Sep 30 2014
“What’s teshuvah?” my 3-year-old daughter asked as we were getting dressed for services on the first day of Rosh Hashanah and talking about the holiday.
I explained that during this time of year from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, we can change things about ourselves and how we act in the world. I said, “If you don’t like how something is going, you can turn it around.”
She thought for a moment, then her face lit up and she said, “Like Daniel Tiger says!” Before I could figure out what the heck she was talking about, she sang, “When something seems bad, turn it around and find something good.” Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 29 2014
I used to have the right idea for Yom Kippur. I liked the notion of an entire month to clean up my messes from the past year, and I worked hard to deliver carefully worded apologies. The promise of a clean slate appealed to my resolution-making personality. And I appreciated the fact that the obligation to make life improvements deeper than, say, eating better, differentiated the Jewish New Year from the secular one. I was a High Holiday superfan.
This year, however, I’ve found it difficult to focus solely on my faults, my wrongdoings, and my petty behavior. Enough about me, I’ve found myself thinking. Let’s talk about you.
I realize it’s not in the “High Holiday spirit” to preoccupy myself with the ways I’ve been wronged, but I can’t stop thinking about the few relationships in my life that could use some healing. One friend, in particular, I’ve drifted apart from due to so many layers of back and forth “offenses” through the years that I’m not even sure how the tension started or why. I’m willing to do my part, but I refuse to take all the responsibility. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 1 2013
Have you ever tried to fold up a stroller and get multiple small children onto a bus, find your Metrocard and put it in properly (without losing sight of the children or dropping the stroller), get those children settled into seats and the stroller stowed away without bumping into anyone, and then keep those children reasonably quiet for 15 or 20 blocks? In the rain? Without help? Everyone on the bus seems to be looking at you in annoyance: annoyed at how long it took you to get onto the bus and anticipatory annoyance for the noise the kids are about to make.
One rainy day, after doing all of that, my attention turned to someone else, sitting in a two-seater with two kids who were soaking wet and crying. She was trying everything to calm the kids and quiet them down. They were inconsolable. Two people got on the bus and sat behind her and immediately started loudly complaining about the kids. She became more desperate to quiet them. They got more hysterical.
What if, instead of complaining and criticizing her, those people had offered to help her (as we and others on the bus did)? What if we reacted with generosity instead of judgment? Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 11 2013
I was so excited for high holidays services this year. Seriously. Like, I couldn’t wait.
Rosh Hashanah was going to be the first time since the birth of my 11-month-old when I could just sit and live exclusively in my mind for three hours straight. It was going to be all about me. My thoughts, my feelings, my regrets, my needs, my disappointments, my truths, my longings–my prayers. Three solid hours of me, me, me.
And it didn’t disappoint. Through the repetition of liturgy, music, the standing ups and the sitting downs, I felt my mind and body soften in a way they haven’t in some time now. I thought about the many changes I have undergone since I had a child, for good and for bad, and how I can do better towards my family, friends, and myself. I felt generous, adoring, open-minded, and accepting. I had returned. Teshuvah! It felt incredible. And then I got home, said goodbye to my babysitter, and that was the end of that. Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 26 2013
We live on the third floor, and have a little balcony. My 4-year-old has taken to throwing things–toys, couch pillows, books–off the balcony. It’s really not OK, and he knows it. He also knows that if he throws toys he won’t see them again for a while, and that there may be some other consequence, to boot. But he’s 4, his impulse control is not so hot, and he’s testing boundaries.
This morning, I asked him to share the toy he was holding with his little brother, so he ran halfway across the apartment in order to throw it off the balcony. It was a clear f-you: If I can’t have it, nobody can have it. It was the last straw of a frustrating morning, and I yelled at him, really shouted, as I put him in a time out.
There are a lot of reasons why I don’t want to raise my children in a home with yelling. I have a pretty firm commitment to raising them to feel loved, safe, and not afraid in their own home, and a screaming adult is terrifying to a small person. So to have slipped in a way that’s human and understandable but still, well, urgently not where I need to be–it’s a terrible feeling. This morning, I failed my son and I failed myself. Read the rest of this entry →