For new parents, having their first child can be scary, stressful and utterly stupefying.
My road from twice-a-year Jew to Torah-study groupie took 40 years. With the heady days of the High Holy Days, Sukkot and Simchat Torah still fresh in my mind, it’s worth examining how I got here. During my youth, my family and I attended synagogue only during the High Holy Days. Even then, like most adolescents, no matter the Jewish preschool, Jewish summer camp, bat mitzvah or confirmation, the rabbi’s sermon was my cue to flee the sanctuary with my sister to find the other kids in the parking lot tearing into a purloined challah snatched from the synagogue kitchen.
On these High Holy Days, there will be empty seats in our synagogues. This is a letter found on one of those seats …
Not long ago, psychologist Madeline Levine gave a lecture at a Jewish day school near her home in Marin County, Calif. The topic: "Your Average Child."
Raising a child with developmental disabilities has often been compared to an “unplanned journey,” taking you to places you never imagined you would go. After our son, Danny, was diagnosed with global developmental delays at the age of 13 months, I found myself learning a whole new vocabulary, meeting with many medical professionals and special-education teachers and aides.
Santiago Brown calls himself a “cashew.” It’s his way of combining the words “Catholic” and “Jew,” to refer to his unusual religious background. He lived in Colombia in a Catholic orphanage until being adopted into a Jewish family a year ago, at the age of 12. His mother, Lori Brown, a graphic artist and Nashuva member, says Santiago has Jewish music on his iPod and tells his friends, “It’s awesome to be Jewish.”
There is some unwritten statute of limitations on how long one can whine about a crappy childhood, a negligent parent, a few too many chicken pot pies, summers with the grandparents, days spent on Greyhound buses and with dubious caregivers and creepy neighbors. There is just a moment in an adult’s life when the complaining and sad-sacking about how our parents got divorced, or lost custody, or bailed, or otherwise stank up the joint is just kind of pathetic. Let’s face it, that moment had come and gone for me.
I had to look inside myself, which was kind of like looking into my high school locker: moldy half-eaten sandwich, a few loose Starburst candies, heaps of notebooks and burrito-stained gym clothes obscuring the few things of value. Sure, there’s a book of Sylvia Plath poems and a valid bus pass, but good luck finding them while avoiding that festering tuna salad from yesteryear.
I was in seventh grade when my dad took me to see a Turkish movie exploring the lives of five prisoners given a week’s home leave in the aftermath of a coup d’etat.
Today, I stopped home to change my outfit before picking up my kid from day care.
I’ll never forget asking my therapist the following question when I found out I was pregnant: “Who am I going to be?”
Thirty-two: That was the deadline, and Danit was sticking to it. That was the age, she’d decided, when she would finally heed her maternal impulse – husband or not. Danit (not her real name) had always known motherhood was her calling. For years, she worked at her mother’s day care center in Israel, relishing the chance to surround herself with children. But after a long-term relationship ended in a failed marriage, she found herself in her early 30s, alone and facing some grim truths. Her dream of a fairy tale family was slipping further and further out of reach.
The exasperating thing about parenting books is that most of us cherry-pick our own issues and then put the books on a shelf, never to be looked at again. With few exceptions (“The Blessing of a Skinned Knee” by Wendy Mogel and “Queen Bees and Wannabes” by Rosalind Wiseman), they are crashing bores to read.
" . . . I'd met so many parents who are talented career people, but can be humbled to their knees by a 4-year-old. They'd say, 'Betsy, what do I say? What do I do? Help!' -- so I offer actual scripts that can be a starting point for parents . . . '
Thirty years of research, much of it conducted by my co-author, Clark University psychologist Wendy Grolnick, has found that the more parents are involved with their children -- be they toddlers or teens -- the better it is for their kids. In fact, you can't be too involved with your child.
One night on the phone, she confesses to me about the "voices" -- the voices in her head that keep telling her she feels empty. I tell her the story about the man who picked up radio signals via the fillings in his mouth. She ignores me and tells me she knows it's about wanting another baby. That she wants to have another kid, and it's too late.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 20.2 million people in America aged 15 to 19, and they are 7 percent of the population. So be careful what statements you make, or what biases you might allow yourself to believe.
Being a parent is a heroic act. Being a parent of a teenager sometimes makes us feel less than heroic. Indeed, we, as parents, often become an embarrassment. Congratulations to those of us parents who "embarrass" our kids in a manner that shows how much we love them.
Bettina Kurowski is the chair of the 2008 fundraising campaign of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and active in her Conservative synagogue. She's also a grandmother of three young grandchildren. They give her great naches, or joy, she says, but she's also worried -- the children's father is not Jewish, the kids are being raised in an interfaith home and Kurowski, for all her Jewish involvement, is not sure what role she should play in passing on the Jewish heritage that is so dear to her.
