Yes, and….

January 9th, 2018

This blog post is dedicated to – or more accurately inspired by – Ruti Mizrachi and Debbie Hirsch.

Many years ago I studied in Theater School. We did a lot of improv, and one of the many improv principles we worked with was called “yes, and.” In improv, it means you take the lead from what someone else in the scene says and run with it, you don’t reject it or shut it down. That would kill a scene and doesn’t move the action forward.

For example, if your fellow actor said “You are a cow”, the appropriate response would be to say “moo”, and perhaps kick them, but not to say “I am not! I am a person, that’s ridiculous!”. That just reminds the audience that it’s all make believe and silly and that spoils the fun for everyone.

As one of my wise friend-teachers reminded me this past year, however, all principles in improv translate into life, including “Yes, and.” We can reject or shut down a person’s flow, idea, sentiment or opinion, or, we can choose to embrace it even as we shift the tone into something that better suits our own style.

“Yes, darling, we could have waffles with lots of syrup and ice cream for dinner….. Or we could have healthy lasagna and make a waffle and ice cream party for dessert on Sat. night. Wouldn’t that be fun?”

I was recently included in an exhibit in our local community center of “Female Professionalism.” There are 12 “female professionals” included, each interviewed, profiled and photographed. The point of the exhibit is to demonstrate the artists’ understanding of what each of these 12 women bring to our chosen careers, specifically as women. They featured 12 different qualities, expressed as icons, and chose 3-4 to place alongside the photos of each subject, based on her story and personality.  I didn’t know which of the 12 they had chosen to put next to my name until the opening of the exhibit. The names of them are each in Hebrew. One of the icons next to my photo can best be translated as… “Yes, and.” I don’t remember the precise phrasing in Hebrew, but it translates loosely into “saying yes and then figuring it out afterwards.”

Just as you learn a new word and suddenly see it everywhere, I find that when I learn something new about myself,  I suddenly see its manifestation every day, around every corner. And while I no longer participate in Improv, I guess the principle has stuck with me.

Today, a colleague gently, kindly and humorously pointed out a mistake I had made in Hebrew. In a professional message. To everyone I work with. He waited until it wasn’t in the moment and was soooo careful not to embarass me. It was good he corrected me, but the usage was ghastly enough that I am fairly certain this won’t be the mistake I make in the future!

My coworking space is located in a building with a beautiful gym on the floor below us. And this past week there were some problems with the hot water in what are usually the best showers in Gush Etzion (towels provided!) I wrote to everyone warning them that there were problems with the hot water that are being worked on. So for the next few days it would be advisable to check the water in our kitchen tap before relying on the hot water “below.” Only if you spell “below” with a tav instead of tet, it actually says “to  (or for) death. As in: “You should check the water in our kitchen tap before relying on the death showers.” I am certainly in the wrong tribe to be making that particular mistake!!!! Everyone else clearly knew what I meant, but it still makes me laugh at myself just to think about it.

My well meaning colleague handled it just right, but you might think today is the day I would feel least confident about my “always an olah” Hebrew….

Not an hour later, the Vice-Principal of one of my sons’ Yeshiva high school called me. In Hebrew. Now is the intense time of year when bewildered and busy parents try to figure out the “perfect” high school for their son. (The girls’ schools will start their own intensity very soon.) This process includes evenings at each school to hear from the administration, sometimes students, sometimes teachers, and sometimes parents, about what makes that particular high school unique. The Rabbi wanted to know if I would agree to speak at my sons’ school  in a number of hours to prospective parents. “Just for a few minutes.”

I said yes. I don’t think I said “Yes, and…”, in fact I don’t think I did much thinking. I LOVE the school for them, they are happy, I want to show the administration how much I appreciate them, and I hope my sons will be proud. So yes. I have to laugh at myself that I didn’t even stop to consider that I had just been schooled on my own or horrific or morbidly humorous Hebrew mistake, depending on your view.

I was slightly tempered by my son asking “You are going to speak at our school in Hebrew?!?!?!??”

But it was only as I watched the second hundred parents  – Israeli parents – file into the cavernous Beit Midrash of the High School that I had understood what I had done. I instantly got incredibly nervous and I thought that my heartbeat might be drowning out the Principal as he spoke before me.

