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Nov 13 2014

No Tooth Fairy in This House–But That Doesn’t Stop People From Asking

By at 3:35 pm

After many weeks of diligent wiggling, my daughter has finally lost her top, front tooth. It happened at school, during lunch, which meant that not only did she get to be the center of attention as blood gushed out of her mouth, necessitating a trip to the nurse—stat!—but she also got a cool necklace box to put her tooth in. It’s every 7-year-old’s dream!  But here is what else happened because she lost her tooth at school: A whole host of people, from kids to parents to teachers to even the security guard, made her promise that she’d tell them the next day what the tooth fairy brought her.  Except…the tooth fairy doesn’t stop at our house.  She never has.  I think it’s because the tooth fairy is a quintessentially American tradition, one that I didn’t grow up with in Soviet Russia. In fact, when I immigrated to the United States at the same age that my daughter is now and first found out about this fantastic creature, I was skeptical.  I expressed my skepticism to my classmates. (I was a very, very unpleasant child; I’ve already apologized to my mother for it publicly). They insisted it was true. So I ran a scientific experiment. The next time I lost a tooth (to little fanfare beyond my father yanking it out and then giving me a handkerchief to mop up the blood), I went ahead and put it under my pillow without telling anyone. And guess what happened? Nothing! Not. A. Thing! I returned triumphant to school the next morning to share my systematic findings, unaware my classmates weren’t too keen on the scientific method.  All of which is a rather long-winded way of explaining that the tooth fairy wasn’t a part of my growing up, so it never became a part of my kids’.  And they’re fine with it. They don’t expect anything. They actually like hoarding their baby teeth in specially designated containers and periodically taking them out for a look.  My fellow parents, however, are horrified. Back in preschool, another mom asked me if I knew what the going rate was for a tooth these days. She’d heard $20, but didn’t want to lowball and embarrass her son.  $20?  $20?!  I make less than that an hour! No one at my house is earning more per hour than I do for a basic biological function! What next, spare change for blowing your nose?  It’s not just the tooth fairy, though. It’s all sorts of other things. Like allowance. My kids don’t get one. And no presents on Hanukkah. As I explained two years ago, fed up with the sheer amount of crap my kids already have, I put my foot down: Instead of gift giving (and/or receiving), we would be spending our festive eight days doing good deeds.  My kids grumbled a little, then got with the program. Other parents, however, looked at me like I’d lost my mind. Not because they disagreed with the concept. In fact, everyone I mentioned it to said they thought it was a great idea. They said they wished they had the guts to try it. But, “There’s so much pressure on the kids.”  Pressure on the kids?  The kids?  (Do you notice the overabundance of question marks in this post?)  These parents were worried about how bad their kids would feel when everyone around them was showered with gifts, and they got nothing. They were worried they’d have nothing to boast about. It was keeping up with the Joneses (Jonesteins?). Won’t someone think of the children?  I am not about to parse these parents’ true motivations when it comes to Hanukkah gifts, allowances, or tooth fairy leavings. For one thing, it’s none of my business. For another, I have a hard enough time figuring out why I do the things I do; how presumptuous would it be of me to pass judgment on others?  All I can offer is reassurance based on experience: No one ever died from not wearing the hottest fashions, owning the latest iPhone, or vacationing at the same resort “everyone else goes to.” This, like my unfavorably peer-reviewed 2nd grade tooth fairy experiment, is scientific fact.  As for their potential embarrassment, social shunning, and inevitable descent into the dreaded low self-esteem…I suspect that trickles down from above. I’ve taught my kids to take pride in my cheapness and in their subsequent independence, not just when it comes to things like walking home from school alone in a blizzard but in their lack of attachment to material things. (We are all ready to flee at a moment’s notice should the Cossacks come. Again.)  At our house, because I’m not embarrassed to say I see no reason to distribute cash willy-nilly, my kids don’t seem to be, either. In fact, they take a sort of twisted pride in their suffering. I wouldn’t be surprised if, on the playground, I’m known as the mom who feeds them gruel in between stints at the sweatshop.  I have to confess, I did hold my breath to see what would happen when a friendly neighbor in the elevator asked my daughter how much the tooth fairy had brought her.  And I smiled in relief when she cheerily replied, “Nothing. That means I get to keep my tooth. It’s all bloody.” She held up her cherished necklace. “Want to see it?”

