Mar 13 2014
“[The father] has dreamed about [the son] every night since the event, dreams of pervasive sadness rather than fear; he had told me that he could not be afraid of his fate as [the son’s] father, even of being murdered by his son. Recently, though, he had the worst nightmare of his life. He was walking past a door; a figure in the door began shaking it violently. [The father] could sense hatred, anger, ‘the worst possible evilness,’ and he could see upraised hands. He realized it was [his son]. ‘What surprised me is that I was scared as shit,’ he recounted. ‘I couldn’t understand what was happening to me. And then I realized that I was experiencing it from the perspective of his victims.’”
These sentences would make any person’s blood run cold. Andrew Solomon’s recent piece in The New Yorker about the psychological anatomy of Sandy Hook mass murderer Adam Lanza is a compelling, horrifying read. Well aware that his son had psychological issues, Adam’s father Peter walks Solomon through various meetings with psychiatrists and many, many attempts to defuse the ticking bomb of Adam’s profound unhappiness, until it was too late and Adam murdered his mother and the children and staffers of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Read the rest of this entry →
The noisemakers are already going in my house. By “noisemakers,” I mean my kids. The groggers are going, too, of course, along with an endless medley of preschool Purim songs as my children’s excitement about the upcoming holiday reaches a fever pitch. It’s a little chaotic, but I’m glad that my kids are eager to celebrate Purim…and it’s not bad to get a reprieve from the constant refrains of “Let It Go” that have comprised our family’s unofficial soundtrack for the last three months.
“Mommy,” my 4-year-old asks, “Do you know any more Purim songs we could sing?” On a whim, I launch into that corny old Hebrew School chestnut, “Oh, Once There Was a Wicked, Wicked Man.” My children listen delightedly as I began to sing, then look at me in consternation as I pause abruptly, not wanting to sing the words “he would have murdered all the Jews” (describing Haman’s evil plot). I continue singing, instead substituting the words “he would have punished all the Jews.” My children smile at the song. I feel relieved, and very guilty.
As a rabbi, I’m committed to a view of Jewish sacred text that affirms the sanctity and importance of our foundational narratives. When I was an idealistic college student, struggling with passages in the Torah that I found ethically or historically troubling, I believed that such difficult sections of our sacred text should simply be excised. We’re an enlightened people. Why do we need Torah verses that seem (or are) sexist or homophobic? As I deepened my understanding of Jewish text and interpretation, though, I began to understand that each of our texts, even the troubling ones, have something to teach us. The sages of the Talmud imagined Rabbi Akiva as being so gifted in the art of Torah interpretation that he was able to derive meaning not only from the words of the Torah but even from the decorative crowns that adorn the letters in the Torah scroll. To the Jew, there is meaning in everything, and so every story must be retained, honored, and plumbed for its overt and hidden lessons. Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 27 2012
“Whoops. That’s another nickel in the therapy jar.”
“If I have to spend another day at home with a sick kid, I’m going to end up on the psych unit.”
Most parents I know have made those jokes, or similar ones. I certainly have. As someone with a fairly sarcastic sense of humor who has spent a good deal of time on both sides of the therapy couch, the potential problems with this particular joke never really occurred to me. Then I had kids. And then Sandy Hook happened, and the all-too-often neglected conversation about mental health treatment was revived. Then a friend pointed out that perhaps such off-hand remarks about therapy might be doing more to stigmatize the issue of mental illness rather than normalize it. She’s absolutely right. Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 24 2012
All the parenting news you probably didn’t have time to read this week.
- Nanny Interviews Get More Aggressive. They now sometimes involve lie-detector tests and private investigators. [Insert nanny-state joke here.] (Wall Street Journal)
-The Ultimate Amenity: Grandparents. Some families are choosing to buy or rent apartments for their parents so that grandparents can be nearby. (NY Times)
-Since Newtown Shooting Sales of Kids’ Bulletproof Backpacks Soar. No surprise that lots of parents are snapping these up (they’re $200-$500). (Washington Post)
-Why Is My Kid Such A Picky Eater? Here are some ways to help get around your child’s aversion to leafy greens and anything that isn’t light brown. (Slate)
Last week, the NRA responded to the unspeakable, horrific tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut with the proposal to have an armed guard in every school in America. Several NRA supporters went further: the phrase “arm the teachers!” frequented Facebook and my Twitter feed for days.
Guns have no place in schools. They have no place around children. They have no place in a learning environment wherein the most fundamental tenets are tolerance, respect, community, and peaceful conflict resolution. Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 20 2012
Do you ever read something online and get really mad, almost to the point of fury? That’s how I felt when I read a piece posted on Facebook by friends from the National Review Online which alleged that the Newtown massacre was so terrible because there were no men around to stop it.
No, really. Read the rest of this entry →
We don’t have any toy guns in our house.
Okay, that’s not 100 percent accurate. We have a handful of miniscule, grey, plastic Lego guns so tiny you don’t even notice them until you step–barefoot–upon them, and then you notice them plenty. But they don’t count. They’re not real approximations of guns that can hurt or kill.
I’ve battled with myself over the toy gun issue for years now. When my son was 4 he suddenly picked up an interest in guns. I’m not sure where his intrigue or even knowledge of guns came from. Television and other media was limited to family-friendly shows from PBS and the like, and neither my husband or I are gun enthusiasts or ever felt the need to discuss guns around the house. I may have watched one or two seasons of 24 while nursing my son on the couch in his first few months of life–but I can’t imagine that’s what turned him on to guns… right? Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 19 2012
The fear can sometimes be so intense that it feels nearly unbearable.
True, being a parent brings with it unparalleled joy, fulfillment and, of course, exhaustion, but the knowledge that our primary responsibility in this world is to keep our children safe is almost too much to handle; it is both an incomparable responsibility and incomparably fear-inducing.
We need to keep our kids safe from choking while nibbling their first soggy Cheerio. We need to keep them safe in the bath, even when the water is no higher than their chubby thighs. In the car we strap them in. On the playground we call out “slow down!” We try to protect them from the wind on their chapped cheeks, from the rash on their tush, from the concrete as they learn to walk, and run, and bike. Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 17 2012
Normally the one to talk our kids through the milestones and tragedies of life, I found myself in the odd, and rare, position of being out-of-town as the tragedy in Connecticut was unfolding. From a thousand miles away, I could not hold them. Nor could I really talk to them from that distance.
Arriving home late Sunday night, I had no idea what, if anything, they knew about Sandy Hook. I didn’t know if they were afraid. Or sad. Or anything. What I did know is that I wanted to control the information. I didn’t want to leave anything to chance. Read the rest of this entry →
I have made many mistakes as a parent. But none as terrible as the one I made this weekend. I am struck by this realization as I drive my son to school this morning.
Perhaps it is the act of tapping the brakes that triggers my remorse. This is exactly where I sat on Friday when I heard the news of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I was sitting in the driver’s seat when I mistakenly decided not to discuss this news with my son.
Turning off the car radio and wiping the tears from my face with my sweatshirt sleeve, I inched forward in the carpool line. When he closed the car door behind him and tugged his seatbelt into place, I asked the same question that I ask every afternoon: “How was your day today?” Five words. Then I listened intently as he answered, glancing in the rearview mirror, memorizing his animated expression, making a deliberate choice to attempt to shield him from the horrific story I’d heard before he got into the car. Read the rest of this entry →