I only spoke for five minutes. Tops. I didn’t use any spectacular vocabulary, and I didn’t make any major faux pas – that I have yet to be told about. I think the Yeshiva wanted to let English-speaking parents know that we are a big part of the school (we are) without switching to English, and I think they weren’t interested in a lofty speech. They wanted parents to see that the school has a heart and that it can make this old bird get gushy just talking about it in her second language in a room full of strangers in just five minutes. Which it can, and it did.

I hope the school is happy. Many parents thanked me, said it was “emotional” (less than five minutes, I mean it.) and had lots of questions, hoping I could help them with the herculean task of intuiting which school is the perfect fit for their unique child.

But I showed myself that I could do it, and the same incredulous son who asked if I would be speaking in Hebrew?!?!?! ended my evening telling me that he was really proud that I spoke at his school tonight. So I don’t know if I got the Hebrew completely right, but I do know that I demonstrated for my teenagers –  without theater classes – that there is a power in “Yes, and……”

 

Related Reading:

It’s 8:30….

March 11th, 2015

It’s 8:30 and the house is quiet.clock

All of the little people in my house are tucked in bed, asleep, or on their way.

There is mess all around me, the whirlwind that was the past three hours, but I don’t mind. I can clean it up leisurely, at my pace, in quiet.

Quiet.

This reminds me of days past, when I had children ages 5, 4, 4, 2… and a newborn. I would live for 8:30, surviving getting through 5 pm, knowing that if I just stayed patient, dealt with it all, that eventually 8:30 would come.

And it would be quiet.

It’s different now; this 8:30 is just the calm before the second storm. A high schooler at a late night school program. Three boys playing baseball hours away. They will all come home at 10:30 and want food, attention and love. Adrenaline making it impossible to shuffle them off to bed at a reasonable hour. They may just tuck me in.

I miss the quiet solitude of 8:30. Most nights it is a hive of noise and activity until I finally say “enough”. They still go to bed before me, but just by minutes.

I know that there will be a time in the not-so-distant future when 8:30 will be quiet again.

Quiet.

Quiet with no storm to follow….

But I know I won’t find it nearly as blissful as I do now.

Related Reading:

If you are taking out time from your busy Pesach prep to read this, well, I am honored.

It seems that our family ends up with all kinds of interesting hospital visits around Pesach time. I don’t think it is a coincidence. Springtime + school vacation can equal broken legs, noses, bumps, scrapes, etc….. not to mention the fact that 6/8 of our children are Pesach babies! Thank G-d, so far this year all are healthy in our home this year, ptfu ptfu; so far, so good.

My son went for an MRI last night. This is not due to some recent malady, but rather a stubborn pitcher’s elbow that doesn’t seem to want to go away. The prescribed treatments so far haven’t seemed to work. He has been eager to have the MRI, and impatient with the process that is Israel’s socialized medicine. The MRI for him symbolizes our increasing attention and management of his problem, taking it seriously, and an intensified effort to get whatever treatment is going to help him make it “to the majors” in baseball someday.

baseballboys

 

 

 

 

 

There were two noteworthy aspects to the MRI. The first is that it was scheduled for 6.30 pm and happened closer to 11 pm. Not noteworthy at all, but sadly typical, right?  The administrator at the hospital in the MRI department called us four separate times, each to alert us of the delay and to tell us to come later (and later, and later) to spare our waiting around in the hospital.  A true Pesach miracle:  the hospital went out of their way to be sensitive to us and reduce our wait time!  What I love most about this is that the first time I told this kind man on the other line how busy we are getting ready for the holiday and how much I appreciated the heads up, so he took it upon himself to keep updating me. That Pesach informs hospital procedure is one of those little “only in Israel” moments that just never get old in this amazing country. 

My son was shocked to learn that the procedure wasn’t simple, and that the IV he had to have for it hurt. He wasn’t being treated, and he had been looking forward to getting more information about his injury and closer to recovery. So to find out it was going to be annoying and painful was a big shock. He was upset, uncomfortable and scared. I did what I could to reassure him, and now that it is over, he is relieved and smiling (although exhausted).

But I see in this a true Pesach lesson, and the MRI is going to be my “teachable moment” at the Seder this year.

