Tag Archives: parenting

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.

Battle Picking is an Art Form

Sigh. During the school year the boys get up at the crack of dawn without a whimper. I wake them up, they get a 5 minute grace period (if the coffee is excellent, maybe 7 minutes) and then they know that Ima is coming. Fate worse than death to have Ima nagging in the morning, so up they get.

Summertime and the living is easy. When you’re a kid. When you have no bills to pay and no work to finish. Getting up becomes difficult.

I don’t expect a lot from the kids in these lazy days of summer – shower often, wear deodorant, keep your room clean and go to shul morning and evening. I don’t expect them to make the 7 am minyan (prayer service), but the 8 am – for sure.

It’s been a struggle for them, and while they were away for 3 weeks it was not my problem. But my house, my rules. We feed and clothe them, they have all the necessities of life handed to them on a plate ( a luxury or two as well – ice cream…) and we expect little in return other than respect, peace and harmony. (Ha!)

So this morning I had a conversation with the middle two – oldest one is working out of town – about making it on time for davening (praying) and staying for the whole service. The boys agreed that I had a point and from now on will make more of an effort.

Great.

Except. I went grocery shopping this evening. I had a fever, my head hurt, my neck was in agony, and I was as cranky as ever (Right KoD??). I called on the way home that I would be home in ten minutes, please come outside and unload the car for me. But Ima, says the teen, by the time you get home we will need to have left for mincha / maariv (evening prayers). I wanted to just respond that honouring your mother by unloading groceries was more important, but really – was it?

Insisting that they stay home to help me would totally have negated everything I had said this morning. But I needed their help. I had a conundrum.

I cogitated the whole way home. Got home and phew, they were still there. Between the two of them they emptied the trunk lickety spit, and then I drove them to shul, getting them there just in time.

It all worked out in the end, but how do you teach a child that yes, God does come first, but sometimes, Ima has to come first too?

Nagging the teens

I had a couple of long phone calls this morning, with two very good friends. Friends who have more experience than me in various areas of life.

Two things I gleaned (which is stuff I knew, but sometimes you need to have the message hammered home) – you have to pick your battles – with kids and spouses, and that nagging teens is not necessarily the way to go.

I had happened to mention that I still remind my teens to brush their teeth, or pick up their room, or take a shower if they smell, or even if they don’t. I was told that this kind of nagging can foster a deep sense of resentment. The teen has to learn to do all these things themselves. If he doesn’t brush his teeth who is it hurting? If he doesn’t shower, he is the one that smells – but then I can’t hug him if he is stinky…. 😦  . If you constantly remind him to do these things, you are hurting your relationship with him. Possibly. Part of me feels it is my job as Ima to remind them to take a shower and brush teeth and put their dirty clothes in the laundry.

I was curious – so I am asking my readers – do you nag your teens to take care of basic personal hygiene? Why or why not? At what age do you just hope that they have absorbed your message and leave them be? What do you wish you hadn’t been nagged about as a teenager? Do you ever know if your message has got through?

(PS Thanks ladies, you know who you are, for your insight and your bravery in talking straight to me and not soft soaping.)

Do you babysit your own children?

When I am out without my kids or my husband, invariably at least one person asks me “oh, so is your husband babysitting?” I always answer “My husband is not babysitting, he is spending quality time with our children”. I take great offense to the assumption that if a father is watching the kids, it is called babysitting!! You would never dream of asking any mom if she babysits her kids – it just would seem an outrageous question, an insult and totally moronic.

So, tell me this, why do so many people call it babysitting when Dad is in charge?!!

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Good Enough Mother

I adore my boys. You all know that. I love them to distraction and beyond. Nothing fills me with awe and joy than a hug or kiss or an “I love you” from my boybies. They just spent 8 days away from me, with their Dad. The KoD and I had a chance to actually have a meal or two together without having to remove sharp objects from one kid while reminding another to chew with his mouth closed and sit up straight, hold your fork like it’s a fork not a shovel….

