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Jun 23 2014

I Hope My Kids Don’t Make The Same Mistakes I Made in College

By at 3:14 pm

college-sidelines

I loved college. If I could go back and relive any period of my past, I’d head back to Philadelphia as quickly as the Amtrak could take me, and set up camp in the squirrel-infested dilapidated house on Spruce Street that I shared with seven friends during my junior and senior years. I’d go back to three hours of classes a day, evenings studying in the library, and nights with friends testing out our fake IDs at the local bar. Okay, maybe I’d opt for an upgrade on the housing.

Luckily for me, I recently had the chance to go back to college. Well, at least back to my 20th college reunion. It was a wonderful weekend to reconnect in person with some of my best friends whom, because we live in different cities, I normally only “speak” to by phone or email, and to catch up with those classmates who were a big part of my college years but from whom I’ve since drifted apart. Sometime between the parade of classes, the alumni picnic, and the shopping trip at the campus bookstore to purchase souvenirs for the kids and husband I had left at home, one of my friends posed the question, “If you could go back to college is there anything you’d do differently?”

Yes. There is. Read the rest of this entry →

May 14 2014

Rabbi Julie Greenberg, Single Mom of Five, Explores Race, Class, and Unconventional Families in New Book

By at 2:00 pm
rabbi-julie-greenberg

Julie, as a new mother, with first born Rosi.

 

Rabbi Julie Greenberg is a mother of five, the founder of Mountain Meadow, a camp for children with LGBTQ parents, and was one of the first rabbis in the world to do same-sex weddings, to welcome interfaith couples and families, and to work closely with clergy from other faiths in co-officiations. We recently discussed her latest book, “Just Parenting: Building the World One Family at a Time,” about raising her five children by and large as a single parent with the help of sperm donors, adoption, women lovers, former lovers, and a gay male parenting partner.

She is graciously offering Kveller readers a discount on the book: just use the code “KVELL” at checkout here.

How is this book different from all other parenting books? Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 20 2012

Friday Night: Stepping Back

By at 4:16 pm

The story of parenting is one of stepping back and stepping away.

The baby leaves your womb, then your breast, and eventually your bed.

Instead of running into your arms, your daughter runs into the world.

Instead of babbling constantly to you, she prefers chatting with her friends.

Going off to school, first she cries and clings, then walks slowly away with a quick turn to wave, and later–a “goodbye, Mommy” and a sprint to the kids at the other end of the schoolyard. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 19 2012

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, How Do We Pay Our Respects?

By at 1:18 pm

This image is part of a design contest from the Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem.

It’s Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, when we are supposed to stop and take a moment to remember the 6 million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. I will argue that a moment is not nearly enough.

The “#neverforget” hashtag is woefully inadequate, as are the viral pictures of shadows, children, Jewish stars, and barbed wire. Facebook and the Internet reduce the brutality of the Holocaust to memes. Memorial candles, ceremonies, wreath layings, moments of silence–none of these are enough. With grief so vast, there can never be an adequate synopsis or tribute.

What, then, would be enough, to pay our respects to all those who were murdered?

Only you are the answer to that question.

If you’re here reading Kveller, there’s a chance you are a Jewish parent, or are parenting Jewish children. By doing so, you are strengthening a chain that goes back thousands of years, and forging links that will take it forward into the future. You are telling those who would murder Jews, “No. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.” Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 25 2011

Pressure in Pink

By at 11:54 am

Not my kid, but this is how she likes to dress.

When I got pregnant, my husband and I decided to find out whether it was a boy or a girl. We both had a vision for which we’d prefer, and wanted to know ahead of time. Personally, I really, really wanted a girl. Really badly. Turns out I was carrying a girl, so I was thrilled.

Now that my daughter is 2, I’m past the just caring for the kid phase and well on into the active parenting phase (if you have a toddler, you know what I mean–not just clean, fed, and happy, but also disciplined, entertained, and filled with trips to the  playground, park, and zoo), I wonder whether I should’ve wished for a boy.

Why?

Because it’s amazing to me how much my daughter, at 26 months, has already internalized about the world. She gets dressed and says “I pretty,” or, if wearing a skirt, “I spin like ballerina!” We were in Philadelphia last week, on a street we’d never been on before, and walked by a store. It had pink tutu in the window, and a few purses. My daughter said, “I go in dere. Dat for girls.” I stopped in my tracks. How did she possibly know that? Because of the pink? Because of the purses? In what ways had I unconsciously conveyed society’s assumptions about femininity to my 2-year-old?

I’ve been reading a book by Peggy Orenstein called Cinderella Ate My Daughter. It’s fascinating, but I don’t think I’ve ever read a book so slowly in my life. I have to keep putting it down. I’m terrified of this book. I try to not create gender roles in my home, to allow my daughter to build with blocks and play with cars as much as she plays with dolls and her kitchen, but I feel like I’m failing, constantly. Especially when my little girl wants to go shopping in a store just because of the pink. Or the purses. Or both.

There was recently an article in the Huffington Post called “How to Talk to Little Girls.” The author basically said that our instinct, when talking to girls or women, is to compliment them. We start this at an incredibly young age. And let me tell you, I see it when people talk to my kid. I do it myself. I think that’s why she compliments herself every day when she gets dressed. And of course I want her to have a healthy self-esteem, but I don’t want her to think that her appearance is all that matters. A Facebook friend of mine’s comment on this article was to tell a story of what happened at her Jewish summer camp, every Friday, when everyone dressed up for Shabbat. Girl campers would come up to her and say, “I like your hair/dress/skirt/makeup.” She’d respond, “Thanks, I like your personality!”

I hope I can work harder on complimenting my daughter–and all girls–on the things that truly matter in life. Their intelligence, sense of humor, determination, and kindness. Because life is about so much more than simply what we look like on the outside.

The other day, my daughter wanted to wear her pink tutu (which was a gift from childless friends and I usually hide it in the back of the closet). My mother obliged. And then my daughter climbed into my bed and sat down on top of the book I was reading. Cinderella Ate My Daughter.

I can’t decide if it was irony or a premonition.

Jun 28 2011

A GPS for Your Family

By at 3:38 pm

Wouldn't it be nice to have a GPS for life, not just for roads?

On our most recent road trip, my family was having trouble with the GPS. For some reason it wouldn’t register where we were at that moment, so we couldn’t get it to come up with the directions to take us where we wanted to go. I kept frantically canceling and re-routing, and the GPS would tell me, over and over, that it was “calculating route.” So much so that my daughter, age 2, would parrot back: “ca-coo-ating wow-te.” We eventually got where we were going, but it took a lot of wrong turns.

Sometimes parenting seems that way, doesn’t it? Like you take one wrong turn, make one mistake, and before you know it those wrong turns have snowballed into a mess and you’re lost, off of the highway and into a swamp somewhere. Wouldn’t you love to have a child-rearing GPS to tell you when you’ve missed the turn, and help you recalculate your route?

Enter Mental Health GPS. No, I’m not kidding. This actually exists and is an amazing, free service provided by the UJA-Federation of New York. (I’m sorry if you don’t live in the New York area, because this is mostly a local program… but check out the Jewish Federations of North America or google the words “Jewish family services” to see if there’s anything similar in your area.) Mental Health GPS is a consultation service that helps parents determine how to best help their children, with anything from stress or anxiety management to eating disorders to bullying to substance abuse. They have competent family resource specialists to help connect families with the best services for their kids. They navigate the system with parents to help them find the best care possible their kids. Oh, and did we mention that this service is FREE? Read the rest of this entry →

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