Summer of mom.

I’ve been having the best time and I want to tell you about it.

But first, a disclaimer – there’s a lot of grief out there – sanctimommies and all that – but I’m being completely honest, no-holier-than-thou, and you can trust me because my kids haven’t really had lunch in a couple weeks and just today the seven-year-old watched 3.5 consecutive hours of unsupervised youtube clips, and that’s the 513586th time in 513586 days.

I’ve been having the best time just being a mom, constantly. I’m on maternity leave, and this has been the most fun by far. The last two I spent job searching, and the first is the first but it’s different. This time, I’m getting to spend the summer with my two older kids in what we’ve dubbed Kaytanat Ima (mom camp), since we aren’t sending to any official (and expensive, jeez c’mon) camps.

And every day I start out so grateful that I get to spend the day with my kids, and I’m  not stressed about work, and I’m not checking my phone for emails, and I’m not cursing out a perfectly nice work colleague. I’m not debating how to handle a ‘crisis’ and I’m not taking care of anyone I didn’t give birth to.

I’m not doing any of that while trying to hang with/feed/bathe/love my kids.

Also – I’ve been making dinners, like full food groups dinners.

I’m asking what they think about stuff, we’re discussing life, we’re laughing over stupid jokes, we’re making up songs, we’re cursing out the drivers in front of us together. We’re seeing new parts of the country we hadn’t seen before. We’re doing science. We’re doing good deeds and volunteering. We’re getting wet. We’re learning how to photoshop. We’re uncovering fairies. We’re learning new skills together. We’re making snow happen in July. We’re painting while wearing socks. We’re seeing our first movie in the theater together. We’re spending hours playing with 6-shekel flashlights. We’re enjoying coffee together. We’re poking a storm trooper in the eye.

I don’t want it to end, this may actually be the first time I’ve felt it like this. Whole picture, not just I don’t want to leave my little baby. But I think part of it is I work myself too hard so when it’s time to play, with no work in site, I can appreciate it to a degree I’ve never felt around my kids before. So the contrast has made these past months so much more wonderful.

Part of it, is of course, their ages.

And it’s killing me that it has to end eventually, at least in part. I’m not going to dwell too much on that right now because I’m still feeling rainbows and kittens from two paragraphs ago.

Tell me, how do I keep a taste of it for the long haul?

You love us, so listen: Here’s why we need a parade.

I’ll answer the question again and again.

It’s exhausting, and I don’t even have to answer it that often.

But I’m going to answer it again.

Even – especially – the most well-meaning people, including loved ones, ‘allies’ and beyond, ask it around once a year.

For the moms and dads, siblings, relatives, friends – who want us all to be happy but don’t want to understand or accept what that entails.

Or don’t want to ‘see it displayed in public.’

The question –

We love you. We accept you. But why do you need a parade?

Because all lives don’t matter yet. Because it’s natural for us to pay attention to lives similar to ours and disregard the others.

Because sometimes, a lot of times, to teach our children the values we keep close, we have to do something. To take action. To speak louder than words.

Because it’s not just about extremists; it’s not just about hate. It’s about turning a blind eye or not trying hard enough to grasp the idea of acceptance and tolerance.

Because it’s about the mainstream happy citizen who may just not understand yet. May not have met someone different yet. May not have a loved one who has come out yet.

Because this is for people with flexible minds. The kind of person who might be open to trying a new food they always thought they hated, but is capable of even higher levels of understanding and deserves to have that chance. It’s for people ready to have a discussion even if they prefer to have their heads in the sand.

Because the parade is an invitation for people with similar values who just may not see the light yet to come and meet other people living other lives.

Meet them in person. Meet them as people.

Because there are people in our schools, offices, supermarkets, post offices who are not that different to us.

In our families. Maybe in your living room, right now.

Because ‘live and let live’ is important in modern democratic societies.

Because society doesn’t work if we’re not reaching out to others instead of creating Others.

Because discomfort doesn’t equal right to prevent.

Because free speech is critical to progressive society – the same one in which we can shop, travel, learn, love freely.

Because your sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, office mates, congregants need you to understand. To support. To love unconditionally.

Because we are only as good as we treat other people. Even if they don’t look or act like us.

Because there’s a difference between different and evil.

Because we don’t live in a theocracy.

Because we don’t get punished in society for not keeping kosher or not keeping shabbat or not tithing.

The parade is to help explain that. The parade is to help introduce you to the faces behind your fears and disgust, and to help you let down your guard a little if you dare to be open to it. It’s to show off what you claim are shared values. It’s to prove we all exist, differently, together, with the right to be heard and, if we’re good at what we do, to be better understood.

