Okay, so this is my version of what I do. It isn’t perfect, but it’s mine. Enjoy. : )
I would love to know what you think; my friends say this works if you have 4 or more kids… If you want the link to a template to make your own, it’s here!
Next, I want to work on a “Stepmother” one…..
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I am on my way to a five day vacation with three women I know from elementary and middle school. We come from very diverse backgrounds and have chosen very different paths in life. Our lives and get together could probably qualify for some mid-life chick flick.
The vacation is a reunion for all of us. But what other functions this excursion has for each of us is as different as the rest of our lives.
I have a year of overwhelming commitments. I wanted to go back to work full time despite the challenge of juggling that with so many children to care for. I got what I wanted, but the price has been little time for reflection, contemplation – blogging – and going forward with my customary “strategy building” intentionality. I like to run my household by reflecting on how things are going, assessing what I would like to see continue / change, and modifying my own strategy and attitude. By committing my every waking minute, I have left myself no room for this part of my being – this crucial aspect of mothering. It is exhausting, and I can see that my family is paying the price.
I know this trip away from my family is as good for them as it is for me beyond the cliché platitude. Yes, of course a rested and relaxed Ima is a better one. But like any corporate retreat, the simple QUIET of my first hour on the airplane has given me more chance for reflection than the last six months of chaos.
I know it will be incredible to catch up with old friends, and hear how the story of their lives have been unfolding. But I also can’t wait to just catch up with myself.
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I wanted to share with you the words I said to my daughter upon her becoming a bat mitzvah. I have not forgotten nor moved on from the situation in Nachlaot, and I hope to have updates in the future.
I learned something very powerful through the experience of making my daughter’s bat mitzvah; the fact that should be obvious, that she is “frum from birth”. Having chosen a life of Torah and mitzvot, this difference between us was never so apparent or relevant for me until the mitzvot became hers as well.
I am hoping to hear some comments and reactions to her choice to sing in front of women only; but that would mean you have to read through the whole thing. : )
I hope you will find some meaning in it for you:
Welcome everyone. We are so happy that you could be here to celebrate this milestone in Michal’s life with us.
Michal is my daughter, my student, my friend, and definitely my teacher. Learning how to parent Michal has made me a better person, and I thank her so much for her patience while I learn! I am so grateful for the wisdom of Hakodesh Baruch, our holy Creator, in the matchmaking he does between children and parents. She is my extraordinary gift, and my tremendous obligation and responsibility.
Michal chose the theme of butterflies for her bat mitzvah. If you look, you will notice them with the crafts, on the centerpieces, in her scrapbook and even in her hair.
I think it is so fitting that she chose this for her theme. Butterflies look delicate, but in order to fly, they actually must be very strong… just like someone I know.
They also go through a metamorphosis. Since Michal decided at three years old she was going to be a herpetologist, she learned the concept of metamorphosis then. Becoming a bat mitzvah is also a metamorphosis.
My wise father once told me that when he was asked if he was ready to become a grandfather, he answered that he would be ready the minute he became one. I believe this is the process we all go through at different stages in our lives. We can prepare as much as we like, but experiencing it is the only way we truly get there.
When a butterfly breaks out of its chrysalis it must work painfully hard. I was once taught that if one were to watch a butterfly during this excruciating work, one would be so inclined to have pity on the poor creature, and help crack it open, aiding their escape. If we did, however, we would be killing the butterfly. Only through the effort and perserverance, does the butterfly develop the wing strength to fly and survive.
So too as parents, it is sometimes hard to allow our children to break free themselves, and to develop the strength and tools that they need to fly. Michal, you are developing so much strength, every day, and I will always – ALWAYS – be here to talk with, to help you, to love you. This immense metamorphosis into an adult member of G-d’s people is truly cause for celebration. It will not always be easy, and it will not always be fun. I cannot always remove the challenges. But you will never, ever be alone.
As most of you sitting here know, Michal has many gifts, and many talents.
Reb Zushe of Annipoli, who taught:
“Our Sages have said, ‘Just as their faces are different, so too are their thoughts different’ (Brochos 58a). There exist on earth millions of people, and they all have the same basic features on their faces: two eyes, a nose, and a mouth. Nonetheless, no two people look alike. Similarly, if the outward appearances of people are so diverse, then how great must be the differences in their inner workings, the qualities of their souls, and their natures. If the beauty of the soul in all humans was identical, then why would Hashem need to create so many millions of people, where each one is no different from the next?