After many weeks of diligent wiggling, my daughter has finally lost her top, front tooth. It happened at school, during lunch, which meant that not only did she get to be the center of attention as blood gushed out of her mouth, necessitating a trip to the nurse—stat!—but she also got a cool necklace box to put her tooth in. It’s every 7-year-old’s dream!

But here is what else happened because she lost her tooth at school: A whole host of people, from kids to parents to teachers to even the security guard, made her promise that she’d tell them the next day what the tooth fairy brought her.

Except…the tooth fairy doesn’t stop at our house. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 6 2014

I’m That Mom Who Missed Her Daughter’s First Ballet Recital

By at 9:43 am

I Missed My Daughter's Ballet Recital—And That's OK

With her wild, curly hair pulled back in a neat bun, and her pink tights, leotard, and ballet shoes in place, my little girl tapped her toes and lifted her arms in rhythm to the music of her first ballet recital. At least, that’s how it appeared from the video that my sister-in-law sent me and I watched on my iPhone while I attended a wedding two hours away.

For four weeks I sat on a hard, cold bench in a stale waiting room listening to classical music coming from my 3-year-old’s closed-door ballet class, longing to get a glimpse of what she was learning. But her ballet school has a strict student-only policy until the day of the recital, which left me in the dark about her pliés and pointed toes. Even when she emerges from her class with a smile stretching from ear to ear, she won’t show me what she’s learned, insisting that I have to wait until it’s my turn to watch. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 27 2014

Am I Pushing My Toddler Too Hard?

By at 8:45 pm

potty-training

So we’ve officially failed at potty training, or at least the first round of it. After spending well over a month trying to coax my toddler onto the potty, bribing him with candy, and even going as far as letting him watch me do my own business for motivation, I’ve decided to table the toilet training for the time being.

In reality, I probably should’ve given up after the first week. My son, from the get-go, was more than simply not interested in going to the potty, he was actually frightened to use it. My mother insisted that he just wasn’t ready. His teachers at daycare confirmed this, as their attempts to help our efforts were met with resistance.

And yet I pushed. I pushed him for over a month, at 2.5 years old, when all around me, fellow parents with children six months older than mine reassured me that they’d yet to start potty training because their children, too, just weren’t ready. I pushed because I thought he could do it, and because I wanted him to do it. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 25 2014

My Plan to Give My Daughter a Unique Bat Mitzvah Isn’t Going So Well

By at 1:41 pm

torah-scroll

My oldest daughter will be called to the Torah as a bat mitzvah this December. I have a bit of chip on my shoulder about it.

Actually, it’s not just her bat mitzvah that I’m cynical about, it’s the whole bat mitzvah “thing.” (I’m using “bat mitzvah” here to include bar mitzvahs too, of course.) As Patrick Aleph argued persuasively in Kveller last year, there are a lot of problems with this ceremony. Despite this, we’ve seen examples lately of young Jews who transform their b’nai mitzvah into something powerful. We just read last month about the young Jews in Chicago who are building a playground. There’s a young Jew at our synagogue who is riding his bicycle from Mexico to Canada to raise funds for the Sierra Club. But even without the grand, headline-making accomplishments, there is significant untapped potential for this rite of passage to be better reflective of the status-change it is intended to complement.

My daughter’s day school education has been, on the whole, truly wonderful. However, one constant struggle for her has been tefillah (daily prayers). It’s not that she has trouble learning them, it’s that she has trouble engaging with them. Her teachers have been very consistent in their reports that she doesn’t seem interested in participating–she doesn’t follow along in the siddur (prayer book), and is frequently just spacing out. Our daughter confirms that she finds tefillah to be awfully boring. Read the rest of this entry →

May 5 2014

The Blessing for Milestones Also Helps When Things Go Wrong

By at 4:10 pm

blessing

My daughter decided to learn how to ride a bike on Sunday.

Strange wording. Not “my daughter learned to ride a bike” but “my daughter decided to learn how to ride a bike.” Because that is precisely what Lilly does; she makes a decision and then does it.

