I’m big on putting myself out of a job because I constantly strive to help my kids become more independent. For instance, they’re expected to pack their own backpacks every morning. If they pack an ice brick in their lunch carrier, there’s a natural consequence: warm lunch. I don’t come to school to bring forgotten iPads, water bottles, or winter gear. It’s their job to make sure they’re ready to go.
But, that isn’t always easy. Our refrigerator’s water filter spigot dispenses water s-l-o-w-l-y, which leads to complaints.
I wasn’t in the mood for complaints this morning. Both kids had an early breakfast with Marc, dressed, and wanted to do their own thing.
Everything was tranquil. Who was I to disrupt the peace by demanding that they pack their backpacks.
I decided to ditch my normal expectations in favor of a quiet morning. I packed their lunches in their bags, filled their water bottles, and placed them by the door. Then, I went upstairs and applied my makeup in peace.
When it was time to leave, I asked both kids to come downstairs.
“By the way, both your backpacks are packed by the door. All you have to do is put on your shoes and coats.”
They were stunned into silence.
“Thanks, Mom,” I said in a kiddie voice.
Ari and Isabelle echoed proper thank yous, put on their shoes, then their coats.
As lovely as my quiet morning was, I looked at their backpacks and wondered if they’d expect me to do this again tomorrow. (Spoiler alert: This was a one-time offer!)
Ari is a fabulous helper in the grocery store. He seems to know where nearly every item we buy regularly is at Wegmans, which is a huge help to me since my husband is the primarybWegmans shopper in our family.
One of Ari’s favorite things to help with at the store is weighing and labeling the produce. I noticed he was taking longer than usual at the scale this weekend. I walked over to him and asked, “Did you forget the code?”
“No,” Ari replied.
“How come you’re still standing there?” I asked Ari quizzically.
“I think it’s asking me how many… but I’m not sure,” he replied.
Now that Ari is becoming a reader, he recognized the extra step the scale promoted when it wanted to price by item, not weight. In that moment, Ari realized he needed to input how many mangoes were needed before he was able to print out the produce label. But he wasn’t entirely sure if that’s what he was supposed to do since I wasn’t right by his side.
“You’re right. It says how many. Go ahead, count how many mangoes you have, enter it, and then—”
“Press print!” Ari replied.
The combination of Ari becoming a reader while helping is such a gift.
I find myself asking the same question to myself often. “How am old enough to…?” I don’t feel old. (Plus, I subscribe to Sheryl Sandberg’s philosophy of “If we grow old, we are lucky.”)
I mean, my youngest is in Kindergarten! (Never mind the fact that Marc and I are probably the oldest parents in the class.) However, with my older child’s Bat Mitzvah rapidly approaching, I find myself shocked by how quickly the years are moving.
However, I’m starting to think about what I want to do for my 50th birthday, which is less than five years away, so I suppose I am old enough to ______. (Fill that blank in with whatever you wish.)
Isabelle turned 12 earlier this month. I haven’t driven her around much since I’ve been sick for most of this month. After going for much needed haircuts over the weekend, I asked her, “Would you like to ride in the front passenger seat?”
“Yes!” she replied.
“No tuning the radio when I’m driving or else I pull the car over so you can return to your regular seat.”
“Okay,” she agreed. “But can I listen to KidzBop?”
“Yes, but I don’t want you to change the volume while I’m driving. Reaching over the console is distracting to me. Do we have a deal?”
As I pulled out of the parking spot, I looked both ways before I turned onto the street. When I looked to the right, I noticed Isabelle sitting beside me and wondered, “How am I old enough to have a kid who can sit in the front seat?”
I wasn’t expecting the response Isabelle gave me when she decided to answer my question 45 minutes after I posed it. If I had expected something so crisp, mature, and wise, then I would’ve listened more carefully. But I wasn’t listening with rapt attention because I didn’t think I could handle the disappointment response.
Marc, Isabelle, and I spent the morning with our rabbi and the other 6th and 7th graders and their families at our synagogue. The topic: Becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah*. With Isabelle’s Bat Mitzvah approaching in a little over six months, this is something that’s been at the center of many of our discussions for the past year. As a result, both Marc and I made sure to be in attendance this morning.
