Purim – #3

March 2nd, 2010

The kids really enjoyed Purim. The costumes went really well. My 4 yo decided that poofy dresses like Queen Esthers wear hamper one’s lifestyle. So she changed into a ballerina outfit for most of Purim. You can do a lot more bouncing off of walls and everything else in ballet clothes…

Unlike years past, we kept Purim pretty simple. Familiar, close to home, and simple. The kids volunteered (which means I volunteered them) to deliver a large number of mishloach manot on behalf of our shul. My husband took them. He didn’t enjoy it very much. Delivering anything with 7 kids isn’t ideal. But the kids thought it was fun.

I, on the other hand, had a pretty rotten Purim.

I have had time to think about what was wrong. First of all, my number one rule of life as a parent played a major part.


I got up early with the kids the day before Purim. Wisely, although not necessarily willingly, everyone in my household took a late nap. Except me. The next morning (Purim morning) I got up early with the kids again. Therein lies 90% of what went wrong with my Purim. I should have insisted on being the non-tired one, and slept in. Hindsight is so great.

The other factor in my less-than-ideal Purim was also my own doing.

A few weeks ago I intiated a conversation with my family at the Shabbat table.  I told them that every year I make a big seudah, a big production for the whole neighborhood, because I really like it. (That’s not the only reason, but that’s a story for another day.) This year, I told them, I wanted to hear what they wanted to do for Purim.

…. So they got what they said they wanted; simple plans, simple food. Socializing, but elsewhere and in doses.

When I felt at the end of the day that I had taken care of everyone else while no one had taken care of me, I was exactly right.

It was just that I had forgotten that the person who was in charge of taking care of me is the same one who spending all of Purim taking care of them.

Maybe, just maybe next year will be the year I get the balance right. I know it will be the year I go into Purim with enough sleep.

Ima2seven as a happy happy clown on Purim

Me, the happy Purim clown.

1. Peel a clementine/tangerine. If you start it, they can peel off the rest. It gives you more time, and they are sooo happy, with a yummy reward for a job well done.

2. Putting the silverware from the dishwasher basket into the drawer. So it won’t be sorted properly. You can always do that later.  Just take out sharp knives first.

3. Turn off the lights in their room at bedtime. Very empowering.

4. Put their own shoes on the right shelf, in the right drawer, or in the right closet.

5.  Push the stoller… okay maybe only for fives steps, but still.

6. Get out of the car, once mobile. They like the extra time it takes once you have taken them out of the car seat to climbing out of the car — sometimes it is a lot of extra time.

7. Putting the groceries into the back of the cart. (Bet you already knew this one.)

8. Play with push pins. No; it isn’t too dangerous. Tlhey can put them into the top (or side) of a cardboard box, especially if you do it first and make holes. Great for their dexterity, and keeps them busy and out of trouble for a number of minutes.    Works best when they are in a high chair, so you don’ t have to worry about push pins everywhere.  They also get that the ends are sharp, and avoid them. This is also a great lesson. Not for every kid, I admit.

9. Sprinkle on cinnamon and sugar. I use this instead of honey and syrup on food. Much less sugar. They love to do it themselves.  A one year old can sprinkle it on unsweetened apple sauce without any help.

10. I was waiting to post this until I came up with a tenth. But I think it would be more fun if you sent me your suggestions….

I saw an article posted today titled “5 Keys to Your Child’s Happiness.”

It was posted by newtips4mamas (twitter) but is found on Oprah.com: http://www.oprah.com/spirit/5-Keys-to-Your-Childs-Happiness/print/1

So states the title, the article is about 5 keys to having happy children. What I find interesting is the research at the beginning of the article that states that a huge majority of parents in 67 (!) countries wish happiness for their children far above all else.

And with my regular level of chutzpah, I think they are getting it wrong.

Or rather, I think the Torah instructs Jewish parents to take a different view, with a different priority.

We need to raise kids to be good, not happy. We need to raise children to do the right thing, to be good and to do good. There are many, many, many times in life that doing that which is right and good does not make us happy.

My husband brought this concept up to me years ago, quoting Dennis Prager as his source. Prager has an article on raising good children in his book Think a Second Time.  (As a side note, I don’t agree with lots of things Dennis Prager says, particularly his views on plastic surgery, but about this I think he is on the mark.)

He writes: ” The problem with regard to parents raising good children is not that most parents don’t want their children to be good people. It is that few parents actually make their child’s goodness their primary concern. Most parents are more concerned with their child’s being a brilliant student or a good athlete or a successful professional. ” (pp. 36-7)

Maybe what he would say today is that based on Oprah’s research, most parents are more concerned with their child being happy.