The secret is this: Each person is sent down to this world in order to fulfill a specific Divine task, to carry out on earth a lofty, heavenly purpose. This is the mission of human beings on earth; moreover, for as many people as Hashem sends down to earth, He has just as many different tasks and purposes. The work of one person is totally independent of the task of any other person, and each one must carry through and complete his or her given purpose. Therefore, Hashem endows each person with unique talents and attributes necessary for him to fulfill his task. These talents cry out within each person, demanding to be expressed and to fulfill the mission for which they were sent to this world.”
When most people think of Michal, they immediately think of how much she loves to … read. But the secret is, it isn’t really the reading itself that she loves so much. Like a butterfly, Michal is flying off to other places and times. This journey into the imagination and sparking of her intellect while satisfying her adventurous spirit is the real reason she sits with books for hours.
But Michal also has a very special talent with young children. When she was born, I insisted we give her a middle name. This was to avoid her feeling jealous of the many other children we did not yet have, all of whom would have middle names. I chose Sarah, in the hopes that Hashem would bless us with many more children, and would also bless us with Michal becoming a “little matriarch” to help with the brood. And I think Hashem listened. Michal’s ability to engage small children and to bring them into the world of imagination she so often flies off to is a gift I hope she will continue to cultivate. Michal, may it be one of the unique ways in which you serve Hashem throughout your lifetime.
Michal’s first name is after my grandfather, Michel, my mother’s father. He had the most wonderful gift of making each person, regardless of their age, religion, abilities or circumstance feel like a mensch. Connecting to people of different ages I believe is the greatest gift Michal has received from her namesake. The friendships Michal has forged with adults is partially due to her recognition of the extraordinary in other people, and partially an internalization of the commandment to love every fellow Jew. Michal, may you continue to excel in the mitzvah “v’ahavta l’reecha kamocha” and to be an ongoing aliyah (raising up) of your namesake great grandfather’s neshama (soul).
As only some of you know, Michal has another unique and special gift. That is the love of singing and music. Praise of Hashem through music is chronicled throughout Jewish history from the Torah until today. Michal has chosen as part of her gratitude to Hashem for bringing her to this day to sing a few songs, including some she has written herself.
Part of the process of becoming a bat mitzvah is a heightened awareness of gender separation and the role our femininity can play in our serving G-d. For us, as Orthodox Jews, this means celebrating all that is within a woman’s realm, but recognizing the power within as well. Our laws of modesty are in place because of the immense power a woman can have on the focus of Klal Yisroel. For many, these laws of modesty include a woman singing alone. This is why Michal will be singing for an exclusively female audience.
When I am (finally) done speaking, we are going to kindly request that all of the males present with us today join my husband for a brief Mincha service. I am happy to explain this more one on one, but I would encourage all of them men to direct those questions to my husband at the end of Mincha, so he can field them instead of me!
Michal I bless you to always lean on those that love you, to always face that which confounds you with a commitment to learn and study more, to always love your yiddishkeit and Hashem as much as you do today, and that you always, always remain aware of the spark of Elohut –the special piece of Godliness – that exists within you, and that you connect to that Heavenly spark in order to fulfill the unique divine mission for which you were sent to this world.
I love you.
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I have been very fortunate to be writing lately of frivolities, indulgences, and good news. I am so grateful for all of the good in my life these days.
But I am also crying. I have been crying a great deal over this particular tragedy, which is tragic on just so many levels…. The neighborhood of Nachlaot, one of Jerusalem’s oldest, has been broken – destroyed. The people who live there – members of our one Jewish family – have been attacked, ruthlessly, for years.
The children EVERYONE who lives there, is in constant fear.
Except for the terrorists.
There is a ring of at least 10 adult male pedophiles who have been terrorizing the neighborhood of Nachlaot. They are clothed in religious clothing and have been attending local synagogues as upstanding ovdei Hashem. And only 3 of the ten have even been arrested. The situation is a nightmare.