After spending about two hours learning, listening, and discussing, we walked up to the sanctuary for the prayer service. I turned to Isabelle and asked, “What was your big takeaway from this morning?”
“I’m wondering about the most important thing you learned…”
Isabelle groaned at me.
“I got a lot out of this morning. I’m wondering what you thought was important.”
“Do I have to tell you?” she asked.
“Yes, you do. I’m trying to have a conversation with you about a family education program we just attended together. I want to know what you thought about it. You tell me and I will tell you.”
“I don’t know. I didn’t learn anything.”
“C’mon. You know you did.”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Isabelle said crossing her arms across her chest.
“We can talk later,” I said.
Isabelle harrumphed about the absurdity of me pressing her about her takeaways.
Sensing her frustration rise, I said, “You’re in public. Please don’t make a scene.”
A moment later, Marc walked into the sanctuary. I looked at him and said, “Do you think it’s unreasonable to ask Isabelle what she got out of this morning?”
Marc sat down, turned to us, and said, “No, I don’t. But let’s talk about it later.”
“That’s exactly what I told her,” I said, thankful for the lifeline.
*= Our rabbi also spoke the non-gendered Kabbalat Mitzvah. Click here to learn more.
After services, Isabelle spoke up once we were on the way to Wegmans. “Do you want to hear what the big thing was that I learned from this morning?”
I ignored the hint of snark in her voice and said, “yes.”
I’ll paraphrase since I didn’t expect what was coming: “I learned that your Jewish education doesn’t end so you keep learning after you become a Bat Mitzvah.”
My eyes grew wide beneath my sunglasses. Wow! If that is what she took away from the morning with our rabbi, then SHE GOT IT! I had a choice, right then and there. Option A: I could ask her to say more about what kind of learning one should do. Option B: I could praise her for synthesizing the essence of the morning and then add my biggest takeaway.
I chose Option B.
Later in the afternoon, I called Isabelle into my bedroom. I complimented her. I told her how impressed I was with her ability to take the time to think through my question and then share a thoughtful response. I reminded her that we aren’t trying to engage in a gotcha-session when we ask her what she learned in Hebrew school. We want to understand what she’s learning and talk with her.
“Anytime you need more wait time, just ask for it. We will give it to you any time you need to reflect before you speak.”
She nodded, then walked away leaving me to feel like we took a few steps forward today.
I began thinking about my Thanksgiving hosting duties once the calendar turned to November. After 13 years of hosting, I have tried-and-true recipes, but I like to try new dishes. I am constantly on the lookout for new recipes. Puréed Roasted Squash and Yams With Citrus sounded like a delicious side dish when I came across it on the NYT Cooking website. I printed it out so I could remember to consider it for Thanksgiving.
The other day, I discovered a Maple-Mustard Roasted Chicken recipe in The Washington Post’s Eat Voraciously Newsletter. It sounded like it would pair perfectly with that NYT Cooking side dish. Why not make it now… for a weeknight dinner?!
First, I don’t know what I was thinking by trying two new dishes on a weeknight. Yet, somewhere between working with the kids to pack tomorrow’s lunches and helping Isabelle decode her Bat Mitzvah Torah portion (Yes, we are preparing for her Bat Mitzvah!), I managed to pull off both of these dishes!
I bargained and lost. Isabelle began complaining as soon as she learned the names of the dishes. Of course, this led to Ari turning his back on the table and REFUSING to eat dinner.
“The chicken is good, Ari,” Isabelle declared after trying a bite. Then she tried the puree. “But not this, yuck!”
Marc and I dug into our food and were delighted by the taste of everything. However, our company was not great. Isabelle was pouty and Ari was obstinate.
We sweetened the pot. Instead of allowing them two small pieces of Halloween candy after dinner, we agreed to let the kids have three pieces if they finished their dinner.
Ari still REFUSED to try anything. In fact, he got up from the table and attempted to make himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Marc took the peanut butter away from him and placed it on a high shelf. Then, Ari went into the fridge, removed a yogurt, peeled off the top, grabbed a spoon, and sat down at the table.
“No way am I letting him have a yogurt,” I said.
“The top is already off,” Marc declared.
“Fine,” I sighed, resigned to the fact that at least Ari made a healthy choice. I continued eating.
