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Oct 11 2013

Torah MOMentary: How Do I Tell My Kids to Go Forth When I’m Not Ready?

By at 11:35 am

little girl running away

This post is part of our new Torah commentary series. This week we read Parashat Lekh L’kha. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.

There is little that breaks the heart of a parent more than leaving their child in the care of a stranger for the first time. Daycare drop off, new babysitter, even the first day of kindergarten–these necessary experiences all yield that same gut punch: letting go of a sweaty hand, watching your tiny child–did they ever seem so small?–walk forward into the unknown. Your stomach drops. You inhale sharply. Did I just do that? Did I just send my baby off, alone?

Maybe she’s looking back at you, eyes enormous, and crying. Arms outstretched, in that moment, she doesn’t think she’ll survive without you near, and you don’t think you will either. Or, maybe he’s bolted forward and found a friend, a toy, or a teacher he takes to quickly. Maybe it’s a matter of hours before your child has adjusted; maybe it takes your kid weeks or months. Maybe your baby doesn’t ever adjust but you keep trying, you keep dragging her to the edge of the pool and throwing her in. “Go!” you say, “Swim!”

In this week’s Torah portion Lekh L’kha, we watch as God throws Abraham into the water. “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you,” God commands. Leave your home behind. Step into the unknown. Trust me.  Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 13 2013

Sudden Separation

By at 10:18 am

toddler waiting by the windowCertain memories stick with you. Three decades later, my mother recalls the first time she spent a night away from me; she was hospitalized while pregnant with my sister. I fear that when Lila is my age, I too will remember the first time we spent a night apart, especially now that we’ve spent several consecutive nights apart twice, in a two-week span.

It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. For Lila’s first two years, we never spent a night apart. Sure, we spent time apart–she’d spend a few hours with a family member or babysitter–but we’d never slept under different roofs, and we’d certainly never gone 24 hours without talking or seeing each other. I felt like a piece of me was missing.

It was all supposed to be much more carefully choreographed. I had cringed at the thought of being sidekick-less, but my husband wisely reminded me it would have to happen at some point. When a save-the-date card arrived several months ago, we decided “some point” would be July 4th weekend; we were invited to close friends’ wedding overseas, and we wanted to make it work. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 11 2013

Sending Your Kids to Camp is Not Easy to Do

By at 9:59 am

coach bus in parking lotWhen my second son was 8 years old, he decided to that he wanted to go to camp. My husband and I were all for it. We went to different camps but we both loved, loved it. Did I mention loved? We both started our camper careers young, me at age 8 him at age 10.

We chose a camp, my husband’s alma mater, made the necessary arrangements early in the year, and talked about how great an experience it would be for him. We regaled him with tales of our camp adventures, boating, color wars, girl boy singalons, trips to town, hikes, camp outs, and ghost stories. Even my mother-in-law got in on the action; she told him about unpacking his father’s trunk when he got home and finding the new packages of underwear that she had sent unopened. Gross…but so campy…  Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 12 2013

My Kids are Going to Sleepaway Camp This Summer But I Already Miss Them

By at 12:14 pm
empty boys room

Not a fan of empty rooms.

Well, it’s done: the boys are going to Jewish sleepaway camp this summer. It’s a few months away, but already, I’m a little teary. I’m pretty sure I will miss them more than they will miss me.

It’s not because I am unmissable. I mean, look at me: I am a bundle of fun. While I am sure the boys will relish not brushing their hair or teeth for three weeks, perhaps every so often they will think of me fondly in passing. Like when they look down at the crap around their bunk and think, “Boy, look at my crumpled up clothes–no one can fold them like Mom,” or “Wow, Mom would NEVER let us leave the room like this at home.” And they will certainly think of me for at least five seconds when they find the pre-addressed and stamped postcards home at the bottom of their luggage at the end of the summer and say, “Oops.” Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 12 2012

My Daughter’s Ready for Preschool But I Am Not

By at 4:44 pm
amy deutsch preschool

Amy as a preschooler!

This week my 3-year-old starts preschool. It’s only two days a week, and only the mornings, but still–it’s school. We’ve been talking about it a lot. We called my mom to see if she could find a picture of me on my first day of school, and we ordered my daughter a new special dress online for her first day picture (don’t worry, it was cheap—I anticipate it coming home covered in paint and glue!) Her teachers are coming over for a home visit to introduce themselves and get to know Abigail a little bit. And I think my little girl is going to adore this whole thing.

My mommy friends and I have been talking a lot about how starting preschool works. There seems to be this universal thing called phase-in, where the children go for short periods of time, sometimes with only half of their classmates, to help them get used to the classroom, the teachers, and the routines of school. Parents are often expected to stay in the room or the building in case our kids get nervous and need us. It’s a gradual process to make kids feel comfortable. There’s no pulling off the band-aid here. Just a slow, gentle, easing-in. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 16 2012

(Too) Frequently-Asked Questions About Separation

By at 4:24 pm

For those of you who haven’t been following along: I married an Israeli, had two amazing kids, and then followed my husband to live next door to his mother on a kibbutz not far from Tel Aviv. It hasn’t exactly gone as planned. We’re no longer living together.

