Jul 9 2014
I live in New Jersey and work in New York, where–let’s face it–people aren’t always friendly and nice. Sure, there are exceptions, but at this point I’ve grown rather cynical when it comes to relying on the decency of strangers. It especially irks me when people are jerks to my kid.
Case in point: I recently had to stop at the supermarket with my toddler on a very rainy day. Though the 90-second walk through the parking lot normally isn’t a big deal, it happened to start pouring rain the second we got there, and I was eager to keep my son as dry as possible, knowing that the arctic blast of the store’s AC system is often unbearable even when you’re not entering soaked. So there I was, walking briskly from my car to the store holding my (not-at-all lightweight) toddler when not one, not two, but three separate drivers decided to cut me off, forcing me to stand in the rain even longer. In dry weather, that sort of behavior is simply discourteous. In pouring rain, it’s downright mean, and more so to my toddler than to me.
Unfortunately, this is the sort of thing I’ve grown accustomed to over the years. But last weekend I had an experience that restored my faith in humanity, just a little bit. My husband, toddler, and I had gone out hiking, and though we almost always eat dinner at home, we decided we were tired and would rather stop at a local restaurant instead. We walked in around 5:30 p.m., expecting to be seated right away, and were surprised when we were told that the wait would be 20-30 minutes. We knew our son was hungry, but at that point it would’ve taken us longer to drive home and get dinner going, so we decided to bide our time in the cramped waiting area. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 3 2014
This post is part of our Torah commentary series. This Shabbat we read Parashat Balak. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.
Oh, the terrible two’s. It’s almost like Sylvie sees things I can’t see.
One moment it’s all sweetness as Sylvie carefully spreads a blanket over my shoulders, stroking my hair with her small fingers and singing: “Go to sleep, little baby.”
The next moment, during a diaper change, she’s truly distraught: “I want that diaper!” (Pull down clean diaper from pile). “No, that one!” (Take down second diaper.) “No, I want that one!” (Pointing to first diaper). Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 24 2014
A few weeks after my son was born, I made up a lullaby that I’d sing before putting him to bed. Back then, getting my son into his crib was a simple matter of swapping his diaper for a new one and belting out a two-minute song before calling it a night (yep, we were very fortunate). But somehow, over the past two years our bedtime routine has evolved from a quick pajama change and lullaby into a 45-minute extravaganza complete with stories, videos, and many, many songs. And it just seems to be growing by the day.
Here’s how things will typically go down: First, my son will run around his room like a maniac as I attempt to grab hold of him and lift him onto his changing table. From there, he’ll wiggle and squirm as I desperately work to get his pajamas on. After he’s clothed, we’ll head to the bathroom to brush his teeth, which often takes longer than necessary thanks to my son’s desire to touch absolutely everything on the counter before finally opening wide.
But once his pajamas are on and his teeth are brushed, the real fun begins. It starts with a story from a collection of books we store crib-side. Ever since he was about 1.5, we started giving our son the privilege of selecting his bedtime story himself. What this now means is that he’ll pick up every book on the pile before choosing one–and then once we settle into our rocking chair to read it, he’ll invariably bolt off my lap, insisting that he made the wrong book choice. If I don’t let him switch, a fit will most likely ensue, so I usually allow him one book swap before putting my foot down. Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 20 2014
This post is part of our Torah commentary series. This week we read Parashat Korah. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.
This week’s torah portion, Korah, really resonated with me. Basically, Korah, a Levite, was tired, hungry, and generally pissed about wandering through the dessert. He gathered together a few buddies (who were presumably also hungry and in desperate need of a shower) and they threw a collective tantrum at Moses–something along the lines of “Who died and made you God?!?”
Moses responded by falling on his face. Traditional commentators praise him for this, noting that rather than reacting by yelling something back (possibly along the lines of “God did, you giant douche! And he’s not even dead! So suck it!”), he took the time to reflect and collect himself. I love that idea, although I also like to think that Moses was feeling the same way I often do when the girls are whining at the end of a long day, when I barely have the energy to stand, much less engage with the latest round of whatever they’re all worked up about. Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 17 2014
This past Shabbat, my wife, son and I visited another shul. For the record, we went to this shul not because we were unhappy with our current one, but because there was a guest speaking and friends had invited us to join them. It was during Kedusha that our 2.5-year-old son began to do what he does best: explore.
Amit loves the Torah service, he loves the regal aspect of the Torah being passed around the room and giving it a kiss and delighting in the traditions that keep us going. You may see where this is going. Amit took finding the Torah into his own hands. He promptly walked on the bimah (podium) and made a beeline for the ark. He pulled back the curtain just enough so he could see the Torah scroll and then stood on his toes to touch and kiss.
As parents divided by the mechitzah (the divider between the men’s and women’s sections of an Orthodox synagogue) and stuck in our tracks as we stood for Kedusha, my wife stood at the front waiting for a moment to get his attention. I, his father, stood near the back and was torn by emotions. Should I move throughout the shul anticipating disaster? Or should I just let my son do what he does best and then handle it if something goes awry? I’ll admit, though I’m not a nervous person, I did schvitz a little; it was a new shul and there weren’t many other children in the sanctuary. I moved closer when I could, and did a double take–Amit was the only child in the sanctuary! He was doing what he should: exploring shul and finding the beauty in Judaism. Read the rest of this entry →
May 28 2014
Photo credit: Ellen Bortz
A few years ago I was that nursery school mom with a son in the 3’s class, a daughter in the 2’s class, and a new baby, born seven weeks into the school year. Whether that was a well-thought out plan or not didn’t really occur to me in those early years; it just was. I saw those other moms whose last child was going through nursery school and although logically I knew that they must have done this dance with their older ones as well, it was pretty impossible to imagine. Yet now, I have the luxury of walking my youngest daughter–my 5-year-old–to her pre-K class without carrying a crying baby, pushing a stroller, or feeling nauseous from morning sickness. Now I watch the other moms drop off their preschooler and come outside still holding another child (or two) and I’m sure they can’t imagine a day when they’ll walk out that door alone.
And now we approach the end of an era in my family. My children have spent a combined 10 years at one Jewish nursery school–as a family, we’ve been there for seven consecutive years. We’re not particularly unique, we haven’t set any kind of record, lots of families have come and gone. But for our family (or maybe just me!) it certainly feels like a milestone. At the very least, a time to take pause and appreciate what’s gone by.
Nobody in our house spits up anymore. Our days of diapers, sippy cups, pacifiers, strollers, and cribs are gone. Nobody says “baby suit” when she means “bathing suit.” Nobody tells us that “Purple Barney” is his favorite color, or says they “bless you’d” when what they did was sneezed. There’s no one left here who believes “tilapia chicken” isn’t fish. No more rear-facing car seats, or high chairs, or boosters, or even those cute plastic sectioned-off plates. Baby gates, infant tubs, pack-and-plays, and swaddle blankets are all a distant memory. Read the rest of this entry →
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 →