The next thing I knew, Ari finished his yogurt, retreived our ceramic candy jar, and brought over three small Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for me to eat since I finished my dinner.
“I don’t need dessert,” I protested.
Then, he gave three candies to Marc. Ari must’ve had a plan because the next thing I knew, he grabbed one of Marc’s Reese’s, opened it up, and shoved it in his mouth.
“I think you have the wrapper in your mouth!” I called out.
Ari removed the wrapper from his mouth.
Isabelle and I sat there — stunned. Marc took away the candy jar.
“I’m still hungry!” Ari yelled.
“Eat your chicken,” Marc and I said in unison.
The next part is fuzzy for me. In the midst of all of this, we made a deal with Isabelle to eat half of her side dishes and we’d give her two pieces of candy. Thankfully, she got with the program!
“I want my candy bucket too,” Ari whined.
“But you didn’t eat your dinner. You had one bite of chicken. Eat your dinner and you can have some candy.”
“No!” Ari responded.
It was no use. Ari was on the move! He retreived his helper tower from the dining room, brought it over to the pantry, climbed up and tried to reach his Halloween candy bucket (which was not-so-conveniently located on the top shelf of our pantry).
“It’s too high,” he declared, climbing down. “I’m gonna adjust the height.”
“Don’t do that, Ari. It’s too heavy for you to do. And besides, you cannot have candy if you don’t eat your dinner.”
Do you think he listened to me?
He did not.
The next thing I knew, Ari let out a blood curdling scream and dropped to the floor, writhing in pain while grasping his fingers.
“Did the platform land on your fingers?”
Cue the big sister giggling as she popped M&Ms in her mouth. I shot her a look.
Oh. My. Goodness. If only Ari had eaten his dinner!
And that is how I landed up on my kitchen floor, after what should’ve been a lovely meal, cradling my son and rubbing his head until the pain in his fingers dissipated.
My cell phone rang towards the end of the boarding process. I was comfortably seated with a novel. I felt my phone vibrate. I saw it was Marc and answered it. His words — Ari, crying, hurt — busted loose and jumbled in my ear. As I absorbed what I was hearing, the flight attendant announced they were shutting the cabin doors and that cell phones needed to be turned onto airplane mode. I asked questions. I filled with anger — at the situation and at myself for being in Texas for work rather than there — and fear. I saw the flight attendant walking towards the back of the plane. Tears sprang to my eyes since I knew I had to hang up while my toddler son was hurting. I’d know nothing for over four hours while I flew back to the East Coast. There was nothing I could do but wait.
After weeks of trying to articulate how I feel about sending off Ari to Kindergarten, I realized that this was it. Dropping Ari off later this week is going to feel like the plane doors closing. I’ll know nothing until the late afternoon when he returns home.
You might think I would be less emotional since I’ve already sent one of my children off to school. I’ll be honest, I felt nothing but relief when I dropped Isabelle off at Kindergarten. I was puffy, exhausted, and sweltering since I was nine months pregnant when Isabelle started Kindergarten. I was on maternity leave and could spend the midday doing whatever I wanted for nearly eight hours a day. It was blissful (if I forget about the swelling, fatigue, and overheating)!
I know it’s time for Ari to go to school and for me to begin new projects like a podcast and drafting a new book. He’ll be disconnected from me for the first time in 28 months. And, honestly, it makes my heart ache.
It’s my hope the report Ari gives me at dismissal will be as hopeful as the one I received when my plane touched down on the tarmac a four summers ago.
Yesterday morning, I discovered Isabelle had placed our Mother & Daughter Journal on my night table. I went through the pages she tabbed with sticky notes and discovered she was finally entertaining the idea of getting her ears pierced. (NOTE: As I mentioned last month, the contents of our journal are private. However, since earrings are a public thing, I don’t consider this to be a breach of mother-daughter confidentiality.)
I approached Isabelle about what she wrote while we were coloring in the mid-morning. She seemed interested until I uttered the words my mom told me when I was six years-old, “Even if the first one hurts, you still have to get the second one done.”
And just like that, Isabelle changed her mind.