Did I miss them? Sometimes. Especially when talking to them on the phone at night, and they were tired, and I just wanted to hold them tight and tuck them in. But I also relished the time I had to myself. As moms we want to be so perfect and there for the kids 24/7. Any failure that the kids have, we take upon ourselves. We are taught that the best moms are on call all the time, and never say no to their child.

It isn’t true. My kids know that I am not available to them at every second of the day. They understand that sometimes they have to wait to get my full attention. Sometimes, even though I love them to pieces, I absolutely abhor and detest their behaviour and am ashamed of them. (Conversely sometimes I am so darn proud of them I feel my heart will jump out of my chest). Does it make me love them any less? No. My boys know that I am human and imperfect and that I see the same in them.

I used to try so hard to be Mrs Perfect. I messed up. Often. It wasn’t hard when perfection was the only acceptable attainment. Once I let go of that I became a much better mother. When the kids are all grown and look back fondly (I hope) on their childhood, I want their focus to be on the happy times we had, not how perfectly I cut the crusts off their sandwiches (never did that), or how I built their volcano for them with my own two hands so they would get an A+ (I wouldn’t know where to start), nor how I had no life of my own because I was busy living theirs. I want them to remember that they were loved because of who they were.

When I jumped back into the dating world with both feet I faced a lot of criticism. The Perfect Mother camp was of the opinion that I should put my children’s needs first, and get them raised and married off before even considering my own needs for partnership and marriage. That going out occasionally on a date was selfish beyond belief.  (Anyways, the dating thing totally worked out – we won the KoD!! )

My kids understand the necessity of Ima having time to herself. They would never dream of banging on the bathroom door while I am having a long soak in the bubble bath. They know that for me to have time alone is what helps to make me a good-enough mother.

So did I pine for them for 8 days? Absolutely not! They were with their dad who loves them (almost) as much as I do, they were safe and cared for, and having fun. I was happy they were having a good time with him and I made the most of the time I had without them.

Am I a perfect mom? Heck no. Am I good enough? Well, I guess you should ask the kids, they’re the ones who can answer that one.

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Fathers and daughters.

I have written a time or two about the fact that I did not have a father who was very involved in my life or my upbringing. His choice. Growing up, I didn’t really feel I was missing out on anything. I don’t recall any father-daughter activities at school that I felt excluded from, and I don’t much remember any occasion wishing I had a dad with me. Yes, I sometimes fantasized that he would walk me down the aisle to my Chuppah – but he had died by the time I got married the first time aorund. This was the only time I would ever think of him spending time with me.

I often wonder what it would have been like to have had a dad or a father figure involved in my day to day life. How would it have changed me as a person, as a mother, a sister, a friend? Would I still have married my first husband? Would I have married someone different? Would I relate to men in the same way I do now?

How has having a father or father figure in your life added to your character? What do you think were the emotional benefits to having a dad around?

Dads – how do you see your relationship with your daughter(s)? Do you notice if you have an emotional affect on her? Is it different than your relationship with your son(s)?

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Sigh. Bored? Me? Ha Ha Ha!!

It’s 10pm and I am finally able to put my feet up for a bit. Well, until the boys need to be reminded that it’s way past their bedtime and if they plan on getting up for minyan in the morning they need to get a wriggle on and get to bed.

My day started at 6.30 when I got up to make coffee. Woke a few kids and sent them off to shul. Supervised breakfast and tooth brushing and room organization. Ran a boatload of errands, did 6 loads of laundry, did some more house stuff, did a few hours worth of paperwork, fed the kids, took them to a friend’s pool (we walked, 20 minutes, in 100 degree heat) where I played lifeguard, swim teacher and fight breaker upper….oh, and awesome cannonball doer. But it was soooo glorious to be in a pool today. (Actually, they call it their “ool” 😉 for obvious reasons.)

Came home, KoD managed to convince the kids to get showered and chlorine-less (after I spent time frustratedly trying to talk them into it), while I got supper on the table for the kids and KoD, managed to grab a bite myself, and off we trotted to Costco.

Came home, unloaded, rejiggered the pantry to fit everything in while swatting away grabby little hands that wanted the trail mix “now”. Folded a couple of loads of laundry, fielded a phone call or seven, cleaned up the kitchen and finally took a shower of my very own.

