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 →
Sep 17 2013
During Yom Kippur, like many of you, I sat and stood for hours in synagogue, the change in posture serving as punctuation for my thoughts. As the sun crossed the sky, I thought about the person I had been for the past year, and was upset by all the ways in which I’d come up woefully short.
Over the course of Yom Kippur, the machzor guides us through feelings of awe and wonder, humility and agency, grief and hope. In contrast to God’s strength and power, we are, in the words of the Unetaneh Tokef, “a broken shard, grass that withers, a fading flower, a passing shade, a dissipating cloud, a blowing wind, flying dust, and a dream that vanishes.” Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 13 2013
Like many other parents of toddlers, I spend a lot of time teaching my 3-year-old daughter to apologize. She is taught to apologize when she doesn’t listen, or when she doesn’t cooperate, or when she is screaming for no reason, or when she wakes her little sister. I’ve put her in time out and made her apologize for spitting, for hitting, for pushing her sister, for refusing to share, for refusing to brush her teeth, for refusing to use the potty, and for refusing to take a bath.
My wife and I spend a lot of time discussing the things our eldest daughter does wrong and we try to make sure she understands how she has erred and explain to her how to behave properly the next time a similar conflict arises. “Use your words,” we often tell her. “Share your toys,” “be cooperative,” and “be gentle” are other common pieces of advice she receives. And we hope that this process has an impact.
So, what I am saying is that, for a toddler, every day is Yom Kippur. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 12 2013
On Yom Kippur, we stand in our respective congregations and recite the Vidui, a confession of a litany of sins for which we claim collective responsibility. We do this as a group, I remember being told as a child, so that no one has to confess, “I murdered,” alone, and also so that we realize our collective responsibility as a community for one another’s actions.
At Kveller, we have created a congregation and family of parents, readers, writers, communicators, and Jews. We share our stories with one another. We kindle friendships virtually and actually between one another.
Our paths to parenting are very different, as are our outlooks on how to best parent our children. And yet this is a community of respect–all too rare a thing in the Internet era–in which we share our opinions openly and thoughtfully, and throw ideas rather than insults at one another. Read the rest of this entry →
My 10-year wedding anniversary happens to fall on the most sacred Jewish holiday–Yom Kippur, a.k.a the Day of Atonement.
It’s a day when even non-observant Jews feel enough fear and guilt (passed along through thousands of years of D.N.A and bed-time stories) to polish their dress shoes and head to shul.
When I broke the news of the calendar coincidence to my husband Dan, he was giving our 4-year-old daughter a bath.
“Our anniversary is on Yom Kippur this year,” I told him. The bizarreness of the situation made me almost gleeful in the telling.
“Can’t we celebrate another day?” he asked.
“But our anniversary isn’t on another day. It’s September 14,” I said. Read the rest of this entry →
Young children aren’t always so angelic.
I have always loved the idea that on Yom Kippur, we become like angels. Maybe because it appeals to the optimist in me–rather than thinking about how hard the day is because we can’t eat, I prefer to think about how beautiful it is that on this day we ascend to the spiritual levels of angels who do not need to sustain themselves with food and drink. On this one day of the year, we dress in white and remove the trappings of physicality to focus on our inner essence.
Yet the words “angelic” and “young children” are not ones that usually go together (and if they are, my first instinct is to believe that the parent who describes their offspring as such is simply having sleep-deprived hallucinations). While in my pre-child life, I spent most of Yom Kippur in synagogue, reflecting on the past year, thinking about how I could be a better person in the coming year, and striving to be angel-like, in my post-child life this is simply not a realistic option. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 11 2013
I am sitting here in front of a computer. It is late. There is a half eaten bag of chocolate chips in front of me. It is the period of time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that is supposed to be about reflection and introspection. And instead it has already become a race against time, from one holiday to the next, half cleaned platters on the counter from last week’s holiday dinner, unfilled suitcases to prepare for next week’s trip out of town for Kol Nidre schedules, classes, activities, appointments, life keeps churning.
I am not feeling very introspective. It is as if within mere minutes of walking out of that synagogue where I literally stood before God and beat my chest and begged a pardon for all the crap I’ve pulled over the past year, I walked out and just reset myself as if nothing had changed. I hadn’t changed. I was completely flawed and frazzled as I was when I walked in. Read the rest of this entry →
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 →
Sep 27 2012
I remember Yom Kippur without kids, back in the day when you just worried about where you would eat before and after the holiday. Suffice it to say that Yom Kippur with kids is a struggle–it’s tough to make it contemplative and meaningful. Sometimes it is even tough to make it at all. Please, allow me to take you through my Yom Kippur of Chaos.
You see, we belong to two synagogues, one of them close to our home in New Jersey and the other in New York. We both love the High Holiday services for the shul we belong to in New York: the music, the attentiveness of the congregants, the active participation of the crowd are all unrivalled, and impart beautiful spirituality. So we go there for High Holidays each year. Hey, I know some fellow suburbanites who go into “the city” for a doctor. Consider this a religious checkup. But that being said, it does mean compromises–like having a 26-27 hour fast. Good times. Read the rest of this entry →