Category Archives: family

Today Is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

I have written previously [Miscarriage (Tough Read)] about the miscarriages that I suffered between the births of my 3rd and 4th sons. I don’t often think about the two babies that I lost, but sometimes I wonder what life would have been like had those two babies lived. What would it have been like having at least one daughter, perhaps.

It wasn’t meant to be, and I am accepting of that. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt, but it’s an ache rather than a pain.

I am thankful for my children, my four sons who bring so much life and energy to  our lives.

Letting Go

When you first hold your baby there’s a multitude of feelings that flow through you – exhaustion, love, awe, a tremendous sense of responsibility, even fear.

What no one can prepare you for is when you have to start letting go, loosening the apron strings, so your kids can grow up and become adults, responsible for their own lives. It seems to happen in an instant, overnight.

It’s not as if they turn 18 and suddenly BAM! that’s it, bye bye parents. It’s a gradual letting go.

But it’s hard. You need to give the kids space to learn, opportunities to grow from, the ability to make mistakes that they can learn from. Ima cannot come rushing in to save the day every single time. You learn to bite your tongue, to accept decisions that you might not fully agree with. But how can we trust our children if we don’t give them the opportunity to be trusted?

This balancing act seems to become harder the older the children get. I am not a dictatorial mother, but I am a mom who likes things done a certain way and expects her children to behave appropriately. However, I have to have faith in the job I have done in raising the kids. They are not an extension of me, they are themselves, people in their own right. Children deserve a chance to figure out WHO they are. As parents we need to be there to support them, to love them unconditionally, to be a voice of reason when necessary. As the kids get older, they need you in different ways.

It’s so rewarding watching them grow up and mature, yet bittersweet in a way – they will soon leave home, headed to live their own lives. It’s what we want for them but it’s so hard to let go.

Playing Favourites

I love all my kids. To distraction. I am frequently asked which of them is my favourite. I always answer that I have four favourites. They each have their own unique character, strengths and weaknesses.

I suspect that if I sat down and wrote out pros & cons (no, that doesn’t sound right) – strengths and weaknesses of each child, there may be one or two front runners. But that doesn’t factor in emotional connection etc.

Growing up I was aware that I wasn’t my Gramma’s favourite. My mum never ever made us feel like she preferred one of us over the other, but my Gramma was a different story. She was a woman of strong character and opinions. (Gee, I wonder who takes after her?!). I was never resentful – that was just the way it was. The sibling in question, who was the favourite, well, he always denied it.

Maybe I didn’t feel resentful because my other grandparents spoiled me rotten, being the only granddaughter amongst lots of boy children. Who knows?

Were you the favourite growing up? Were you aware there was a favourite? Do you have a favourite child? Is it ok to have a favourite, even if your kids will never know?

Yom Kippur Memory

I bless my kids every Friday night before kiddush. It moves me every single time. Sometimes to the point of tears. It’s my reconnection with the boys after busy weeks of to-ing and fro-ing. No matter who is mad at who, who let who down, who’s grounded or had their phone taken away – Friday night bentsching is sacrosanct in our home.

There is a tradition that Erev Yom Kippur we bless our children too. For some, this is the only time of year they bless their children. For me, on this day, thanks to Rabbi Artscroll, I bless them with the long version of the blessing, found in the Yom Kippur machzor.

When I was 16 my father was very sick here in Monsey. He was at the Good Samaritan hospital for treatment and we had been told he was close to death. We flew in from the UK to be with him. It was this time of year. My parents had been divorced for a long time by then and I had little to no relationship with him.

We went to see him Erev Yom Kippur, and he wanted to bentsch us. My father, in my memory, had NEVER bentsched us, never taken the time to reconnect, and until that moment I had never felt that I missed out.

My brothers went forward one by one, and my father placed his hands on their heads and intoned from memory :

Image from aish.com

Then it was my turn. My father had no idea how to bless a daughter. We scrambled around for a siddur so that he could find the right words. But the damage had been done. I didn’t hear the blessing, I didn’t feel it – truth be told, I didn’t want it. My father, who had not been present for most of my life, just proved to me, in that moment (in my mind) how little he thought of me.

I was 16 and I was hurt. My father died 3 years later, and at the ripe old age of 19 I had just got to the point of wanting to know him and to know who he was. Maybe he felt just as bad at that moment – maybe he just didn’t know how to tell me. I will never know.

I remember my father every time I bensch my kids. At this point, I remember him without the anger and resentment I used to feel, but still with sadness at what might have been.

Genetics Win Every Time

I pride myself on being one of a kind, of being myself – not modeled after anyone, just me.

