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Dec 3 2014

The Lesson of the ER & The Open Window

By at 9:49 am

open window

Our family recently lost a dear friend, and my husband and I have had to digest and process the immeasurable loss with our children. Soon after the death, my oldest daughter told me that she would never pray again. I asked her why. She said that she had prayed and prayed that our friend would heal, and God didn’t answer her. I hugged her. I tried to say the right things–that God always hears our prayers, even if God doesn’t respond the way we want; that perhaps our prayers did have some effect that we don’t understand; that there is always so much more to pray for, and we have to keep trying; that praying is good for us, it helps us feel that we are doing something, even if things turn out so differently from what we hope.

Not long after, I found myself spending the entire day in the emergency room, with severe abdominal pain. Apparently, these things happen, especially on days when one’s babysitter texts at 6 a.m. that she’s home sick with strep (which she caught from your kid). While the doctors were puzzling over my cecum, I was left lying supine, unable to see beyond the privacy curtain. Those curtains are not soundproof, though, and it’s hard not to hear the pressing experiences of the other stricken human beings in the room. I was left with no choice but to eavesdrop. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 25 2014

In Light of Ferguson, How Do We Talk to Our Kids About Race?

By at 9:40 am
michael brown ferguson how to talk to kids about race

Photo via Flickr/Jamelle Bouie

I’ve been following the Mike Brown case from the beginning. I’m sad for his grieving parents and for the citizens of Ferguson who want justice. I support the sentiments around the currently trending meme “#BlackLivesMatter” but I can’t bring myself to tag it on Facebook for fear someone will call me out as a “clueless white person” trying to attach myself to a movement I don’t belong to.  I’m empathic, but I’m searching for a way to articulate that respectfully.

My best friend Rachel has always been involved in social justice and is my go-to person on days like today. When I asked her what kind of reaction I should have to all I am witnessing from my comfortable upper middle class life here in Los Angeles, she reminded me that I’m a parent, and I have a responsibility to respond to this in the way I raise my kids.

Rachel explained, “I think the best thing that you can do right now is raise your children to be race conscious–not color blind, but race conscious. Talk to them about the different experiences people of color have. Buy books and dolls and movies with lead characters that aren’t white. Talk about how people aren’t always treated equally and how that is not OK. Teach history and how it impacts our lives today. Be conscious and teach them to be as well.”  Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 20 2014

Why I Talked to My Preschooler About Sexual Abuse

By at 3:59 pm

why i talked to my preschool son about abuse

My middle son told me something the other night that made my stomach twist into a painful knot. He told me that his preschool teacher wasn’t very nice to him, but he hadn’t told me about it before because he knew that I liked her.

This may seem like a little thing. But, it isn’t to me. Until that moment I had been sure that my kids trusted me enough to tell me about the things that are important to them, the things that they are worried about. The fact that he’d gone a whole year holding back his feelings really frightened me.

I asked him a million questions after that. What had she done to make him not like her? Did she mistreat him in any way? Make him feel uncomfortable? Unimportant?    Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 30 2014

Motherhood & Depression: What it Means for Me and My Daughter

By at 1:50 pm

mother and daughter in snow winter

1. Me

Depression and motherhood do not mix. Before I was married I was aware that my offspring could possibly carry the same genetic predisposition that I have for depression. I don’t mean the “blues” or feeling sad for a couple of days; what I do mean is months of feeling hopeless, helpless, sleeping in excess, and feeling completely alone.

Unfortunately for me, I produce a low amount of serotonin which is needed to maintain a cheery outlook, and to just feel balanced. Add some generalized anxiety to this and you’ve got what has been my life for the past 20 years. I have learned great skills in dealing with it and know when I need to re-group. I also have very supportive family and wonderful friends. I am actually lucky as I have only dealt with a few instances of clinical depression and have come out the other side each time. What works for me is talking and medication. There it is…no stigma.

2. My Daughter

My daughter is one of the happiest people I know. I constantly watch her in amazement. I see her easy-going demeanor and I wonder, where the hell did you come from? My husband is not exactly laid back and I bring the depressive/anxious traits into the mix, so how did we end up with this happy, sparkly child? It baffles me on a daily basis. She is not overly dramatic when something does not go her way and accepts things in a positive way. She is by no means perfect, but I can’t imagine her ever being sad for a long period of time. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 5 2013

The Tooth Fairy is a Drug Pusher & Other Lessons from Kindergarten

By at 4:07 pm

tooth fairy

This week is Red Ribbon week at my daughter’s school, where they educate the kids on the dangers of drugs and alcohol. She is in kindergarten. It had not yet occurred to me to talk about this at home, as she is 5 YEARS OLD–but she came home yesterday with some interesting things to say.

She was given a red bracelet with the red ribbon logo on it. She told me she was not to take this bracelet off or people would try to give her drugs. She also said she had to wear this bracelet while she was sleeping, or the tooth fairy might try to give her drugs as well. Hmm, when did the tooth fairy turn into a drug pusher? Things sure have changed since I was a kid.