1. How are you doing?

Some days I’m fine. Some days, I wake up, and brush my teeth and wiggle the mascara wand through my lashes and flat iron my hair, and walk to work, and only realize how fucking ridiculous the situation is when I have to check my ex’s Twitter status to find out how my kids are doing. (#UsuallyJustFine.)

And yes, some days, the hours slip by while work engulfs me and I’m buzzing with caffeine and creativity. I ping B. on Google Chat and ask how the night went. He answers. And usually it’s fine.

Some days are like this. I watch time pass through the window. I measure out my life in status updates and the occasional tweet. I watch their day-to-day routine on YouTube. B. uploads cute movies, and I see how they’re really fine. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 19 2012

Why This Mama Feels Like a Dad

By at 1:28 pm
sarah tuttle-singer photograph of kids

My two kids.

Last week was all about the dudes on Kveller, and all this man-talk got me thinking.

In May 2008 and then a scant 18 months later in December 2009, I grunted and screamed and threatened to cut my OB and openly prayed that I wouldn’t lose my shit all over the delivery table I lovingly gave birth to my two children. I breastfed for three and a half years. I’m clearly a Mama. But over the last five months, I sometimes feel like I’ve stepped out of that role and into the traditional male role. In my high heel hooker boots.

Who’s your daddy? Yes I am. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 30 2012

Just Another Afternoon Watching Sex and the City with the Kids

By at 2:03 pm

Even before the separation, I was a free-wielding mama. I used to let M and Little Homie color on the walls of her room with a crayon. I let my kids stand on chairs next to me and slice bread with a butter knife on the kitchen counter. Crumbs on the floor can be swept up. Stains on their clothes means that they had a good time. Bedtime is a fluid concept in our house, and if we’re all having a hard day I’ve been known to break out the Ben and Jerry’s. I (still) don’t censor myself, even though I know it means that one day the preschool director will probably call me because one of my kids said “shove it.” But, I love loyally and loudly. Mess with my kids, and I’ll cut you. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 27 2011

A Jewish Divorce Contract

By at 10:26 am

Let’s not beat around the bush: divorce sucks. There’s the legal frustrations, the emotional hardships, and if kids are in the mix, a lot of figuring out to do. One thing to consider is how Judaism fits into your child’s future, and making sure that both parents are on the same page. The following advice is from Jennifer Mittelman, a coach and attorney who helps folks navigate through these major life transitions. Visit her coaching website at www.yourbrickroad.com.


Parents getting a divorce have a lot of things to work out. And it may be easy to overlook how Judaism fits in. Here are a few benchmarks to help focus you on determining what is best for your child’s Jewish development:

1. Set forth a clear understanding in any custody/parenting agreement of how your child’s Jewish observance and learning shall be fostered.

Don’t rely on a general agreement to make decisions jointly, particularly if you and your spouse had differing levels of observance (or different religions!) before and/or during the marriage. If possible, specify which synagogue your children will be members of (or, at least commit to having your children attend a synagogue that is affiliated with an agreed-upon branch of Judaism) and that both parents will work to ensure a high percentage of attendance at Hebrew School until your child reaches whatever milestone you feel appropriate. Don’t assume that just because you’ve been doing one thing during the marriage that post-divorce things will continue. Get it in writing. A little planning goes a long way.

2. Set forth a clear understanding of how your child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah will be celebrated and paid for.

When your son or daughter is practicing a Torah portion while trying to make time for soccer, the school play and homework simultaneously, the last thing he or she needs to be concerned about is a disagreement between the two of you over how to celebrate the upcoming special day. Negotiate a solution that the two of you would be able to live with in the event you could not agree otherwise. You always have the option of working together in the future to make an alternate plan if it’s something your child wants and you both agree. Make sure to specify how an Oneg Shabbat (a gathering with food and drinks after services), party, or trip to Israel, will be financed.

3. Hammer out any other details that can be agreed upon during negotiation and get them in your agreement, even if you think they seem obvious.

If you agree on a level of kashrut for your child, Israel trips in high school, Jewish day school, and/or Jewish youth group, spell it all out! You are most likely to be on the same page about your child’s Jewish observance while memories of the marriage are still fresh. Putting off these decisions until later because you both believe you’ll be able to make decisions together can be dangerous.

I once counseled a formerly orthodox Jew-by-choice who, by agreement, was given sole custody of the children. One month after the divorce agreement had been signed, she had no interest in continuing to practice Judaism. The parties’ parenting agreement only provided that the children would not be fed non-kosher meat. Nothing else was spelled out in terms of their Jewish education or observance, and the parents were unable to communicate.

4. Do not request having the children for Shavuot every other year if you have absolutely no plan to ever celebrate Shavuot!

This is an example of putting your child’s needs and interests ahead of your own. Your lawyer may tell you that you are entitled to an equal split of holidays. But does that mean it’s a good idea? What if, by insisting on Shavuot in even years, you are depriving your child of celebrating a holiday s/he truly enjoys, every other year? Get over “giving up” time and get on board with prioritizing your child’s interests, particularly if you are committed to fostering Judaism in your child’s life.

Want more advice about divorce? Learn about getting a post-nuptial agreement if you decide to stay home with the kids.

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