It’s the right not to remain silent. It’s the right to speak up in a society where a teenage girl is stabbed for existing. Where men and women are gunned down for existing as they are, where they are, where you have the right to choose not to be.

Now let’s go back to this for a second – those of you who ask – We love you. We accept you. But why do you need a parade? 

Can you glimpse the reason, just a little?

Can you understand why it hurts to hear the question, over and over?

What about this one: But why do you need to get married?

Maybe, just maybe, go to a parade – a parade in the spirit of the Jerusalem Parade for Pride and Tolerance – a parade featuring women, men, children and families who just want to live freely.

Women and men who want you to see that they have professions and hobbies and values and beliefs that you may share. Accountants. Tour guides. Programmers.

Children who don’t want to experience bullying for who their parents are. They want friends to come over. They want to stay innocent. They want to feel safe coming to you to talk when the time comes.

Moms and dads who want to believe their kids will have it easier some day.

People who just want a moment of peace, a moment not to hide.

Meet them. Remember their faces.

Then see if you can answer that question yourself.

pride rainbow sticker

On hope, afterlife, dreaming.

A couple months ago Koala and I had a ‘yom kef’ together and visited the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem, where a central feature is Ancient Egypt and of course, everyone’s favorite – the mummy.

We read the signs. the child-friendly materials, we saw the coffin, we saw pictures.

For a few weeks after that, Koala kept asking about it – how they died, why they stay like that, who are they.

 

And what’s up with afterlife?

For a few weeks he had been bringing up the possibility of afterlife again. He had thrown in bits and pieces about mashiach since school ended in June. When he does, I smile, I nod, I ignore, and I always – always – tighten up.

Why does it bother me so much? So many personal issues. So many specific peeves, built just for me, by me. Nearly 34 years in the making and still moving and making and coming to life.

Soon after, the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice happened. I woke up and saw the headline and felt ill, like everyone else. The details rolled in and at some point, I didn’t want to know any more. It’s too much. Families going to celebrate. Families mowed down.

That same day, he asked again – what happens in the afterlife? Is it real? Will we ever know? I tightened up as always but I loosened up just as quickly. It hit me, strong, like coffee – this is his time. His time to dream and wonder and think and, eventually, conclude. At seven years old, I also worshiped the thought of messiah, of afterlife. Who better than a child to dream and fantasize and hold on to eternal hope?

It felt better for me, and he held on to his questions, laid them out on the table, and we both wondered, together.

 

 

All the books we must read

I’m about to say the most suburban, stereotypical, adult thing I have ever said, but… well… here goes: In my book club this month,

Ok, that wasn’t so bad.

In my book club this month, we read All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I had never heard of it before, being as out of it as I am, but it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2015. So it’s kind of a big deal. I didn’t even realize that before opening the book, even though it’s right there on the front cover.

I started reading it and within pages, could not stop. This is the type of book you start reading because you saw it on the table, knew book club meeting is in a few days, need to procrastinate everything else, and forget you had a miles-long to-do list before you reach page 265 and realize you’ve forgotten you have a life outside of an orphanage in World World II Germany.

Anyway.

This book couldn’t have come at a weirder or more appropriate time. Donald Trump has made an entire first world country crazy. Brexit was literally happening while I read about the demise of Europe. Things in Israel are heating up again. Elie Weisel passed away at 87.

I absolutely adore this book – Doerr treats language like fine cooking… just enough this, not too much that. The language was beautiful – in the way I actually stopped in my tracks every 50 pages or so when I came across a line so perfect I had to stop and read it again and again. The characters are well-developed, imperfect, unexpected and I can’t help caring about each one.

And the plot lent itself to a healthy dose of good, classic storytelling.

There are so many themes and metaphors and philosophical musings displayed throughout the novel. Light. Technology. Awareness. Belonging. Mental health. Here are some of the book’s themes that have been stuck in my mind since:

Parenting during war:

“Isn’t life a kind of corruption? A child is born, and the world sets in upon it. Taking things from it, stuffing things into it.”

“There is a humility of being a father to someone so powerful, as if he were only a narrow conduit for another, greater thing. That’s how it feels right now, he thinks, kneeling beside her, rinsing her hair: as though his love for his daughter will outstrip the limits of his body. The walls could fall away, even the whole city, and the brightness of that feeling would not wane.”

“This, she realizes, is the basis of all fear. That a light you are powerless to stop will turn on you and usher a bullet to its mark.”

