Apr 11 2014
This post is part of our Torah MOMentary series. This Shabbat we read Parashat Ahare Mot. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.
This week’s portion is roughly halfway through the Torah. Here’s what I’ve noticed after writing about parenting for half a year: it’s hard to find the middle ground.
To acknowledge the miraculousness without sentimentalizing, without glossing over the day-to-day reality.
And to acknowledge the profound daily challenges without complaining, without dwelling in negativity.
Middle ground has been in short supply around here lately, and not just because I’m pregnant with #2 and on my own hormonal roller coaster. Like one of those tantalizingly unpredictable loves of my early 20s, Sylvie, about to turn 2, vacillates between extremes:
1. Unbearable cuteness. Example: “Thank you mama, for brush my teeth!”
2. Frustrating randomness. Example: “Orange juice please! Orange juice please! Orange juice please!” Then, when I bring her some: “No, I want apple juice!”; weeps in utter despair. Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 4 2014
This post is part of our Torah MOMentary series. This Shabbat we read Parashat Metzora. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.
Bath time. It’s so simple, yet so transformative.
Most evenings around 7 p.m., Sylvie enters the tub covered in the evidence of a day well spent. You know the look: pasta sauce in her curls, a thin layer of dried snot on her cheeks, dirt on her knees, lint between her toes, and streaks of green finger paint in random places.
Come to think of it, by the end of dinnertime she brings to mind my fashion preferences as a teenager in the 90’s. You know the look: torn jacket, messy hair, smudged eyeliner, chipped nail polish. Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 3 2014
Let’s be honest: parenting a toddler can make even the sanest person among us feel homicidal at times. I should know–I’ve got twins.
Tovah Klein, author of “How Toddlers Thrive,” is an associate professor of psychology at Barnard and director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development. She kindly took a moment from a busy book tour to talk me off the ledge talk to me about her new book and why we just need to shift our perspective.
In “How Toddlers Thrive,” you write about our current “overzealous child-rearing culture” and how the media often confuses parents. I am a confused parent. How will your book help me?
There’s a reason for confusing toddler behavior (defined here as ages 2-5): there’s rapid change going on in the brain in these early years–700 synapses per second are being connected! That’s why toddlers are exhausting to be around. They are trying to figure out who they are and what they need is for us to help guide them in a way that gives them a secure emotional base. Its important to take a step back and try and see the world from a toddler perspective. Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 25 2014
I’m afraid I may have fallen into a trap.
A few months ago, I decided that my 2-year-old son needed to start learning some manners. And so began his first lesson: the word “please.” At first he kind of thought it was a joke, and when prompted to say it, he would hold out on me on purpose. But after several weeks of reinforcement, he came to learn that there is, indeed, a polite way to ask for things.
Only now there’s a problem. Every time my child says “please,” I feel like it sets the expectation that his wish will be unquestionably fulfilled. And it’s not just me internalizing–he sees it that way too. Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 11 2014
“Mommy, are you going to die?”–My 3.5-year-old daughter as we drove to lunch.
“What do you mean?”–Me, buying time.
“Are you going to die like GaGa Marilyn died?”
My mind raced. What did that child psychologist say when I went to consult her about the impact of my mom’s death on my then 2-year-old? What was in those books that the rabbi gave me after the funeral? What do I want my daughter to believe about mortality? What could I handle talking about as I was driving? Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 20 2014
It’s my first job interview after a two year lull (because in the corporate world, birthing two children in 20 months, moving continents twice, and pursuing a law degree in a foreign language is considered a lull).
But first, some serious sprucing is in order, if only to help mask the “I breastfeed for a living” I imagine emblazoned across my forehead. I have only one chance to convince them I can make it in this ruthless, three-inch heel environment. One new suit from Ann Taylor and visit to a salon for a new hairdo later, I’m not quite a corporate superwoman, but close enough. Read the rest of this entry →
Jan 24 2014
This post is part of our Torah commentary series through the perspective of a new mom. This Shabbat we read Parashat Mishpatim. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.
As a former wedding-industry employee, I can say with confidence that the Revelation at Sinai would have been a very high-ticket event. It had all the elements of the perfect day: a dramatic natural setting; elaborate sound and lights; and at the center, those simple, moving ten commandments –the vows that would eternally bind the Israelites to God. This all happened in last week’s Torah portion.
Rabbis do compare the revelation to a wedding–it’s not just me–and after such a blowout celebration, you might expect a bit of a honeymoon. But instead, the Torah launches straight into a highly unromantic list of rules and laws, ranging from the mundane to the disturbing. Like what to do if someone asks you to watch their cow and the cow dies (depends what happened to the cow). What to do if a man seduces a virgin (he has to marry her). What about the punishment for violent attacks (“eye for an eye,” though as a side note, the rabbis pretty much legislate that out of existence in the Talmud). There are rules about letting slaves go free every seven years, and not taking interest on loans, and, well, I’ll stop, but the list goes on.
It seems a little weird as a wedding follow-up. On the other hand, as the parent of a toddler, this litany of rules feels disturbingly normal. Read the rest of this entry →
Jan 20 2014
Each night before my daughter, age 2.5, goes to sleep, she has a “special minute” with my husband, and then one with me.
This started as a compromise so that we didn’t both have to be present every night for her lengthy bedtime rituals, but the special minute has evolved into a complex ritual of its own. We talk about, in this order, five things at the drugstore, five things at the zoo, five things at the doctor, five things at the Jewish Museum (the National Museum of American Jewish History, here in Philadelphia), five things at the Please Touch Museum (the local children’s museum), five things about her mirror (yes, really), and five things about today.
And we do this every night, just when I’m the most exhausted, right when I’m on the verge of getting some alone time, exactly when I need her just to be asleep already. We talk and we talk and we talk. Read the rest of this entry →
Nov 13 2013
Anyone with kids knows that getting them to sleep is no easy feat. Luckily, there are people who specialize in these things, like Israeli sleep coach Batya Sherizen. Below she takes on a question from Kveller editor, Deborah Kolben. Do you have a sleep question for Batya? Send them into firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Sleep coach.”
My 4-year-old still wakes up and wants us to sleep in her bed every night. How do we get her to sleep on her own?
As parents, we obviously want to ensure that our children feel emotionally secure at all times. Sometimes, however, we find ourselves sacrificing that “security” at our own expense and sleep deprivation.
Your 4-year-old wants your presence to fall back asleep at night and she is developmentally at a place where she can understand cause and affect. Until now, she has learned that if she protests enough, Mommy and/or Daddy WILL come and sleep in her bed. Therefore, she has no reason to change her current behavior. In her eyes, she is getting what she wants! Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 25 2013
This post is part of our new Torah commentary series. This week we read Parashat Haye Sarah. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.
My adorable toddler has a disturbing new habit.
It goes like this: Sylvie’s playing with another kid at the park. Suddenly she grabs the kid’s hair, shrieks in excitement, and pulls. The kid’s mom and I run over and pry her hands off (harder than you’d think!), mom kneels to console crying kid, I apologize profusely. And there’s Sylvie, grinning uneasily.
I know she doesn’t mean to cause pain; she’s just excited. But on some basic human level, it feels odd to see someone smile while hurting someone else. So when this first started happening I was pretty concerned. I’m still new to this whole mothering thing. Was this a developmental stage, or the beginning of a real problem? Read the rest of this entry →