I don’t know where to focus my anger, sadness and outrage because there is just so much wrong with this story:
1. The police made a statement on the TV news in Israel in Wednesday that “there is an investigation underway and a police presence in the neighborhood and the families are satisfied.” This is a scandal, a lie, a sheer cover up. The ringleader of the ten – many of whom he recruited – is walking free. The police have thrown out the testimony of scores of children as “unusable” because the investigators themselves couldn’t get around to acquiring their statements fast enough. Children who were told that if they were brave and told the truth would see the bad guys taken care of by the trusted authorities now see the police doing little to nothing, and their rapists walking free, sharing their kiosk and daily bus.
2. There are not enough Haredi therapists qualified to treat the dozens (probably more than 100) children in their sector that have been terrorized. Their parents understandably want therapy for their children from a Haredi therapist. So children are going without treatment. On Wednesday’s channel 10 news report an anonymous Haredi parent said he did not ask his children if they are among the victims. His claim on TV is that his RABBI TOLD HIM NOT TO ASK HIS CHILDREN. I don’t even know what to say. **Note: Please read Chavi’s comments below that this was a distortion by the television news, and has more of an explanation, of course. A tragic, but logical explanation
3. There isn’t enough money in the world to put the staff on this case that is necessary. There aren’t enough investigators trained to take statements from children. So the statements aren’t all being taken.
4. There are very consistent accounts from many children that siblings were forced to watch the molestation and rape of their siblings, and that the sex acts were filmed. NO FILM HAS BEEN RETRIEVED AT ALL. While private investigators could be very helpful in this case, it costs money.
5. Parents do not feel safe allowing their children out at all. Yet they must run from therapy to therapy to treat their children, if they are in fact getting treatment. How they can be in so many places at once – and of course not getting the therapy for themselves that they need – is just beyond me.
6. The silent victims are the ones that scare me the most. Who knows how many children can’t, won’t, admit what has been done to them? Each of these children, those who have bravely spoken out and those that have not will grow up with all of the scars of this horrible nightmare:
- The scars of being raped
- The scars of watching the violation of others
- The scars of not being believed or heard
- The scars of being betrayed by the police, their government, their rabbis, their community
- The scars of being betrayed by Klal Yisroel.
The city has (finally) admitted that there is a real crisis here and they don’t have the resources, training, manpower or no how to address it properly. This must be fixed. We owe these children, these families, nothing less.
“Kol Areivim Ze L’Zeh“. We are all responsible for one another. Every Jew is a cell in one Jewish body that acts to serve G-d. And yet this part of our body is screaming, terrorized, broken, betrayed. And where is Klal Yisrael??? Where is the outcry and support from the Rabbis? The community? The Jewish Human Rights Activists?
Who in the Diaspora KNOWS about this?
Chana Jenny Weisberg at Jewishmom.com has done a HEROIC job of publicizing this horrific tragedy, but since it is her community she has paid a price. And she has been mostly alone in her efforts. I am so grateful for her letting me know and giving me an opportunity to pray and cry with the mothers and children of Nachlaot.
But we can do better. WE MUST DO BETTER.
I know there is a lot of press right now about Beit Shemesh and the tensions between religious and non religious groups in Israel. I hope this sinat chinam is not related to this horrible suffering we are seeing. But regardless, this is our chance to show some unity and help poor innocent children, religious and non-religious who have all been hurt.
We simply must act.
Kol Areivim Ze L’Zeh. We will be held accountable for our silence on this matter, and it makes me tremble, quite honestly. I worry about these children as adults. How their untreated trauma and terror can create Jews who hate the world, hate Israel, hate Hashem, G-d forbid. G-d forbid, it can create future victims, according to research.
I hope this bleak and poorly written blog post makes you upset. And I hope it empowers you to help.
There is a lot that YOU can do:
1. MAKE A DONATION. There is so much need, both in terms of resources to help these families, as well as to fight the battle properly in court. (Assuming they can get an arrest of the known perpetrators). These children will obviously need YEARS of therapy and assistance. Their souls, their minds, their well being are the collective responsibility of the Jewish people and right now they are broken. Destroyed. I hope to see their future participation in the type of camps and retreats set up for other terror victims, such as the work at One Family Fund. I hope they read this, and make an inclusion for this horrible type of terror victim.