Very often in life when Hashem gives us something wonderful and special, we have to experience a great deal of discomfort first. Childbirth is an example that naturally comes to mind for me. But it is true for many other times in life too. For some, an excrutiatingly difficult divorce is the necessary pain before finding the love of one’s life, and many years of marital bliss. I had to have a procedure on my toe this week (you don’t want the details, I promise), and it hurt so much to have it done that I put it off for at least a month. And after a month of suffering and one day of pain, everything feels great now. The process can be true for a move, getting a PhD, or losing weight.

To heal, we often go through a great deal of pain, and it has to get worse before it gets better. I don’t know if the reason is, as the Rabbis teach us, that we need difficult transitions to strengthen us enough to cope with a new reality. Or if it is a test and then a reward. Or, if it is simply the truism that change means coming out of ones “comfort zone”  – and doing that is almost always painful. It is probably all three.

Leaving Egypt was painful and difficult. We weren’t zapped and then just left. We had to learn mitzvot, follow commands, get out of our slave mentality, stand up to our former masters, pack up in a hurry and run away (I can’t even pack up my kids quickly to run to the corner store, never mind out into the desert) .. and then choose between what must have seemed like certain death by drowning or certain death by oncoming Egyptians.

vintage-cleaningLehavdil*, sometimes preparation for the Seder and the holiday is painful and difficult. I hope it isn’t for you! But Hashem is there in the pain, in the transitions. Our natural world is constructed that way to help us learn about our spiritual world. I think that leil haseder is about choosing to relive the pain and the transition of yetziat mitrayim in order to better appreciate the redemption and healing that followed. I think this is obvious to most, but I wonder if the MRI’s, toe procedures and childbirths in our lives can help us truly empathize and experience that process on an emotional level. 

Chag Kasher v’Sameach. May you have an uplifting and transformational Pesach. 

 

*Lehavdil is an expression that is hard to translate. My best effort is to say “Similarly, but of course not the same!”

Related Reading:

Baby #8

March 31st, 2014

I have had some interest from Kveller to possibly blog there. Which is a big honor. Since I currently don’t have time to blog here, I assume taking that on just now would be a supremely bad idea.  It’s nice to be asked… maybe one day.  Kveller asked me to submit a sample piece, perhaps on how the 8th child is different.

The answer is, of course, that they are all different. Bringing a baby home to no children is just as unique a circumstance as bringing home a baby to four children (under the age of 5) or bringing home a baby to a house full of pre-teens that talk back and lecture you. I didn’t say they were all the same, I said they are all consistently unique.

… But when it is baby #8, one stark difference is that Ima is only sitting down now that he is 4 months old (!!!)  (coincidentally when I should be Pesach cleaning and  not procrastinating) to finally explain the baby’s name, Yehuda Chaim.

Rav Chaim Lifshitz, z”l, was a tzaddik, and an important Rav and teacher in my husband’s life.  He passed away last year. He was a brilliant man, studied directly with Piaget, and was a renowned handwriting analyst who had questions sent to him from around the world. He was also the father of our Rav,  about whom I have written here. I never met him personally, which is quite sad.  But he read our handwriting while we were dating and was astonishingly accurate in terms of how and why we would be a good match and what our primary challenge would be if we got married.

I am blessed that the majority of our small family’s members that would have a baby named for them have been memorialized by family already, or are alive and well.  Remembering Rav Lifshitz in this way was important to my husband, so this is what we did. We were honored to have his son, our Rav, present at the brit milah to talk about his father and his amazing qualities.

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I knew I was having a Chanukah baby, and a boy. I still didn’t think Matityahu was a good idea. Looooots of name for a very tiny person.

Yehuda was also a Maccabee, and that was one reason I thought of naming this little boy Yehuda. And that was before I knew he would be a headstrong and fierce fighter even during pregnancy and delivery.

The real reason I was set on Yehuda comes from Leah’s words in the Torah when her 4th son is born. She says “HaPaam Odeh Li Et Hashem” (Parashat Vayetze). It says directly in the Torah that this is the reason she named him Yehuda. Rashi explains to us that Leah knew that Yaacov was to have 12 sons who would become the 12 tribes, and therefore the future of Israel. She also knew Yaacov had 4 wives. Doing the math (apparently Leah was taught math ) she reasoned that her fourth son meant she got more than her “fair share” of Yaacov’s legacy.