And then I logged on to one of the many messageboards I frequent to see a mom post with this title “SAHM and Bored”. You know what I have to say to that? HA HA HA!!! I would love to be bored. Seriously. When was the last time I watched a TV program just because it was on and I had nothing to do? (what a concept!!). If the kids weren’t here it would never get watched. Even if I had nothing Stay At Home Mommy-ish to do I have a task list 17 and a half miles long of stuff to do when I have finished my regular stuff. We all know that list is staying that long and will get longer.

I am thrilled I have such a full life and have no time to be bored. A little me-time wouldn’t go amiss though. A little more KoD and me time would also be awesome. But I will take what I have and enjoy the hurly burly and the busyness. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Sweet Dreams!

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Licensed to what? A Rant

Sometimes I wonder what would happen to this world if we all had to pass parenting exams before they allowed us to procreate. Adoption and fostering are regulated. If you are a certifiable idiot they don’t let you have the honour of adopting a child. Heck, sometimes even if you are certifiably normal they find a reason to reject you.

Case in point, and bear in mind I am tired and hungry right now and don’t really care about being politically correct. I popped in to the local 7-11 which is apparently a cool place to hang out – kosher slurpies etc… On my way thru the parking lot I noticed a mama-wagon (a van) parked with the engine running, no one in the driver’s seat. Hmm. Peered in thru the window – not one, but TWO sleeping toddlers safely buckled in their car seats. The car was unlocked – I could have just opened the door, and driven away, because the keys were in the ignition.

What the hell, woman? I understand you need to run an errand and the kids fell asleep in the car. That happened to me many a time when the kids were little. And I get that you left the air conditioning on so that they didn’t boil to death, but come on – someone could have driven away with your babies!! In the 5 minutes it took for you to drop off or pick up your dry cleaning or buy a coffee – poof, kids, gone!! How is this ok?!! I watched thru the window of the 7-11 while I was paying for my coffee. She was gone for the 4 minutes it took me to prepare and pay for my coffee. As I exited the store she sauntered up to her car, gabbing on her phone, and nonchalantly drove off, taking for granted that her kids would still be there.

Maybe I am just an old curmudgeon these days, but I wanted to severely berate her for not caring enough…..

What are your thoughts?

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Gratitude

As I wrote the other day, the boys are spending some time with their dad. I miss them more than I thought possible, but I am so thankful and grateful that they have this opportunity to spend a good amount of quality time with him. Ever since he and I split we have both made it a priority to encourage the relationship between each parent and the children. There has never been any trashing of the other parent in front of the kids, nor has there ever been anything negative said or even hinted at about the new spouses and step-siblings that entered the picture.

Sure, there have been fights and arguments and lawyers – we DID get divorced after all – but we kept all of that away from the children. We may have chosen to no longer be married to each other – but that divorce does not include the children. They did not ask for this. As the primary care giver for my children, it is my responsibility and my role to encourage and foster a good relationship between my kids and their dad. I cannot force it, but thankfully he is more than willing and loves his sons unconditionally.

I guess when both parents are on the same page – putting the children’s needs first – there can be a civil relationship, an entente cordiale. It is so tragic and sad to read about and hear stories of divorces where parental alienation is happening – where one parent does all s/he can to trash the relationship of the kids with the other parent. I just wish all divorced parents (maybe even all parents) could put their kids’ needs first at all times.

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Am I the only one?

Last night the phone rang at 10.30 for one of my children. Most people, and most of my kids’ friends, know that they are not to call after 10 pm. I like my kids to get as much sleep as they can, and if they are on the phone till all hours, well, sleep will suffer. I also don’t like late night phone calls – that’s when I talk to my KoD. Don’t want any interruptions or distractions. So I told my son’s friend that he was already sleeping and would see him in school tomorrow. I hope my son won’t get teased for being asleep so “early”. Apparently most of his classmates are allowed to stay up late.

Are any of you this strict with bedtimes for your teens? With house rules about late night phonecalls? What works for you?

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