Click here to make your donation to the Nachlaot Pedophile Crisis Fund:
2. Letters can be sent to these children to let them know that they are NOT ALONE. That Klal Yisrael loves them, and that most Jews are not the monsters they have experienced. They need love, lots and lots of love. Letters can be sent in Israel to: Children of Nachlaot (or Yaldei Nachlaot) c/o Weisberg Family, Shirizli 11a, Nachlaot, Jerusalem, Israel
In America to: Nachlaot Children, c/o 3 Overton Road, East Windsor, NJ 08520. They will then be sent to Nachlaot. Gifts are welcome too, but please send them directly to Israel.
3. Emails can be sent to the Justice Minister, Yaakov Neeman: Neeman@hfn.co.il. At least one person has had trouble with that address, so you can also send to the Ministry’s Director General: firstname.lastname@example.org. Complaints to the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat can be sent through the form at this link: http://www.jerusalem.muni.il/jer_sys/residentsRequests/requestAccepted.asp?Type_complaint=100.
They are waking up to the extent of the damage, but public pressure and concern will help get the attention and resources where they need to go. It is already too little too late, but we can still make a big difference. Not just to help these victims, but to pressure the administration(s) to make permanent changes so something like this can never happen again.
NOTE: Since the writing of this post, this is finally being discussed by the Knesset. Please see Altea’s comment below. Pressure and attention is still needed, of course. If you can read in Hebrew, or if you use google translate, you can read more here: http://www.jerusalemnet.co.il/article/41031
4. Prayer – this will always help. Join me in letting Hashem know that these are our children too, and that their trauma is our trauma. That Nachlaot is broken, so we are broken.
5. Publicity – please share Jewishmom.com’s articles on this matter with people you know. Share this post. Let people know. Make sure your local Jewish paper is talking about this. Appeal to your Rabbis and leaders to talk about this. Grown Jewish victims of pedophilia around the world will tell you the damage they have been caused by Jewish institutional silence. It is a second rape. We can do better. We must show them that we can and will scream out loud in pain for them over and over until the noise is heard.
6. Volunteer. Altea Steinherz is a local lawyer and hero. She is coordinating volunteers and says she needs anyone who can and will help. You can email her at: email@example.com.
7. Donate. I said this already, but I want to remind you in case you got distracted. I am sorry for not making this story easier to read. I am too upset, and too much time has gone by for these families already.
Please leave me comments to this post, so that I know I am not alone. Because I will keep making noise until I feel like someone out there is hearing me. I hope that happens soon. I also must mention that in addition to her other heroic efforts on this front, Chana Jenny Weisberg raised $4500 for these families. Would that it were enough. Let’s help rebuild Nachlaot.
We, Klal Yisroel, can do better.
Additional resources for information about the situation in Nachlaot include:
Israeli news report from Channel 10
An Aspiring Mekubal
Haaretz (all the way back in October – little has changed since)
My Teacher, The Abuser
A Mother in Israel
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I have seven children. (You might have picked up on that by now.)
Five of them are of one mold. Of course they have their differences. Of course they are each their own individual “soul print” on the world, with unique traits, quirks, strengths and challenges. But five of them look so much alike it is almost eerie. Those five get similar report cards, feedback from teachers, and I hear consistently “they are all just like your husband. They look like him and act like him, it’s amazing.” They have their ‘Ima moments’, but they are their Abba’s children.
One of the other two is my stepson. He actually looks more like his Abba than all the rest. Many of his differences from the other kids are an interesting playing out of nature vs. nurture. But genetically, I cannot claim any likeness in form or substance. He did claim he got his singing voice from both his Abba and me when he was much younger….as flattered as I was, I can only claim influence.
But then there is my six year old. She is built like me. Her report cards read like mine did. She is the child my mother “blessed” me with. She is more like me in every way than the whole clan combined. This makes her the easiest and hardest child of the bunch for me to parent – for all of the same reasons. I understand her in a way that I never will my other children. At the same time, a complaint of her behavior can feel like a criticism of my six year old self, still dwelling inside. I constantly work at letting her blossom into her own being without expectations that she will do what I would have done. As much as I see the similarities, I don’t want to fall into a trap of a self-fulfilling prophecy. She is already miles ahead of where I was in so many ways.