I don’t think Leah felt like she got much of any fair share in the marriage/love department. But when it came to having kids, she recognized blessing – the special blessing that feels like it goes beyond destiny, or logic, or even-handedness by the creator. Just a blessing. So his name expressed her gratitude.

In some irrational recesses of my brain and heart, I used to feel at many times that I was blessed with easy fertility and a stepson and such a house-full of children as some time of “consolation” for the twelve hard years I had to be exiled from Israel and living in New Jersey.

No, I am not comparing Leah’s “My husband meant to marry my sister not me and now I have to live with him adoring her as his new wife” hard to my “Stuck in suburbia with a Target 10 minutes away” hard. Everyone’s hard is different, and for me, twelve years forced to live outside of Israel because of a decision my husband’s ex wife made was hard.

We finally came home, returned to Israel, and chose to settle in our favorite place outside of Jerusalem’s Old City Walls, which is the hills of Judea, “Harei Yehuda“. This place means so much to me. The hills of “Yehuda” are an ever present gift outside my window, one I appreciate ten-fold precisely because of the time I couldn’t be here. 

After being blessed with our return, I feel “dayenu moments”, as we refer to them, every single week, if not every day. Singular moments that in and of themselves would each be enough to say “dayenu” – to make all of the struggles of aliyah – twice – totally worth it, just for that one moment.

So when we finally made it home, and the kids are finally settling into life here, and I can finally feel like we are really here, really home…. Hashem blessed us with another healthy, happy baby. And he feels like that “extra portion” that was just a gift from Hashem. Of course they are all gifts. Yet, at 41, with a full house, my youngest already 5 1/2 and a busy, heaping full plate of noise and hugs and love and mess and holy holy chaos… “Hapam Odeh li at Hashem”.

This time is just “Thank you”… hence, the name “Yehuda“.

The Judean Hills, or “Harei Yehuda”

 

 

 

 

Related Reading:

The customer is always right. We all already know that.

When it isn’t so clear that one party is a “customer” however, it can sometimes get muddy.

Earlier this year I had a meeting at my son’s school. He was the victim of violence in his class. He wasn’t hurt seriously, but he was ganged up on by 10-15 kids TO ONE. Yes, 15-1. On the new kid, the new oleh. When I went into that meeting I thought that I was remarkably calm. I didn’t drag 15 other adults with me to gang up on the staff. I sat respectfully in my chair, and I heard the school out. They said they were sorry………………………… but.

But, they aren’t a private school and they can’t pick and choose who is there.

But, they didn’t know he was having any issues with anyone in his class because he doesn’t complain to them.

But, they didn’t hear from us in the weeks leading up to the incident when there had been verbal taunting.

And you know what? All of those “buts” are true. And that didn’t make one spot of difference to me.

I only heard one thing:

THIS IS AS MUCH YOUR FAULT AS OURS. WE ARE NOT REALLY TAKING RESPONSIBILITY, WE ARE JUST APOLOGIZING TO FIX THIS, TO MAKE IT GO AWAY. THIS IS AS MUCH YOUR FAULT AS OURS.

I recently had to deal with a very disgruntled “customer” who felt very wronged. I then had to deal with a very disgruntled staff member who felt that this was truly not all their fault and proceeded to take partial responsibility and apologize to the “customer”…… but.

And that is what upset the “customer” the most.

Why the quotation marks? In the non-profit world, it is not always easy to know who is a customer.A service recipient? (they aren’t paying for goods or services) A donor? (neither are they) A participant? (sometimes they paid, sometimes they didn’t) A participant’s parents? (sometimes they paid and didn’t receive a service) What about a volunteer?

It is my personal approach that the answer is “all of the above”. Especially in the non-profit world, the “customer experience” includes just about everyone who comes in contact with your staff. A positive emotional response to what you do is your primary goal, results in increased membership, donors, participation, etc.

It isn’t always possible, to treat everyone with stellar customer service, or to tell everyone that they are always right, but it certainly is an ideal.

I think the same is true at home. Who is the customer, so to speak? Your spouse? Your parents? Your kids? We all know that everyone would prefer being spoken to nicely. We all know that a happy home makes everyone want to be there more, visit more, give more.