There is something deeper than happy, and I am not sure what one would term it in English. In Hebrew, there are several words for “happy”. Sameach, merutzeh, mapsut, .. . there are more.  One of them is to feel “shalem”, which means whole, complete, at peace. I think this kind of happy comes from doing and being good. From knowing your source. Knowing your purpose.

But not immediately. It doesn’t make a young child happy or shalem or anything other than pretty mad to have to share, wait, give instead of take, act selflessly, etc.

However, by raising our children in a Torah path, to be serving our creator and living by the rules of right and wrong contained within halacha, we are training them to be good.

One of the mitzvot contained in that halacha… is to be happy. Not the happy described in the article on Oprah’s website. Not the “I am the most loved, most special, most tended to child” kind of happy… the happy of purpose, of meaning, of being good – and knowing why.

Of course I want my children to be happy. Of course I want them to experience more joy than sorrow and to feel the words of “Modeh Ani” right down to their bones every single morning. But I just don’t agree with the apparently thousands+  of parents they seem to have polled that this is the number one priority, number one wish.

I will suffer on the side as they experience the nisyonot, challenges, that Hashem sends their way.  I will hope that they can see all of those future challenges as gam zu l’tovah – Hashem’s will, and ultimately for the good.

I will continue to prioritize their childhood being a development of their goodness… and hope and pray that with it, from it and through it….comes happiness.

“Work at Home” Mom

January 25th, 2010

I am trying something new this year. I am now what I like to call a “work at home” mom. I am working as a PR consulant part time, from home. I also am home full time with my 1 1/2 year old son.

while the other six are in school during the day, that only gives me until 3:30 to work until basically 9 pm, when bedtime is over.

(I also carve out time for teaching early childhood Jewish music classes and some Torah learning.)

I have remained a “stay at home” mom for almost the entirety of the preschoolers-rearing stage — a long ten years. I am glad that I did, and it has always been because I felt it what was best for my kids. I even kept everyone home for a year, with 3 preschoolers and a baby having “Gan Ima” all day every day. (The horror others had that I was “homeschooling” my children who were all too young to technically be in school is for another post.)

But being home with my kids full time was always a struggle for me.  I don’t enjoy going to the playground for hours. I don’t like fingerpaint. I don’t enjoy sitting on the floor with one cute little child and playing trains. Certainly not as much as I liked working. I LOVED working. I enjoyed my career. When I gave it up, it was never forever and it was never really completely. I found fulfillment in event planning or article writing within my Jewish community instead of for an employer. I joined the shul board, founded a Jewish girl scout troop… lots of activities to keep me busy and engaged at certain elements of my career.

Two years I began working again outside of volunteering. Very, very part time, and all from home.  At first pregnant, with a sitter for my toddler. Then,  with a little baby around. It wasn’t so complicated. He loved to nurse and sleep, and those things made it easy for me to squeeze in work. And parts of my brain started to buzz with activity again.

Now I have developed a business and a client base. (I happen to love the clients I have now.) My little one is a lot less little, and I find myself doing a challenging juggling act I never really attempted when my other children were this young.

A friend who has her children in the same school was laid off this year, and is having a go at consulting, and also at trying to be a “work at home” mom. Her little one is younger than mine, and still a tad easier. (He will catch up soon enough, I have no doubt)

“G” & and I are trying an experiment; we are going to try to work in the same house 2 – 3 days a week while the little ones play, sleep, whine, make messes, etc.  The idea is to have a mother’s helper here with us, share the expense, be with our children, while successfully earning money.

When my now ten year old was 18 months I would have never made it past the guilt to such a plan. I needed to be spending my days at mommy and me, music classes, gymnastics for toddlers, and water babies — which very pregnant with twins was quite a picture, believe me.

Now, I am a different woman, ten years older with a lot more experience and confidence. Those classes were fun, but she didn’t need them. What she needed, and what my little one needs now is a happy, healthy, focused, centered mommy who can give her little one(s) attention and love with a whole heart and mind.  She didn’t really like those classes any more than she liked the park. It was “Ima time” no matter how you sliced it, made it fancy, added programming, or spent a lot of money on it.

I am hoping that I can find the perfect balance for this child and for me – his Ima – at this stage. The experiment with his friend, my friend, a sitter and two laptops all in one house is a new one, and you will have to follow me in seeing if it works.

But I can tell you that I nurse him to sleep while writing letters and articles. I take a break between skype calls and emails to nuzzle his neck and tickle him like crazy and even to play with trains a little…. and so far, it is the most fun I have had being home.

Now if I can just find a way to get the 20 weekly loads of laundry done in the mix……….