When I give her what she needs, it is redemptive for me. Because I am giving her sipuk, but I am also giving my childhood that sipuk – oftentimes sipuk I didn’t get the first time around. I can’t advocate for my own misunderstood little self, but my advocating for her, my understanding her is more than parenting… it is a tikkun.
Sipuk is the Hebrew word for satisfaction, although I understand it to mean the satisfaction of our soul’s needs. Stunningly, if one removes the yud and vav, both of which are associated with Hashem/Godliness, one is left with safek – which means doubt. Tikkun means “repair” in Hebrew, but the concept of repair, again, is an idea of repairing our souls, and in doing so repairing a piece of the world. So when I get it right (occasionally) with this particular little one of mine, I am nurturing her, nurturing me, fixing our souls, and fixing the world.
One of my daughter’s unavoidable and unfortunate similarities to me, is her hair. Hers is much lighter than mine ever was, but the fine, thin baby hair that oils faster than everyone else’s and is impossible to brush – yup, it’s the same. And she is the only one of the bunch to have inherited it. The rest have the beautiful, thick hair my husband
has had. As for eventually losing it? They are doomed on both sides of the genetic aisle, so I hope they enjoy it while they can.
I tried to grow my hair as a child and the tears and fights weren’t worth the locks that just didn’t grow in nicely anyway. I tried to grow it out as an adult — and it still caused me tears to brush out! I was actually rather gratified to learn from our hairdresser that it isn’t me; it’s the hair. That my daughter’s similar lack of cooperation in the hair department is with good reason.
It means that she, like I, is destined to a life of pixie cuts, Dorothy Hamil styles, and little bobs. And like me, she will probably be quite grateful to finally cover it when she B”H gets married.
This week, my six year old and I both cried defeat on trying to grow her hair for the second time. She knew she wanted and needed a short cut, but she came to me “worried that children will tell me I look like a boy.” Her worries were that little child inside of me talking again. I was mistaken for a boy often as a child, and it hurt more than I ever let my parents know – at least until this very minute. ( Being flat chested until 16 years old didn’t help, I must say.)
So I offered her that which had been [understandably] forbidden to me. I asked her if she wanted to pierce her ears the day after we chopped her hair. So the Ima who doesn’t like makeup and jewelry on little girls went off to the mall to pierce her ears. With girlie little pink rhinestone studs. I have rarely seen her so incredibly happy.
And you know what? My six year old self is jumping up and down right alongside her.
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no; this isn't my kids' school, it's just a random shot of the misery of class photos.
Today I decided that for our “Elul Experiment” our family would focus on davening (praying) with kavana, with proper intention.
Today was picture day at school, and one might find this fact to be completely unrelated, but it isn’t. No one, including me, was able to focus on that particular mitzvah today, as it seems everyone had to instead focus on the proper management of frustration.
As I blogged yesterday, my six year old broke her wrist on Shabbat. So for my husband and I we spent the entire day very frustrated, although not by picture day. It seems that no pediatric orthopedist’s office in New Jersey saw my daughter’s pain as their personal urgent crisis. We both spent the day on the phone, mostly on hold, trying to get an appointment made. While we have one for tomorrow, I personally felt unsettled while her care is still in limbo.
As for the kids? Although this is the second week of school, picture day messed with their sense of routine. As well as messing with their wardrobe choices, their recess and even their lunch. They all told me they had an awful day. I tried to console them with the notion that when the move to Israel (as far as I know) they will be spared the experience of “picture day”. As most of my readers know, they will undoubtedly meet a whole new host of frustrations with which picture day will pale in comparison, but I didn’t get into that.
Everyone seemed to fare relatively well in the frustration management challenge of the day. I choose to confront it with distraction since frustration is almost always born of our lack of ability to change the situation. So we might as well not focus on it. I know this works with me; I try to shift my focus on to the things I can improve or change. At least for today, this seemed to work with the kids as well.
I would like to share with you one of my tools for distracting them today, a hip-hop dance video… from Aish HaTorah. I hope you enjoy it!
Rosh Hashanah Rock Anthem
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A lot of people have written and tweeted and posted and blogged about where they were on 9/11 one decade ago. I am not sure whether I should be embarrassed to admit it, but I didn’t even know anything had happened for hours.