But what if someone is upset at you and you are just 100% certain that it isn’t all your fault? What if you know that if  only THEY had let you get enough sleep, or done their job properly, or come home on time, or stopped using the computer or…. then you would have just been the mother/wife/sister/friend of the year?

I think we all want unequivocal apologies. At work, at play, at home. If you think you could have done better, then say it. No qualifications. For most adults, this isn’t showing unrealistic weakness. Even if one can’t recognize it in the heat of the moment, most of us know that the other person with whom we are upset would have done better if we had let you get sleep or had come home on time or had done our job properly or….

I am sorry and will try do to better or differently is often much harder than it sounds. It is our honor and self image at stake, after all. As if it were ever really about us.

But doesn’t that unequivocal apology make you feel better when you are upset?

I have been on such a long, long hiatus from this blog, and I am hoping this marks the beginning of the end.

I am sorry, and I will try to do better.   :  )

Related Reading:

I haven’t had a lot of time to blog lately. I haven’t had a lot of time to blog since I decided to move across the world with six kids. Then deciding that taking a job outside of the house, albeit half-time, sort of put the nail in the blog coffin.

I am making some changes in my life over the next few months and hope that with some much-needed balance will come some specks of time for writing. Stay tuned.

Someone I do not know, who has never commented here, made a kind comment about my blog. But he also said that he would love to hear my journey, not just stories. And he is right. I haven’t done that. Mostly because I have yet to ever feel like I have “arrived” anywhere on the journey. I feel like it is hard to tell the story when I am still in the middle of it.  That is how a blog works, though, isn’t it? So I have to do that, and am making the commitment to it right now.

Today, however, is not the day I am going to tell you my journey. I have written much about my love affair with Israel, with the intense joy that I feel about being here. And I do feel it – every single day. I get emotional and grateful on a simple drive to work, looking out at the Judean Hills. I don’t see a checkpoint and rush hour traffic. I see the land of my forefathers; I really do. And I hope the naive rose glasses remain there for a long time to come.

But this week? I am sorry. It has just been…. well NOT FUN. Actually, it has been more like a month of health issues all up, down and around my family and I have honestly HAD ENOUGH. I am officially, here and now, crying uncle. Like, we really, really could use a break.

My daughter has some horrible stomach thing that won’t die with the many antibiotics she has taken. We have been to emergency rooms, I have fought with attendings, ordered tests, been completely let down by specialists, and am left with a daughter missing school, tired and frustrated while we keep poking around in the dark for a solution. *

My son has asthma, and Lag Bomer in Israel is not  exactly the very best holiday for an asthmatic. For those of you that don’t know, the national tradition is to light bonfires and stay up late, breathing in the smoke and eating nasty hot dogs and marshmallows, while reports of fire damage come in from around the nation.

Even if I had made my son stay home from the “everyone-is-doing-it-I-get-to-stay-up-late-and-bond-with-my-peers-over-a-bonfire” experience his very first year here, the smoke from the entire country would have caused his flare-up anyway. He hacks, he cries, and I slowly go out of my mind. 

My other son decided he had to go and break a toe.. we must have missed a day at the doctor’s office. He can get around, but was told no sports for three weeks. I am not sure which is worse for his overall mental and physical health; the broken toe or his being cooped up that long. I know which is worse for mine.

My dad has had a minor “thing”, and is now going for more tests. He is fine. He really is. Thank G-d. But the reality is that my parents are getting older and I now live 6,000 miles away. The worrying didn’t help him when I was a 6 hour drive away either, but it always felt like I could hop in a car and run over to see them. With this many kids and responsibilities that sounds funny even as I type it, but it felt like I could. He doesn’t need my care, energy and attention right now like my brood, but the additional worry and distraction just adds to the heap.

I am barely – just barely – making it with the work-aliyah-support the husband-raise-all-of-these-kids plates all spinning in the air.

 

These sick kids are like an angry bird that has swooped in to knock every single one of the plates out of the air. 

 

 

I have friends, family, more family, and more dear friends coming to visit in May. I can’t wait. I want to show them how happy we are here. How settled we are in our new home. How well we are doing, and how I scaled the heights and have mastered starting over at 40…..

 

… I fear that they will arrive and instead all they will see is fallen and smashed plates that were once spinning…. in a heap all over the floor.