And when she brought me outside to see her newest accomplishment, I said, “Remember what we do when we do something for the first time?” Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 13 2014

14 Things You Should Know Before Getting Married

By at 1:56 pm

marry

My husband and I just celebrated a milestone anniversary–our 40th.

We married when we were 21 and 22, respectively, after meeting five years before in summer camp. In my senior year of high school, even while dating other people, I knew I wanted to marry him. I didn’t have a “list” or set of criteria like so many women seem to have now. I didn’t analyze, intellectualize, or speculate on his earning potential or what kind of father he would be. I just jumped, taking a leap of faith that remarkably, astonishingly, and awesomely paid off.

Over the decades I have learned a lot about marriage, from my own experience and from observing other people. These are some of my conclusions; some things I think people should know before they get married:

1. Know that you will not always be happy.

2. Don’t expect your spouse to fulfill all your needs. Women, especially, should make sure to keep their friends. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 19 2013

At What Age Can Kids be Left Home Alone?

By at 9:57 am

at what age do you leave your kids home alone?

It’s a big year at our house. This September, for the first time, my 14-year-old began taking the subway to school by himself, my 10-year-old began taking the city bus to school by himself, and I began leaving my 6-year-old at home alone for short stretches.

As with many of our previous milestones, all came about due to necessity. My oldest first started coming home by himself on the bus at the age of 9. His toddler sister had just transitioned from two naps to one, and the time she chose to do it in was exactly during his school pick up. Trying to put her down any earlier would have been too early, and any later would have been too late. So we armed our 4th grader with a Metro Card and a cell phone and assured him he was ready for this grand adventure. (Several parents in his class disagreed with our assessment and generously let us know how they felt.)

A year later, we decreed that not only was he experienced enough to also take the bus to school, but that he could bring along his kindergarten-aged brother. Now he was the one who disagreed with our assessment. Not because my oldest thought he couldn’t handle it, but because his brother was, to quote, annoying and obnoxious and refused to hold his hand while crossing the street, even though we’d mandated that he must. In that case, a stern talking-to with the younger made the older more amenable. That and my agreeing, despite being against allowances, to pay him for his pain and suffering. It was still less than what an adult babysitter would have cost. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 11 2013

Little Known Jewish Prayers, Written By and For Women

By at 11:52 am

pregnant woman in pretty dress

Giving birth was the most spiritual experience I ever had.

It was as if my body, mind and soul–my very being–was on high alert. I felt a new closeness to the man with whom I had fallen in love years before and who was now the father of my child. I felt an intense identification with the Creator God, to whom I prayed each day, and who was our partner in the creation of the new life I had just pushed from my body.

But as a religious Jewish woman, I was disappointed that my tradition provided no special prayer or ritual to mark my rite of passage from “woman” to “mother,” even as I softly said the generic Shehechiyanu blessing (“…who has kept us alive, sustained us and brought us to this time.”) Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 13 2013

So Sad to Part With All This Baby Stuff

By at 3:44 pm
demolishing first cupcake

Jared devouring his first cupcake on his 1st birthday.

The other night I took my daughter’s pink Disney Princess booster seat off the kitchen chair to clean it. As it turns out, that was the last night she used it. She says she doesn’t need it anymore, her big eyes in her tiny head poking up above the table.

That’s how it always goes, my husband says. One day something is super important and the next you’re deciding whether to donate it or sell it on Craigslist.

We’re hypersensitive to the finality of even the most trivial things because our second and last baby just turned 1. As he starts to formulate his first words, we’re stuck trying to find our own, too–ones to describe the sadness and yet slight elation around knowing there will never be another infant we made in the house. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 5 2013

My Baby Wouldn’t Sit Up

By at 1:05 pm

baby lying downAs I watched other babies several months younger than my son cruise around rooms with ease while my Jared just sat and watched, I tried not to be that mom. You know, the one who compares what her baby can do against what others are doing. After all, Jared is my second child and I know better. Kinda.

At his 9-month well check, I told the pediatrician that he’s not trying to crawl yet. He said 10 percent of babies never crawl so as long as he’s sitting himself up and seeming interested in starting to stand, I had nothing to worry about. And that was my cue to officially worry, because Jared wasn’t doing those things either. Read the rest of this entry →

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