Throughout the day, we talked about it — with Marc — a few times. She vacillated as many times as we discussed it. Eventually, I told Isabelle, “It’s your body. It’s not my place, or anyone’s place, to force you to do something you aren’t ready to do. However, if you’re going to do it, it needs to be by next weekend since you have to care for the holes for six weeks after you get them pierced and I need the care to be done before you get in a pool on Memorial Day Weekend.”
She said she understood.
She said she wasn’t doing it.
Until she changed her mind again.
And then back again.
Isabelle had a day off from school today so I asked her, “Would you like to go to the mall to take a look at the earrings. Maybe they can show you the gun they use to piece the holes in people’s ears?” I was shocked when she replied affirmatively to my question.
We went to the mall.
She found a pair of earrings she liked (pink crystal flowers with 14K gold posts).
She inspected the equipment.
Finally, once she understood the process, I asked her, “Do you think you want to get your ears pierced today or come back another time?”
In the faintest murmur, I heard an affirmative response. However, I wanted to be sure.
“I didn’t hear what you said. Would you like to get them done while we’re here?”
“Yes,” she replied with a strong voice.
I watched Isabelle hop up in the sanitized chair. The man marked her ears. (Me, being overly fastidious, asked him to readjust one of the markings.) Then, he started explaining to Isabelle how he was going to clean her ears to get them ready for the piercing.
“Do you want me to stand close to you or away from you?” I asked.
“In front of me,” Isabelle replied.
Oh my G-d, she’s nervous.
“You can stand in the center, right there in front of her,” the man told me as he removed the alcohol swabs from their envelopes.
I stood in front of Isabelle watching her watch the man as he approached her left ear. He asked, “Do you want me to just do it or to count, 1-2-3?”
“1-2-3,” she stated.
He counted and Isabelle didn’t even flinch.
But then he informed me that backing didn’t release onto the back of the post, which it was supposed to do. I thought I was going to pass out* as I watched him check to see if the earring went through Isabelle’s ear.
Luckily, the post passed through the ear and he was able to get the backing on without a problem. Before I knew it, Isabelle’s second ear got pierced without any drama.
I took a few photos of Isabelle before we left the mall and sent “surprise” messages to Marc and both sets of grandparents, the latter of whom knew nothing about Isabelle’s desire to get her ears pierced.
* = A TOTAL SIDE STORY: I threw up all over the jewelry store after getting each of my ears pierced. I remember feeling light-headed after the first one got done, but I knew I needed to get both done since I didn’t want to walk around with one pierced ear and one regular earlobe. I vowed, at the tender age of six, never to have anything pierced for the rest of my life. I’ve stuck to that self-promise.
When I was trying on earrings for my wedding at age 30, I almost passed out in two different jewelry stores. The first salesperson told me that maybe I was getting cold feet about the wedding. (Idiot, I thought, before walking out of the jewelry store.) The second salesperson who saw me get nauseous and dizzy mentioned I might be having some kind of vasovagal response. I told her I rarely changed my earrings as an adult since I often felt woozy when I did. Something clicked into place at that moment! That’s when I realized I probably threw up in the jewelry store as a kid for the same reason that I rarely change my earrings. Something strange happens to me any time a piece of metal passes through my ear lobes. After nearly a quarter of a century, I no longer felt like a wimp after throwing up in the jewelry store as a kid.
I minored in American History with a concentration in war. (Cheery, I know.) I did a semester-long study on the Kennedy Family in my senior year. Therefore, when I tell you that our family finished a 12-day standoff with one of our kids — that was on par with the Cuban Missile Crisis — you must know I do not say this in jest.
March is a busy month for me due to the SOLSC. Therefore, when Ari decided to assert himself as a stubborn human, things got stressful. Conversations didn’t work. Offering rewards didn’t work. Taking away privileges didn’t work. NOTHING seemed to work.
Earlier today, he blinked. As a result, we had to make good on a promise: ice cream for dessert! It didn’t matter that it was a weeknight. A promise was a promise. So, a little after 6:30 p.m., the four of us piled into the car and drove to a local ice cream shop.
As our minivan turned into the parking lot, I noticed the store front was dark. “Why does it look like they’re closed?” I asked Marc.
We drove up and sure enough they’re closed Mondays – Wednesdays. (They’re open seven days a week during the spring and summer.)
