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Jun 3 2014

My Kids Don’t Need Material Gifts To Be Happy

By at 10:51 am


Recently I went out of town without my children for an engagement party. When I returned two days later, I shared what I had brought home for them: stories. They liked hearing about how the hostess at Shabbat dinner, known for talking in her sleep, had once murmured that it was “spaghetti o’clock.”

I told them how when I’d asked, my host said, “We’re cereal-atarians here.” They laughed at my recounting of how, at the engagement party, the other surprise guests and I were comically delayed from making our appearance to sing the couple’s favorite song. Both kids shared in my enjoyment of retelling the events of the weekend and followed up with their own version.

In other words, I didn’t bring home any physical gifts, and yet my children were happy. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 18 2014

Teaching My Son to Be a Mensch Through Music

By at 3:18 pm


When I say my 3-year-old son Ben is into music, I mean it. Toddler parents will get my seriousness when I say he loves music more than his beloved trucks, play kitchen, and extensive puzzle collection. Looking for Ben? Check his “concert,” a corner of our living room that’s become packed with kazoos, shakers, a ukulele and a “guitelele,” and–our third birthday present to him–a beautiful djembe drum.

My husband and I were both high school band types, and going out to hear live music was a big part of our pre-Ben social life. So it felt right to take Ben to his first concert at age 8 months, to a Saturday morning family show at Club Passim, the famous folk music club in Harvard Square.

Alastair Moock, the musician who played that show and later appeared at such prestigious venues as Ben’s second birthday party and the Grammy Awards, did not, to our delight, wear a costume or do a goofy “character” voice. He played real instruments–guitar, banjo, ukulele–and sang wonderful original songs plus folk classics I recognized from my parents’ record collection. Ben stared intently. He was in. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 25 2014

I Find Myself Defending Teachers at the Hair Salon (and Everywhere Else!)

By at 3:58 pm


The next time someone asks me what I do for a living, I plan to say that I’m a dental hygienist. Maybe a carpet salesman. A baker? Hmm… that’s an idea. Who doesn’t love cookies? It’s too bad that I’m a terrible liar.

I was mid-haircut the last time the question was posed to me. “I’m a guidance counselor,” I said, with a smile. I glanced around the salon and waited for the inevitable commentary to come. That train is never late.

“Well, you scored an easy gig!”

“Teachers have such nice hours. It’s like working part-time!”

“You have your own office, right?” Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 30 2012

One Day, Your Kids Will Be Taking Care of You

By at 4:50 pm

emergency room entrance hospitalSeveral years ago, when my husband was abroad, I twisted my ankle and fainted on a Manhattan street. When I opened my eyes, two strangers were standing over me asking if I was okay and offering to call an ambulance. They helped me stand up against the side of a building and I told them that I would call my daughter and thanked them profusely.

My daughter dropped everything, including her young twins with a neighbor, and came running. She got me to her house and called my doctor. A few minutes later when my son-in-law arrived home, he bandaged my ankle. By then, my daughter had arranged with her sister to sleep over with me at my house and with her brother to take me to the orthopedist the next morning. She got a cab, took me home, helped me undress for bed and did not leave until her sister arrived. (My younger son was away at college.) Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 17 2012

Dealing With the Jerks of Your (Kid’s) Life

By at 4:33 pm

It was hot yesterday–serious, in-the-upper-80’s hot. Not normal for suburban New Jersey in mid-April. I haven’t put the winter coats away that we were wearing last week. I can’t keep up with the weather, and can’t sort my kids’ drawers and closets: after all, tomorrow may bring either a blizzard or a typhoon. So clothing for every temperature is easily within reach of each of my kids’ grasps. (Fine, not the baby’s.)

My younger son, R, came dancing downstairs to breakfast in shorts and a t-shirt. My older one, Z, came down more slowly in a t-shirt and jeans.

“Hey, you might want to change into shorts,” I said over my shoulder as I made coffee. “It’s going to be really hot today.” Read the rest of this entry →

May 6 2011

Friday Night: Too Many Screens?

By at 9:07 am

It seems like kids (and adults) these days are always plugged in.

When I was pregnant, my husband and I did a lot of thinking about what kind of parents we wanted to be. How would we teach our baby-to-be about the world? What values would we exemplify in our lives? What aspects of Judaism would be important to us? And of course–what were we absolutely, positively, sure we would never do?

One of the things on that no-way list was letting our kids watch TV/movies anywhere and everywhere. I remember one Friday evening when we went to a restaurant in our neighborhood and saw a family of four having a lovely dinner out. (Ah, the days of being able to celebrate the restfulness of Shabbat by going out to dinner on a Friday night without needing a babysitter!) But when I looked closer, I saw that the daughter was listening to music on her ipod and the son was watching a dvd. I was really sad to see that. I thought to myself, “we’ll never let our kids do that.” After all, I’d grown up in a house where you weren’t even allowed to bring your book to the dinner table.

I’ve seen it more and more lately. There’s even a new restaurant in my kid-friendly neighborhood that caters to that mentality–they have booths with televisions and the kids can choose from an assortment of dvds. When I asked a friend about it, she said it was the only way she and her husband could enjoy a nice dinner.

I don’t know about that.

Now, my daughter isn’t quite 2 yet, so I haven’t faced this head-on the same way some of you have–but shouldn’t there be other ways to enjoy a nice dinner? Aren’t there other toys, games, or activities that you can bring to the table if you need your child to be entertained? Lately crayons and stickers have been our distraction of choice–and it seems to be working. When it stops working, I’ll try to find something else. To me, the ipod (with its videos of Laurie Berkner) is our last resort–and only used if one of us can’t take her out of the restaurant.

Of course I’m realistic, and I’ve broken my own rules a couple of times too. At one of our  Passover seders at a friend’s house, when we hadn’t wrapped up by 9 pm, and we weren’t putting our daughter to sleep there, we might have let her sit at the table watching a dvd. (Okay, we did let her sit at the table watching a dvd.) But those were extenuating circumstances–we should’ve thought ahead and brought the pack n play and let her go to sleep. My mom told me that my grandfather was probably rolling over in his grave at the thought of tv at the seder. I agree–which is enough incentive for me to not ever do that one again.

There was an article in the New York Times recently about families that were too plugged in–though they all sit in their living room together, each person has his/her own screen (from ipads to tv to cell phones) and thus, are totally separate. That’s not what I want for my family. So I’m going to do my damnedest not to let it happen. How? Starting with me. If I have fewer screens in my life, so will my husband, and so will our daughter.

I’m determined to do it. What about you?


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