My twins were almost 5 months old, and my daughter was a year and a half. I was drowning in child care all day every day. Nursing two babies through the night and tending to three all day. I thought it odd that we had no TV reception – which also meant no news. My husband had been working blocks from the towers and getting off of the train at that stop for months – but had taken to working from home much of the time given how much help I needed.
… I have wanted to blog all day today about how much I remember, and how much has changed. How I had time to “wake up” to the world as my babies grew, and to wake up to the national new reality on so many different levels.
But my six year old fell off of the monkey bars yesterday (on Shabbat) and broke two bones in her wrist. I had to navigate her intense pain, questioning nurses, halachic judgement calls and decisions, and six out of town guests staying at my house.
So today, I was absolutely worn out. I did the best I could to wander through unbreakable commitments like a zombie, vaguely aware of the mourning, the memories, the still-open wounds of loss and tragedy of others around me…..
So today as I drown in the fog of exhaustion from my own family’s needs, it feels eerily like very, very little has changed.
My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone touched and hurt by the horrible losses of 9/11, and victims of terror everywhere.
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So much for my blogging Elul. I haven’t been here in a number of days.
We have continued our experiment, choosing a mitzvah a day to focus on as a family, but I have seen the kids so little this week that I haven’t been able to
nag them monitor their progress as much as I would have liked. They chose v’ahavta l’reecha kamocha yesterday. This mostly related to school and didn’t seem to spill over to a cessation of sibling rivalries or bickering, unfortunately. Today they chose don l’kav zchut, giving someone the benefit of the doubt. This seemed to go better, but wasn’t as relevant throughout the day as some other choices, like brachot.
Back to school and back to my full-time work load has simply been the focus this week, consuming a lot of time.
I am not sorry for staying away for the few days; I was needed in the real world, not the cyber-world, and it is an important part of my Elul experience to remember that and stay focused on it.
Jack B. put up and interesting article in June that I stumbled upon now, called “Mean Girls Come from Mean Moms.” He has an interesting premise that basically states that girls aren’t mean because their moms are mean to them. Girls are mean because they see and hear their moms being catty and mean to other women. I never really thought about it that way before. But it is just another stark reminder that our children do as we do, more than as we say.
My eldest daughter started a blog this week. She is both more proficient and more profound than I. I am at once awed by her efforts so far, and equally unsettled by them. She spends her time singing, reading, working with / playing with little children and now blogging. Which is exactly what she sees me doing. (To be fair to myself, she also loves to come learn Torah, something she sees me do as well.)
I suppose I should be proud. If she resented my time blogging she certainly wouldn’t emulate it right? At the same time, I never want my children to feel that my time on the computer comes before them. Sometimes they do feel that way, since I can’t always shut off work when they are home.
So once again, it all comes down to balance. I invited my daughter to “guest blog” here, even though her doing so may put me out of business.
My hope is that in sharing this on line experience it becomes family time instead of competing with it.
Now to just translate this into everything else in my life. I have to keep reminding myself every single day that my children will grow to become what they see us be, not what we tell them to be. I realized very early on as a parent that raising good kids meant raising up myself. Being a better me would make the best “thems”. Yet I have to keep being reminded. It is so much easier to give fine speeches than to set a fine example.
So when I don’t blog Elul, you will know that I am demonstrating to my children that this isn’t my parnasa and it isn’t my family. It is my outlet. An outlet which has value and is important to me but never to the extent of eclipsing higher priorities.
And that’s me raising up myself.
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I wrote yesterday that my family is trying a new “experiment”. While some (maybe me) are trying to blog each day of Elul, we are trying to work on one mitzvah as a family each day leading up to Rosh Hashanah. Today I let my children choose the mitzvah we would focus on.
Today was the first day back to school.
My kids decided that we should be friendly and welcoming to anyone new, students and parents at school… but then my 8 year old piped up to say that really we should just work on being kind to everyone today, since everyone is starting a new school year. I found myself being even more friendly to the new parents and the returning students than I usually am. I also found this suprisingly exhausting. I think I might have waited until day 2 or 3 of school, and chosen to focus more exclusively on my own children had it not been a declared goal.