Communication:

“Radio: it ties a million ears to a single mouth. Out of loudspeakers all around Zollverein, the staccato voice of the Reich grows like some imperturbable tree; its subjects lean toward its branches as if towards the lips of God. And when God stops whispering, they become desperate for someone who can put things right.”

“To shut your eyes is to guess nothing of blindness. Beneath your world of skies and faces and buildings exists a rawer and older world, a place where surface planes disintegrate and sounds ribbon in shoals through the air.”

Standing up:

“How do you ever know for certain that you are doing the right thing?”

“All your life you wait, and then it finally comes, and are you ready?”

“Seventy-six years old, and I can still feel like this? Like a little girl with stars in my eyes?”

Fear-stoking, other-blaming:

“You know the greatest lesson of history? It’s that history is whatever the victors say it is. That’s the lesson. Whoever wins, that’s who decides the history. We act in our own self-interest. Of course we do. Name me a person or a nation who does not. The trick is figuring out where your interests are.”

“Is it right to do something only because everyone else is doing it?”

“Sometimes the eye of a hurricane is the safest place to be.”

“What the war did to dreamers.”

With Elie Wiesel’s death occurring just days after I finished… with all the talk of war and horror and hate in the world today… this line perhaps is what we’re left with if we plan to take heed:

“Every hour, she thinks, someone for whom the war was memory falls out of the world.”

The impossible quest.

It was exactly two years ago that I started my current job, director of marketing at a fast-paced startup in a relatively new yet traditional industry. It was also exactly two years ago that I was finished with the mandatory paid maternity leave with my third child. I was coming off a full time marketing consultant position, something I had been doing for almost three years from home.

Newly minted director, newly commuting to an office, newly minted mom of three. It was also a war, it was also the heat of the summer, it was also a major reckoning which basically came down to: what the fuck am I doing?

It was the start of an impossible quest. For the first nine months, I resolved to uncover someone exactly in my position, but 5-10 years later – someone working a full time manager job at an intense company, whose partner also worked full time, who had no time for late night TV show binge watching or running or taking the kids out after tzaharon to anywhere further than a nearby park. Someone with a super intense job, thrown into a managerial position with no training. Someone who was a mother of a three, living in an apartment, no hired help, no parents in the country, no family support nearby. Not native Hebrew speakers, new to every step along the way. Someone who was hacking it to the finish line.

Me. But in 5-10 years, having lived to tell the tale.

I’d ask the female partners at my company. But they’d be disqualified, lacking these criteria or those criteria. I’d scope out women at conferences – my seeming peers. But, no – not full time, or full time less kids, or Israeli partner with parents in town, or some other thing. I’d look around on career oriented Facebook groups. I’d ask people outright.

I’d get a lot of ‘Ooooh I also need that! When you figure it out let me know!’

I honestly thought I could find that person. Surely she exists. Surely someone’s done this. Lived this life. Surely she’d mentor me. Tell me it’ll be ok. Laugh with me and cry with me.

That person does not exist. Not two years ago, not now.

But she will in 5-10 years.

As I look around, having added more to that plate – four kids seven and under, four different drop offs and pick ups next year, two doses of private daycare tuition, same full-time demanding jobs for both parents, still no parents within 30 minutes, etc etc – I know and accept there is no such mentor. No one has my life. No one has your life.

Unique special snowflake shit.

So I’m left to figure it out. I have no idea what the next 1-2 years will look like. I know that I am not limitless so we’ll figure out where that line gets drawn pretty soon.

I will say this: holding a two-month old in one arm and cutting cherry tomatoes with the other is possible. So at least there’s that.

The Giving Tree.

The Giving Tree“She’s like the Giving Tree!”

That’s what Koala said when I learned that my grandmother was at the end of her life, after I explained that his great grandmother was so tired.

“She is like the Giving Tree! She lived a long time and she’s like at the end when the tree is old and wrinkly and a stump.”

She is like the Giving Tree.

She’d give us a dollar to buy ice cream at her Brooklyn pool club. She’d relish in watching us enjoy it, smiling with her friends around her.

She is like the Giving Tree.

The Giving Tree | Apples

She wanted us all to be happy. “Better you spend it than I save it,” she’d tell us. Our happiness was her happiness.

She is like the Giving Tree.

The Giving Tree | Branches

Grandma, I’d think, is the quiet one.

“Everything is fine. No complaints here.”

She went through a lot as a widow and single mother for nearly 5 decades. For someone who went through all that, how had she never complained?

She is like the Giving Tree.