 

 

 

*Please don’t write in a comment suggesting something I ought to get my daughter tested for. I know you mean well.  I have heard them all, and yes. We tested for that. I assure you. 

 

 

Related Reading:

Stranger in a strange land…

September 4th, 2012

The only feeling stranger than being a new immigrant here, is being a “new” immigrant  the second time around.

The Israeli term for a citizen that has returned from living abroad is a toshav hozer. Because my husband and I both made aliyah, we are toshavim chozrim, or returning citizens now. However the term usually suggests those born and raised in Israel who choose to live elsewhere for some extended amount of time.

We were olim, we are olim, and in many ways I still feel like an immigrant. Other times this does not feel like aliyah at all, it feels like returning home. How strange to be chetzi chetzi – half and half, right in the middle.

Interestingly, our apartment here in our blissful corner of the Judean Hills is also chetzi chetzi; halfway between the top and the bottom of our apartment complex, and just about halfway between the top and bottom of the whole yishuv.

Yesterday I conquered many minor tasks on my aliyah to do list. I was able to (finally) secure kupat cholim, national health coverage, for my family. This has been my number one priority and has taken many office visits in Jerusalem, lots of paperwork, lots of money and many forms and conversations  — all in Hebrew. I also was able to get a doctor’s exam taken care of as a prerequisite for renewing my Israeli license. Once at the licensing office, I pushed my way past two agressive Israeli Arabs in order to maintain my rightful place in line, and was able to negotiate renewing my my license without having to be retested!  I made my way home from Jerusalem without a car and successful navigated a “tremp” along with the rest of the natives.

So while feeling quite triumphant and Israeli, I returned home to children who were distraught and dumbfounded by being left out and treated aggressively in school. I went to help my son with his homework, encountering expressions I have never heard, and then read my daughter’s note from school that explains that her class will be going on a field trip next week – from 7:30 pm to 2:30 in the morning! What???? After getting over the culture shock of this, I realized that we don’t even have a flashlight, or any of the other equipment listed on the school note.

Most of my children were out of the house at a special program just for new olim that is sponsored completely by the municipality here. They are getting help as new immigrants to adjust and feel welcome and supported. (Hence my ability to blog!) At the same time, my youngest is riding a bike outside with a friend who only speaks Hebrew. They have gotten to know each other well enough in Gan (preschool) that he begged to come over.

We went out to Back To School Night at my 2nd grader’s school in the evening. I understood every word the teachers said, but couldn’t tell what the subject were on the weekly class schedule. I took offense at something a teacher said, but after discussing it with her, I realized that I likely simply misunderstood her meaning because of my immigrant Hebrew. While other parents scribbled in the forms they were asked to fill out, I brought ours home. I won’t need a translator, but I will have to sit with them and figure out what they are asking me.

And of course the parents knew each other, caught up on their summer and talked about their kids with the ease of returning families. We, on the other hand, made an emergency meeting with the teacher who is concerned with my daughter’s angst and struggles with adjusting.

So which are we? I didn’t expect to feel any more Israeli than I do, nor did I expect to feel any less of a new immigrant than I do. Yet despite my trying to maintain realistic expectations, it feels so very, very odd and disconcerting to be neither one or the other. This gives me a new appreciation for people who write of being from two races, or two religions. Does one fit in both worlds, or neither? At times it feels like the former, at times, the latter.

In the end, of course, it doesn’t matter. Not only will my self-definition continually change, but others will always perceive me and my identity as olah/toshav hozer/American/Israeli through their own lenses.

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But this does make me mindful of the transition that is the teshuvah of Elul. Our month is not supposed to merely be one of “being on our best behavior”, but rather it is supposed to be a month of house-cleaning our hearts, minds and souls in a transformative manner. We ask to be forgiven our transgressions because we have striven to be different people than the ones who committed the sins in the first place. We return to the land of our soul, returning home, but different.

And this is the story of this strange phase we are in, in this Land – we have returned home….. but different.

 

Related Reading:

The hard part.

August 24th, 2012

Ask most moms, and my guess is that they will agree that labor is not the hard part of having a baby.

Okay, labor is really hard. It isn’t the hardest part. That is day 3, or 4, or 5.

When you have a baby you have all sorts of drugs (natural as well as perhaps otherwise) in your system from the pain and adrenaline. You are thrilled to be done, G-d willing successful, and no longer pregnant. You have this beautiful baby!