At the end of the school day amid the complaints, whines,
demands requests for different school supplies and excited descriptions, my kids actually reported to me on their own sense of accomplishment of their decided-upon goal. We will see if this exercise is met with the same enthusiasm when we must work on something that can be a lot less fun.
They were focused on this “project” of the day, their assignments and teachers and all of the necessary first-day-at-school issues at hand. While they were, I noticed with shock, amazement and a large dollop of wistfulness that I now have a house full of kids – a majority in middle and high school – and no longer a house full of preschoolers. I don’t really know when that happened but it feels like it happened all in the last 24 hours somehow.
By the time I woke up, breakfast had been eaten, clothes had been chosen and put on, snacks had been packed and some of them were ready to leave, choosing to walk to school. I have worked so hard to get to this point. I have spent many a morning muttering under my breath as I climbed into a van to buckle numerous car seats while my own pregnant belly got in the way. So I don’t know why it should be making me sad!
Thank goodness my three year old is still a little needy and can’t yet reach the seatbelt.
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I am feeling a tremendous amount of stress this week, like the air around me is slightly constricting.
Thank G-d, nothing specific has happened. I am not fighting the battle of a lifetime. I am not describing the health challenges or life challenges so many face. I am simply in a phase of a lot of transitions at once, and it is enough to rattle my equilibrium.
School restarts in eight days. We have wound down from day camps and vacation plans. While we are enjoying our last days of
chaos freedom, it isn’t our normal summer routine and it sure isn’t our school year routine.
I am also moving from the slow period at all three of my jobs to the craziest time of the year. I teach, so my lesson planning for Ivrit has had to switch from “thinking about it” to some very real and concentrated work. (Of course what I mean by that is that I have been slaving away at it all summer.) The Jewish outreach center that I work for has little-to-no programming over the summer, so we are in high gear for both the resumption of programming and the big push for the High Holidays. And the Girls’ Israel Year Program I work for will be sending 75 anxious young women away from home for the experience of a lifetime in just a couple of weeks, and I have to help prepare and send them on that journey.
Of course, it is more than work. My family is in transition too. My stepson is preparing college applications. His wings are spreading and his sights are clearly set out of the nest.
I am planning the bat mitzvah for my oldest daughter. I am as unprepared to watch her step into this new phase of life as she is to leave her childhood behind. It causes me to spontaneously cry when I have more than two minutes to think about it. I am enjoying her as an older child with the intelligence, compassion and reason of a person; a friend. But she is still my baby, and it is still an emotional adjustment.
My youngest potty trained this summer. No more diapers. Did I just say that? No more diapers. My youngest child is 3 and a half. I have never been able to say that before! I have blogged often about my enjoyment of “phase II”, meaning that I now have a house full of children instead of a house full of babies. I do enjoy it, but it is a gradual transformation. Family life is so different that what became normal for so many years.
Lastly, there is our biggest transition of all. With an 11-month countdown for Aliyah, the “to do” list is simply daunting. The changes are innumerable. Most immediately, I have to contend with the seemingly infinite clutter that I must sort and remove over the coming months. More importantly, the transition with friends and family has begun. As our much talked about dreams are transforming into a palpable reality, time with loved ones takes on different weight and import, and conversations are shifting.
Elul is coming, and we all have to wake up from our spiritual vacation as well. The
chaos lack of structure with the children always translates into lack of structure for me, including my davening and learning. I am conscious of the transition, and know that I have to move into a much more focused mode religiously as much as everything else. The only true answer for me to handle this rattled feeling is to cling to Him as my rock and daven for the help and focus that I need.
My friend Rena taught me a powerful lesson through her art many years ago. She had a showing that included works of hers depicting the beauty of fall, and the beauty of sunset. In describing her work, she explained her own realization that the original artist, Hakodesh Baruch Hu, made the transitions of this world stunning. Sunset, dawn, fall, spring – are all the subjects of art and music throughout the ages. She came to understand that Hashem is teaching us the beauty of transition. Although it often feels unsettling, change is often gorgeous if we can just take a few steps back.
All of this shifting shakes me and takes me out of my comfort zone, but it is all “l’tovah”. I know it is for the good. I am just working on the knowledge travelling from my head and my soul to my kishkes.
Please check back next week as I will be hosting Haveil Havalim.
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