“Rolled Cold?” Isabelle asked, mentioning the name of her favorite ice cream store in the City of Lancaster.
As much as I knew she’d enjoy that, it isn’t Ari’s favorite place. Ari loves The Milkhouse at Oregon Dairy. Before driving 15 minutes in the opposite direction, I called to ensure they were open.
When we arrived, I witnessed a smile on Ari’s face even through his mask and despite the fact that we wouldn’t be making use of the Dairy’s playground, which was a favorite in the pre-COVID days.
“Family picture by the cows!” I said.
A beat later, Marc and I told the kids, “Don’t touch the cows!”
Too late! Ari touched the stationary cows all over their bodies. Thankfully, The Milkhouse has had antibacterial hand wipes long before the pandemic. We walked in, grabbed a couple, wiped Ari down, and placed our order.
Even though it had been over a year since any of us stepped foot into Oregon Dairy, Ari rediscovered the model train that rides around The Milkhouse and the restaurant on an elevated track. He stood in awe of it as the rest of us ordered. He took his eyes off of it just long enough to give me his order (i.e., chocolate ice cream, rainbow sprinkles, and whipped cream).
We took our ice cream back to the minivan where we devoured it. Once Ari declared he was finished, he stood up in the back of the minivan and did what can only be described as a happy dance.
I admire kids with strong wills. Stubborn isn’t a good look on anyone. It’s my sincere hope that Ari stays strong-willed and doesn’t show this kind of stubbornness again.
My husband lets our kids stand on the end of the shopping cart.
I do not.
Why? you might ask. First of all, I don’t feel like pushing around an extra 40 – 80 pounds when I’m at the grocery store. Second, I don’t think it’s the safest thing in the world.
Nowadays, I go to the supermarket infrequently. I do a lot of online ordering and parking lot pickups since there are too many noses sticking out of masks for my comfort level. As a result, my kids don’t go to the supermarket much either since we want to keep them home as much as possible.
But today, I needed to go to Whole Foods to pick up an item for my daughter. Since Whole Foods has been great about mask enforcement, I felt comfortable enough to take Ari there.
The two of us were waiting for our deli order to be finished when he decided to hop on the back of the cart. I asked Ari to get off of the cart. He didn’t. Instead, he replied with, “Well, Daddy lets me ride on here.”
“I’m not Daddy,” I reminded him.
Because he’s four he stated, “But Daddy lets me!”
With that, he stretched and wiggled around on the end of the cart. I was wearing a mask and almost finished with my deli order so I decided to grasp the front of the cart tightly so he wouldn’t topple over.
Eventually, my deli order was finished and it was time to walk to the cashier. I looked Ari square in the eye and gave him a choice: walk beside me or push the cart.
Once the pandemic is over and we return to grocery stores with the kids, I believe we’re going to have to adopt a more consistent parenting approach to cart riding!
I knew I should say no, but Ari was so sweet when he asked. Plus, the missing preposition — with — was endearing. So, I said yes. And thus began a terrible habit: laying down beside my son for weekend nap times.
After a month of him taking an eternity to fall asleep, I told him I couldn’t stay for nap time. I told him I’d head out once he fell asleep. I promised to leave if he didn’t fall asleep after a half-hour. However, I often found myself dozing off and staying in his room longer than expected.
By late July, I realized my weekend afternoons were no longer my own since I was being compelled to lay beside him for over two hours on both Saturdays and Sundays. It was over. I told Ari as much.
Sometime in August, Ari overheard me saying, “I could really go for a Shabbos nap like I used to take on Saturdays when I was in college.”
A beat passed. Ari realized it was a Saturday and said, “You’ll could take a nap with me today since it’s a Saturday.” (Cue his sweet grin.)
I considered. I was tired. It was Shabbat. What harm could one little nap do?
It’s been over two months now that I’ve been snoozing next to Ari on Saturday afternoons. Sunday afternoons are mine, but Saturdays are for snoozing and snuggling with Ari and all of the stuffed animals who join us. Every time I think, this is it… this is the last Saturday snooze, I realize something. Ari will only be a little bit little for just a little longer. Seeing as Ari naps by himself the other six days a week and sleeps by himself at night, I think these Saturday naps are a-okay right now.