ignored Lila. It could be that he was not bewitched by Lila’s big eyes and enchanting smile, or perhaps he doesn’t consider cooing part of his job. Still, this mother noticed, and that became the first of several demerits for his building. We passed on that address.

By contrast, we ended our whirlwind weekend in one of Washington’s tony shopping districts. While we sipped smoothies at the mall, a woman spotted Lila in her stroller and screamed as if she had just seen Justin Bieber. Lila, who already understood enough to know that “cute,” “beautiful,” and “gorgeous” were good words, listened nonchalantly to the woman’s effusive attention. This Mama Bear took note, though. I had never met that woman before, and I still don’t know her, but I already like her.

When we went furniture shopping in September, my opinions about furniture were similarly colored by reactions to my girl. Lila patiently endured visits to 11 specialty and department stores. At one shop, the saleswoman complained I was restricting too many design options because of Lila. Yes, it’s true that Lila won’t always be a baby, but we also have many years of small stature and paint handprints ahead of us. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 26 2011

Pitiless, Fire-breathing Loving Kindness…on Facebook?

By at 10:56 am

Photo by Alexandra Huddleston for The New York Times

Facebook is the equivalent of talking by the water-cooler for those who work at home (or agoraphobes): type in your password to see what people are talking about.  And so that’s how I know that a lot of you apparently like talking about terrible things.

“You’ve GOT to read this” was the basic gist of the eight or nine wall postings and forwards I received of Emily Rapp’s well-written piece in the New York Times. In the piece, Rapp told the story of being a “dragon mother” – that is, a mother of a fatally ill son with Tay-Sachs whose time on this earth is limited to a handful of years at best. As parents, we all know that no amount of time would be enough, and in knowing that, Rapp’s family’s fate is even more horrifically cruel.

After seeing the fifth Facebook post, I read Rapp’s piece and felt sick. It made my stomach turn with pity and fear, two emotions that I admit find singularly unpleasant. I don’t like feeling pity because I can’t shake the feeling that it implies that I somehow, even implicitly, deem myself “better” than they are, or more fortunate.  There is an element of condescension, I find, in pity, but even more so in our ability to exit from the situation we pity with such ease compared to those who are suffering. It’s like watching a TV show about famine and then turning it off, saying, “That’s awful” and going out to meet your friends for dinner. And to finish reading this piece and hug my healthy baby tighter, as though to say, “I appreciate you more after having seen someone else’s suffering.” That felt  cruel, somehow, to me.

I am not better than this woman – if anything, I am worse in so many ways — but I am indescribably more fortunate. I savor my children’s faces each morning I am with them, but do so doubly because it is not “normal” for me. Thanks to my divorce, our “normal” is different from other families. I don’t get to spend every birthday or every vacation with my boys.

And yet, despite or perhaps because of my sorrow at the seesaw of custody and my boys leaving and coming, leaving and coming, I savor them more perhaps than I would have otherwise. I was blessed with an unexpected daughter from an unexpected second marriage, and because of knowing the vast emptiness I had faced without her, I savor her more than perhaps I would have otherwise. I am proprietary about all of their time. I don’t want to waste any of it. Read the rest of this entry →

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