A few days pass, and you come home from the hospital. Your milk comes in, suddenly your baby wants to eat in a serious way – and all of the time. Your hormones kick in. Your husband turns to you and says that work is done cutting him slack and it is time to go back/get serious/work more hours. Your other children decide they have had enough being big and brave and supportive and are ready for some “you need to show me you love me too” attention. All at once. And somehow you realize that your house is a disaster and a week’s worth of laundry has piled up. And this all comes down on you as day 3/4/5 of sleep deprivation makes your coping skills really, really limited.

Am I right?

So this is what this particular phase of our aliyah feels like.

The kids put on a brave, positive face. They made it through camp, and have really made tremendous efforts. But one month without furniture and a whole week home without camp in which to notice is just about enough. School starts soon and the “orientation” meetings didn’t really help, they just brought the reality of starting over in a new language to the forefront. Anxieties are at an all time high. Places of refuge and comfort at “home” are at an all time low.

My husband and I too are done allowing all of the take out food and the ‘getting by’ – we are also anxious for familiarity, routine and doing one thing – anything – that doesn’t take three times as long as it should.

The heat is at its highest and patience is at its lowest.

On day 3/4/5 after having a baby I routinely want to handle the situation by crawling under the covers, ignoring everyone and falling into a deep, blissful sleep for three or four days. I dream of someone else coming along and being the Ima for a day or two, taking care of it all — including me. None of that happens, but the phase does pass.

I find myself craving the same solution here.  And similarly, I usually manage a daily escape into sleep for about 45 minutes instead. It helps.  Now, as then, there is no one else to be the cheerleader and to say “yihiyeh b’seder” (it will all be all right) another one hundred times. There is no one else to make sure I drink enough, sleep enough, eat enough.

There is no other Ima coming along to say “I’m sorry” after every complaint, and the complaints these days are endless.  They are entitled.  This move is asking so much of them.

Everything I learn as an Ima is a tool to help me be wiser in the rest of my life – at least if I am fortunate enough to learn as I should. I know this too shall pass. The time will come when they will tell me I am exaggerating their current woes when I recall them. There is a time that the “aliyah baby” will coo and be adorable and I will forget just how miserable day 3/4/5 was. I know the day will come.

But I gather my strength and endurance to make it through until it does.

 

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I didn’t want to weigh in on the Time Magazine “Are you Mom enough?” cover.  But, alas, I am.

I have heard enough other people talk about it (and talk and talk and talk…) and I am sorry, but I think they are all missing the point.

Some have said “Why pit moms against each other?” with which I definitely agree.  The fact that we let TIME use shock value to exploit any mom and her choices to sell their magazine is indicative of a publishing business run wild and a lack of empowerment of mothers to use our mighty grip on the consumer dollar as we should.

However, I have heard disparaging remarks about stay-at-home mothering, attachment parenting, breastfeeding and…. feminism. What I haven’t heard is the important connection.

In the 1970’s, there were several kibbutzim, or communal farms, in Israel. The policy on the kibbutz was for the children to live in the “children’s house”. While they visited with their own parents, all of the children lived together in one home, an expression of the kibbutz movement’s communist ideal.

Twenty years later, those children of the kibbutz who remained, working the land and continuing the dream, abolished the children’s houses. It wasn’t a decision made en masse through a unified decision, or as a united body. It was a decision made by the mass majority of kibbutzim (kibbutzes) on their own. These children who lived the policy knew that they didn’t want their children to feel like they did. They knew how much they missed living with their parents, so they reverted back to a more traditional, less communist policy on this one issue.

The writer of the article, Kate Pickert, gave an interview afterward in which she stressed that the reason so many women today seem to choose attachment parenting is because of issues that they have from their own childhood.  At least in the video interview (available here she made it sound critical, as if parents who wear their children and breastfeed past 6 months are all “damaged goods” foisting their issues onto their children.

I would argue that the precise opposite is true.  Like the children of the kibbutz in Israel, women (and their husbands) across America know what the feminism of the 70’s took from them, and they want to give it back – to their own children.

family photo from 2001, three children ago.