Some parents in the class were upset that the school was teaching the kids about drugs at such a young age, and before they themselves had a chance to broach the subject. But I was used to it. When my daughter was in full-time daycare, the school did many things with her first before I did them at home; things like weaning from the pacifier, sleeping on a cot, and toilet training. I saw the teachers as experts–after all, they have training in this; I am just an amateur. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 29 2013

How to Help a Recently-Widowed Parent

By at 12:32 pm

how to help recently widowed parentAbout a month ago, one of my husband’s closest friends lost his father. As so many deaths go, this one was one of those that happened too soon and left little time for his family to contemplate and digest what was about to happen to their family and to say goodbye. A gorgeous, sentimental obit appeared on Facebook thereafter, and my husband, Heath, quickly hopped a flight to support his friend through the trauma, albeit necessary and cathartic, of burying a parent.

Naturally, Heath remained in touch with his friend over the next weeks to see how he was doing. After one late-night conversation, Heath asked me if I wouldn’t mind calling his friend to suggest “what to do with his mother.” As if I were some expert on how to handle the parent who survives? I immediately bristled and went to bed before I could compose a single thought about “what to do” with the parent who just lost the love of her life, and who, it seems in the moment, won’t be able to survive the death of her soulmate.

I still haven’t called our friend. But I’ve been thinking about him, and his mother, for weeks. In these weeks, I’ve also been thinking about whether I’ve done my part in helping my own mother survive my beloved dad’s passing (it was six years ago this past June). I can’t say I’ve been as dutiful as maybe I should have been. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 4 2013

How to Talk to Your Kids About Yom Hashoah

By at 3:12 pm

holocaust candlesHolocaust Remembrance Day, Yom Hashoah, begins the evening of this Sunday, April 7th. It’s hard enough for adults to grapple with the immense, inexplicable horror of the Holocaust, and can be harder still to find appropriate and meaningful ways to talk about it with young kids.

While there’s no one right way to do it, we do have a truly wonderful resource from Rabbi Sarah Reines that outlines key ideas to keep in mind when broaching this subject:

As our children learn about the Holocaust, we can help cultivate in them a sense of empowerment and responsibility through acts such as lighting a yartzeit (memorial) candle on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), deciding as a family to donate to a charity for aging survivors or sharing stories about “righteous gentiles” who helped protect Jews from danger.

To read the rest of “How to Talk to Kids About the Holocaust,” click here.

Dec 17 2012

Sandy Hook: Three Different Kids, Three Different Discussions

By at 4:03 pm

three different kidsNormally the one to talk our kids through the milestones and tragedies of life, I found myself in the odd, and rare, position of being out-of-town as the tragedy in Connecticut was unfolding. From a thousand miles away, I could not hold them. Nor could I really talk to them from that distance.

Arriving home late Sunday night, I had no idea what, if anything, they knew about Sandy Hook. I didn’t know if they were afraid. Or sad. Or anything. What I did know is that I wanted to control the information. I didn’t want to leave anything to chance.  Read the rest of this entry →

My Parenting Mistake: I Didn’t Talk to My Son About Sandy Hook

By at 11:11 am

boy in backseat of carI have made many mistakes as a parent. But none as terrible as the one I made this weekend. I am struck by this realization as I drive my son to school this morning.

Perhaps it is the act of tapping the brakes that triggers my remorse. This is exactly where I sat on Friday when I heard the news of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I was sitting in the driver’s seat when I mistakenly decided not to discuss this news with my son.

Turning off the car radio and wiping the tears from my face with my sweatshirt sleeve, I inched forward in the carpool line. When he closed the car door behind him and tugged his seatbelt into place, I asked the same question that I ask every afternoon: “How was your day today?” Five words. Then I listened intently as he answered, glancing in the rearview mirror, memorizing his animated expression, making a deliberate choice to attempt to shield him from the horrific story I’d heard before he got into the car. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 18 2012

Talking to My Kids About the Holocaust

By at 3:02 pm

Tomorrow, March 19th, is Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. It’s never easy to talk about the Holocaust with your kids, but here is one mother’s attempt:

The five of us were walking to temple for the Purim megillah reading last month, when my husband made an off-handed reference to two out of three Jews in Europe being “gone.”

“Gone?” my 8-year-old, who has a gift for not hearing commands to clean his room when you are standing right in front of him, but suddenly develops bat-ears when you are looking away and not talking to him at all, wanted to know. “Where did they go?”

My husband and I exchanged looks, wondering what to say, when my 5-year-old daughter piped up, “Was it Pittsburgh?” (My brother moved to Pittsburgh a year ago.)

“Yes,” my husband said slowly. “Two out of three Jews of Europe moved to Pittsburgh.”

We promptly changed the subject. By that point, the kids had moved onto thinking about groggers and hamantashen, anyway. But, my husband and I realized that maybe it was finally time to have The Talk. Read the rest of this entry →

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