It first happened four years ago when I was looking for a wedding dress. I was at the mall and walked past a mirror in a store. I stopped dead in my tracks. What the heck was my mother doing in Montreal without telling me she was coming? Took me a few seconds to realize I was looking at myself in the mirror. When did I start to look like her? All my life I have been convinced I took after my father’s side of the family, but here, right in front of me, was proof that it wasn’t the case. At all.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my mother. I just never thought in a million years that her face would be staring back at me from my own reflection.

Last Friday I had to go do biometrics (fingerprints) as I have to renew my Green Card. They took a new ID photograph too. Again I had that double take. My son even said it too. I also see a little of my maternal grandmother in me too.

It’s amazing how genetics will always have their way – I am me, I am myself, but part of that self is being the descendant of phenomenally strong women, so to have that reflected in my looks – that’s a good thing.

Who do you look like? How does that make you feel?

Footie PJs

We did the back to school / empty Ima’s bank account shopping today. The boys pictured above begged me for footie PJs. They beg me this time of the year every year for the PJs. I always say no. This year, well, I am tired. I said yes. Plus they talked me into buying myself pink camouflage ones.

When Squiggy was a teeny tot, maybe 16 months old, he had a pair of footie pjs in red. We had escaped to a little cottage in Tremblant for the weekend as Montreal was undergoing a fierce ice storm and I was 7 months pregnant and needed to be warm.

There was no crib for Squiggy, so he and Lenny shared a big boy bed. Lenny was two and a half at the time. We tucked them in, and sat down to warm our toes on the fire. We heard a little giggle, and turned to see little Squiggy in his red pjs, belly sticking out, flaxen curls dancing around his laughing face, standing by the door of his room with triumph in his eyes. We must have tucked him in 5 or 6 times until the novelty wore off.

However, that first look of him standing there at the doorway – that’s something that never left me. Looking at him in the picture above, it’s a little difficult to reconcile this almost-man with that adorable toddler, but oh what a memory that brought back.

The little one wanted to keep his pjs on all day today – but it is too hot. He can’t wait to need to wear them!!

Sunrise, Sunset, Swiftly Fly The Years

I stand watching him from the doorway. I watch his easy back and forth banter with the group of giggling girls gathered in front of his cash register, his patience as he takes their orders.

I study his profile, the stubble on his jaw, I notice his new way of combing his hair, his shiny leather bracelet adorning his left wrist. I drink him in visually, taking my time to remember every detail.

If I didn’t know who he was, I’d have thought this was a man in front of me. But I know better. This is my 17 year old son, the first baby to fill my heart. My little boy has become a man, almost overnight.

My breath catches in my throat. He is mine, this boy, but mine no longer. He belongs to himself – he knows where he wants to go and how he wants to get there. He doesn’t need his mama as much – but will always love her and want her approval.

I stand stock-still at the door of the restaurant, holding back the tears, trying to staunch the flow of memories. He looks up and sees me, his smile turning on all the lights in his soul. For a moment he’s that 12 month old who has taken his first steps and looked for his mother to share in his accomplishment, that six year old who has triumphantly mastered riding his bike without stabilizers, that 13 year old who has laid tefillin for the first time, then he winks at me and rolls his eyes and carries on taking the girls’ orders before allowing himself the comfort of my hug.

Just yesterday I was cradling him in the hospital, awed with the responsibility of having to raise this child, scared to mess up, wanting so much to do it all right. Even with all the missteps and sad times, he has become a mensch of the highest order. I am so proud to call him son.

Blown Away

I just realized that in less than a year my oldest is flying the coop. Leaving home. Doing the grown up thing and living his own life on his own terms. In less than a year life will change so much.

He’s been working upstate all summer. I had the chance to hang out with him a little today and I realized just how mature and grown up he is, and how sure of himself he seems to be. I think back to myself at 17 and I was such a naif!! I knew nothing. He knows who he is, and where he wants to go in life.

So proud of him – it’s such a privilege to watch them all grow up but did it have to happen so fast?

Back to School

Not the kids. Me. Well, it can’t really technically be back to school if I didn’t really go in the first place, right? But I sort of did…

I graduated high school at 17 and went straight to university. (Except, I went to a Polytechnic, but it’s all the same thing, so let’s just call it uni). I lasted 3 months, if that. I was not mature enough to be in university, I had no clue what I wanted to do, I had enrolled in classes that did nothing for me, I was miserable, so I left. I immersed myself in the working world and enjoyed various different jobs until I got married, and left London for Montreal.