A new Jewish mother is emerging in the 21st century among women who have learned the lessons of their mothers and grandmothers, yet are carving out territory of their own -- in many different versions.
There are some fascinating prayers that we say at a baby boy's brit milah (ritual circumcision ceremony), a mitzvah that is highlighted in this week's Torah reading.
For many years, at-risk behavior and drug use among yeshiva high school students has been an open secret, but only in recent years have kids and their families had anywhere to turn.
Save the few Web sites with supertight security (most of which are considered too babyish by tweens and up), worry resounds throughout kiddie cybersocial world. While parental e-mail consent may be required before activating a child's registration, there's no way for a Web site to determine whether the e-mailed permission is indeed linked to a parent.
As the doctor predicted, the breath-holding eventually subsided. By the time my second son came along, my child-rearing methods had evolved considerably.
As my son's bar mitzvah day inched closer, I began to see the world in a whole different light -- a disco ball light, to be exact -- for as my child grew, so did his friends, officially putting us both on the b'nai mitzvah circuit.
One can learn a great deal about how not to parent by reading the stories of the dysfunctional matriarchal/patriarchal families that comprise a substantial proportion of the narrative in Genesis.
At the command of God, Abraham nearly sacrificed his son Isaac. Bernard Cooper's father merely presented him with a $2 million invoice for child-rearing services. And God had nothing to do with it.
Cooper will appear on a panel, moderated by Jewish Journal Religion Editor Amy Klein, at the West Hollywood Book Fair this Sunday. He says that "The Bill from My Father," his latest book, is perhaps the most conventional of his three memoirs, in that it follows a more "chronological narrative," the story of his relationship with his cantankerous father.
Yes, the cliché of the over-the-top, "Keeping Up with the Steins"-style bar mitzvah exists, simply because many of us won't let it die. But this year, among my sons' classmates, I've found excess to be the exception.
It's a scene straight out of the worst-case scenario parent handbook. Our child -- a normally happy student -- lands the "Teacher From the Black Lagoon." She's evil, he tells us shaking in his Air Jordans. Not to mention out to get him. How can he possibly be expected to learn when his teacher is the scholastic version of Attila the Hun?
As any Jewish parent knows, it is not unusual for children to resist attending Hebrew school, just as they complain about doing their homework or practicing the piano. During the preteen years, childrens' comprehension of what God means to them is still under development. However, some say parents need to think about how committed they are to raising Jewish children.
Not too long ago, some Jewish mothers and I were discussing our kids' upcoming b'nai mitzvah. We were wondering how to tame the ever-escalating, three-ring circus that the parties have become. I have a feeling that back when the laws were written, our ancestors didn't anticipate financially disastrous theme parties, DJs with barely clad dancers, stiltwalkers, karaoke machines and make-your-own-T-shirt booths.
Being a bar/bat mitzvah tutor can be a little dangerous. Parents expect you to be a wizard. The synagogues are suspicious if you want to fiddle with their "perfect bar mitzvah" product. And then there's the kids, who are becoming full-blown teenagers. It's not always emotionally easy -- in sometimes surprising ways.
When we think of bar and bat mitzvah gifts, many things come to mind: fountain pens, cuff links, picture frames, checks. But the true gifts of this religious rite of passage extend far beyond the envelopes and boxes piled up at the party door.
For the past six years, my mother's often challenging journey and our evolving relationship have inspired much of the writing in my column. Although she's no longer here in my life, she's definitely still alive in my thoughts and memories.
Talia Schrager loves soccer. She loves being able to run and kick and shout with other girls. Her mother, Sandra Lepson, loves the assertiveness and self-confidence the game inspired in her daughter. So with her daughter about to age out of her team, Lepson knew she had to find a way to let her daughter continue playing.
Women suffering from PPD often fail to receive help for a number of reasons. They might be ashamed of their feelings, or they simply might not know where to turn. And not all obstetricians and pediatricians are as attuned to the condition as Berger was.
Jewish Lamaze was first sponsored by the Los Angeles Bureau of Jewish Education in the early 1980s and taught in various synagogues until the funding ran out toward the end of the decade.
And while it's no longer being offered in Los Angeles, as far as anyone knows, similar programs exist elsewhere.
Parents and pundits, you may breathe a sigh of relief. The Class of 2006 -- or at least The Jewish Journal's not-so-random sampling of the class of 2006 -- will put to rest any notion that this plugged in but wireless, overscheduled but doted upon and supersavvy but still so naive iPod generation is resting on a sense of inflated entitlement.
The author, who also graduated from Harvard Law School, keenly portrays the life of well-to-do professionals who strive for the best for their children, unable to see the downside of their single-minded pursuits.