The Giving Tree | Trunk

Something I always thought when we’d see her – her hands, as she’d take mine in hers – her hands were so soft, her skin delicate and smooth like tissue paper.

She’d hold mine while wishing me everything good in life. Whatever I wanted. A good family. Great kids. Wonderful husband.

If she could have just given us all those things, she would have.

What she could give was her love, support, and the time necessary to figure yourself out. The patience to let you make mistakes. The acceptance needed for everyone to move forward.

“That was your great grandmother,” I’ll explain to Koala one day.

And she was happy.

The Giving Tree | Happy

 

For only ₪10.90: Sexism + newborn onesies!

What do you get when you combine a ₪10.90 clothing bin with a reliable dose of modern society?

Classic sexism, in newborn flavor! Here are just a few of the options I noticed at a clothing shop yesterday:

1. Money money money. And Daddy.

Nothing is more classic and sexist and just plain gross than “Daddy, buy me more!” with a picture of a pink credit card being swiped.

Or maybe she means, ‘buy me more college credit! I want to triple major!!’

2. Crushing on your doctor

I was pleased to see this one come in both blue and pink… so the baby boys can also have the hots for their (male, duh) doctors!

3. Promise we’ll keep this one going well into the 23rd century.

In my future book titled, Seriously? WHY Are We Still Perpetuating This? I will explore the reasons why we are making our baby boys into a. sex obsessed b. pedophiles c. who are oddly ahead of their age when it comes to interests.

Sex up those baby boys, parents!

Alternatively – inspired future gynecologist?

4. Ok nothing to do with gender, just weird.

A little boy who is so excited for shabbat to go out. A  universal sentiment. I actually almost bought that one.

5. Don’t get me wrong, I love puns…

Puns are always funny. 

But still, cats + flirting can only mean this girl has one sure thing in her future.  Unless I’m wrong and she will actually turn out a writer, maybe a B+ Huffington Post columnist.

And then I looked up from that onesie bin and realized there were SHELVES of this stuff…

And held my child a little closer before giving up on life.

P.S. Lest you worry your baby will grow out of her newborn onesie too soon, behold in the girls’ section:

Which, admittedly, all I could think when reading that was, then you have really wonky boobs.

New parenting level unlocked: Israeli school children on Yom HaZicaron

Here’s the scene. A mother is playing out her son’s childhood through a laundry metaphor. First the onesie. Then the tzitzit. School uniform shirt. Pants. Teenager jeans. Button down shirt. Army tzitzit.

When she gets to the army uniform, there’s a ‘knock at the door.’ She sees the soldier. She crumples. He salutes. She cries into her son’s uniform.

This is the opening performance at my first grader’s school’s memorial ceremony for Yom HaZikaron.

New level of Israeli parenting unlocked.

I had arrived just a little early, to find my boy, and offer him a hat. I had forgotten to give him one and we’re out in the sun. I wave at him and gesture with the hat. He smiles and shakes his head. None of his buddies are wearing hats. Of course.

I’m watching this scene, this bat sherut (an 18-20 year old doing her national service) play out this ‘knock at the door’ scene – the same kind of scene Prime Minister Bibi described himself going through today. She’s playing this scene that her friends’ parents may or may not experience in the coming months. There’s been the stink of warmongering in the air. The soldier who knocks at the door is a boy I’ve known since he was a toddler. He’s in fifth grade.

I look at my son; I can only see the back of him. He’s whispering with his friend. The back of his neck is turning red from the sun. He’s so light-skinned.

When he’s in the army, will he remember sunscreen? Will he just burn all the time?

I’m watching the older grade school kids sing and speak of the dead. I’m watching the other grade school kids watch this, sitting cross-legged on the basketball court. The kids all look so serious. The older kids carry out their roles with a deep sense of urgency.

I’m looking around. There are kids here I’ve known since they were babies. Ten months. Two years. They are tall, skinny things now. Messy hair. Toothy smiles. Quick glances at their moms in the back row.

There are places my kids will go where there won’t be any sunscreen. Decisions they’ll have to make where there won’t be a right one. I won’t be there in that moment. That’s the reality, I suppose, of making the decision to create children. You just understand it way too late. When it hits, you’re too deep in love. You’ll never not feel this twisted pain again. Ever.

After the knock at the door, I look around at the other parents and notice we are all crying. A few of us are immigrants. Many lived through this as students, siblings, and soldiers too.

My son’s still whispering with his best friend. Two seven-year-old boys in knit kippot, scruffy hair, white school t-shirts.

Seven years in, here we are.

We’ve only just begun.