Next year I turn 40. I know I have done a lot with my life – most of my accomplishments give me a tremendous sense of pride. (Four of them in particular). I have tried since the boys were very small to instill in them the idea of going to university (or trade school) and learning a profession. Something that will enable them to keep their own roof over their heads, food in their bellies, and the ability to support a future wife and children.

I am finally at the point that I know who I am and what I want to do with my life. Took almost four decades, but we are all a work in progress.

I will hopefully be enrolling soon at the local community college. However, not having a high school diploma in my possession is a bit of an issue. So I sent off my application yesterday to take a GED (high school equivalency) so that I can use that for my college application.

Once that’s done and I have been accepted to the course of study that I choose, I will share with you all the direction in which I am headed. I will always embrace social media, and will probably work part-time in social media while I attend classes. But – it’s all up in the air until I get an acceptance letter. And truth is, we can plan all we want, but at the end of the day, what’s meant to be will be.

It’s never too late to live the life that you dream of – you just have to work hard to make it happen.

More “Beauty” Reflections

(This is just a train of thought, a stream of consciousness….follow along as I wend and weft my way)

When I get dressed up, made up, put on the fancy hair and the 4 inch heels – who do I do it for? Do I do it for my husband? Do I do it for myself? Do I do it for the baalei simcha (hosts) if I’m going to a wedding? Do I do it so that I don’t embarrass myself / my KoD / my children and therefore do not ruin my sons’ shidduch chances?

I would say each of those statements (other than the shidduch chances) plays a part. My husband loves me when I look drop dead gorgeous (just like I love to see him in a suit) and loves me after I have been throwing up all weekend long with the flu and look like I have been dragged through a hedge backwards, twice. I don’t need to look my best for him to continue to love me. He doesn’t love me more when I put in more effort to my appearance. However, if I gave up trying to look good the minute that  wedding ring was firmly on my finger, what would that have said?

I love to dress up occasionally. Not every day. But when I spend the best part of a week in pajamas denim skirts and tees and bandannas (working from home is great), sometimes it is nice to clean up, and make an effort. When the make up goes on, the hair and the heels and the nice clothes – I feel better. I feel more confident. I feel more beautiful. I feel good. I look in the mirror and I am happy with what I see. (Mostly. I am female, after all, and I do tend to see imperfections all over the place).

I have a quirky sense of style. Most of you don’t know that. I have toned it down a lot, for various reasons. One of them was that I moved to a new place and I wanted to fit in. Ugh, just writing that makes me feel like I sold out. But it is all part of the puzzle. We all want to fit in, yet we all want to be unique.

G-d gave me this body, this face, this life. I am blessed – after four kids I still have a trim figure. Yes, a plastic surgeon could lift things and put them back to where they used to be, do some botox, a nip and a tuck here and there but this is who I am.

Make-up enhances that which we have been given. Nothing wrong with getting eyebrows shaped, hair straightened, teeth bleached, and learning how to apply make up properly. We all need the boost that we get from knowing that we are looking our best. Not society’s judgement of best, but OUR best.

Advocating for plastic surgery to fix that which G-d gave us – how dare we second guess Him? How dare we tell Him that our daughter would look better with a smaller nose, with her ears pinned back, with smaller / bigger breasts? G-d created us ALL in His image – when did He go for plastic surgery? Where in the Torah does it permit elective surgery?

In fact, it’s a discussion if one is halachically permitted to go for such procedures. If it’s a physical need, like a deviated septum, there’s no question. Emotionally, from what I remember (and I am no rabbi so don’t quote me) if the distress is large enough to impact a person’s life if they don’t have the nose job / ear pin / cosmetic procedure then it’s possibly permitted. But to just do it because the shadchan says?

Every time my kids have had to have surgery (and there have been three surgeries that I recall) for PHYSICAL necessity I discussed it back and forth with the doctors to make sure the risks of doing it were worth the outcome. But, how can you compare a necessary appendectomy with an elective nose job? You can – they are both surgery with risks associated with anesthesia. Neither should be entered into without careful consideration.

You know, it’s days after I read Ms Halberstam’s original article and I am still boiling mad. Girls are already made to feel that anything over a size 4 is not good enough, and if this kind of ridiculous pressure is increased on girls to be a certain way – there won’t be any mothers for our grandchildren, or wives for our sons. Anorexia is already a problem. How many girls are we going to lose under the knife?

My grandfather, may he rest in peace, used to complain to me about my size while I was growing up. In Hebrew he’d say “there’s nothing to hold on to”. No man would want me unless I had more meat on my bones. Oh how times have changed. It just makes me so sad.

I can only influence my four boys the right way – what about everyone else out there? Will my boys look for a slim woman because their mother is tall and slim? Or will they look for character and soul over physicality? I just pray they make the right choice for them.