The decision on the part of a growing number of parents to prioritize bonding time with their children, to be attentive and loving, natural and deliberate may be, in fact, filling a hole in the parents.  But the hole is there because the generation that raised them overemphasized freedom from the punative shackles of nursing and child rearing.  The 70’s told mothers and fathers that they could divorce when ‘it just wasn’t working’, and the kids would be better off. Who is shocked that those children, now adults, are holding their babies tight? The magazines all told women that they could “have it all”  “just like men” and their children would be fine.

They weren’t fine. They want better for their kids. As much as TIME may want to make Dr. Sears into an innovator and a god-like leader of some strange breed of followers, the truth is that Dr. Sears only elucidates child-rearing practices that have existed in hundreds of cultures on every continent for thousands of years. They lasted because they work.

For a true feminism to thrive, it must be honest and self-aware enough to learn from its own mistakes. There must be a way to elevate the importance of all things female in the world, empower women and give us options…. And still prioritize the healthy needs of every developing child.

 

 

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Abba, Are We There Yet?

March 29th, 2012

When my children were younger I felt like I was always playing catch-up, scrambling up the learning curve to meet their needs. Somewhere past toddlerhood I guess I started to feel competent. Surprise, surprise, each of the children followed a similar developmental pattern. Lots of things were predictable. The “terrible twos” weren’t really so terrible. It was nice.

The trouble is that while I started to gain confidence, let down my guard, and even blog about the joys of “phase II” parenting…. the older ones kept growing up, bringing with them a whole new set of complex needs and struggles – ones I didn’t get any proper training to handle.

I remember that almost two years ago I was on the phone with our Rav, second guessing (again) our family size decisions. He cautioned me that I was about to hit a “whole new level of intensity and needs” as my children entered their second decade.  As is so often true with advice, I couldn’t fully relate until it happened.

I know that “big kids, big problems” is a cliche, but I don’t know that this is always true. First, big kids let you sleep at night. Second, older children can often articulate what is going on. It’s a pleasure to receive more feedback than crying vs. not crying and I blunder through.

When I try to wrap my head around the fact that I am already dealing with boy-girl issues, I just can’t. They are just too young! Everyone around me also seems to react that they are “so young”. Then I remind myself of Jimmy M. in the 5th grade. Although oblivious to me and any of my thoughts and feelings, Jimmy caused a blowup with my father about the injustice of only being allowed to date Jewish boys.

It actually didn’t upset me too much that I was expected to date only Jews. It upset me that I was sent to public school in preppy-town, USA, with practically no Jewish population and then told I could only date Jewish boys. Perhaps this was a clever strategy on my father’s part, a means of putting off the inevitable.

But I doubt it. With hindsight, he probably made decisions about moving there when he was still in Phase I of parenting himself, and Phase II snuck up on him sooner than he had suspected as well.  I suppose he couldn’t wrap his head around having boy-girl issues when I was  in 5th grade any more than I can wrap my head around it now.  I bet he had  his first crush around that age himself.  He probably only remembered that as he stood there post-blowup thinking I was too young.

The thing is, we never really get to stop scrambling up the learning curve trying to meet their needs, do we? I am not sure that we would want to. If I ever master meeting their needs, won’t that mean that their lives have stagnated?  If they continue to grow and develop, this will mean an endless series of of new challenges, just like mine. Won’t that be a good thing?

I hope they will continue to grow, and I know that it means that I will have to as well. I also hope that they will continue to need me; seek my advice, solicit my support in the hard times, and welcome my applause in the good. My mother dropped her own life this last month and again last week to help me pack for our anticipated move. A significant evolution from fifth grade romance boundaries, it’s just a different, not lesser, call for help after all of these years.

And I know that they are glad I still call.

… I think all of this is what Hashem (God) wants me to understand of his relationship with me. He wants more than anything for us to continue to have challenges – always new, always harder – that are signs of our ongoing growth and development. Having to cry out to Hashem for help is a sign of both continued relationship and ongoing progress, just as in my relationships as both child and parent.  He really doesn’t want me to be “there yet” and to stop growing… and he really wouldn’t want me not to call.

The key difference is that Hashem doesn’t have to run up the learning curve. He, as the ultimate parent, has already arrived. As for me? I am not there yet, and since I hope for my children to keep being challenged and therefore challenging me, I am pretty sure I never will be.

 

 


 

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