Mommy and Me

My son hit another kid.

I’ve been waiting for this challenge for a while.  I’ve been curious as to how I would react.

My brother has three little boys, all deeply rooted in Israeli-Chareidi society where boys communicate physically with one another before they get down to verbalization.  (This is in no way a judgmental statement – typical Yerushalmi boys pride themselves on their strength.:))  My poor baby girl suffered at their loving hands until I limited visitation rights.  I love those kids, I just didn’t know how to handle kid-on-kid violence.  I spent a lot of time talking about discipline and how my daughter was non-violent because of how we raise her even though it was really only because that’s her nature.  But there was definitely righteous indignation in my voice when I protested against boyhood behavior.

Now my son got old enough to hit.


What a milestone.

He’s strong and has the cutest smile on his face when he pummels his closed fists (!) into tiny heads and stomaches.

Oh what a beautiful boy.

Anyway – so he hit another kid and it was completely unprovoked and I was sitting right there so I couldn’t try to make excuses for him.

I sighed and began the grueling process of disciplining my son, the joker, without cracking a smile.  Believe me, it’s hard.

First I told him he can’t hit.  Then I told him to give the other child a hug.

His response?

He shrugged.  My baby shrugged.  At me.

So I got more serious, and kind of felt it this time, and repeated myself.

And he shrugged.





My thought process was something like “Ok, this isn’t working, he’s just a baby – shrug – wait? shrug?  Did I teach him that?  No way!  I gotta change this pattern now before he shrugs his way through childhood and adolescence.”

I got him to look at me, repeated my mantra of “No sweetie, we do NOT hit!  You must go give that little boy a hug!”

This time he pouted and almost started crying.

I got down to his level, repeated myself and asked if he wanted me to come with him.

He nodded.

“Ok good – communication.  Not like he’ll really hug the kid, he probably has no idea what’s happening, this is pointless….wait!  What?  He’s hugging him!  He’s smiling!  Wow!”

And then he came to me for some Imma loving and I beamed and he beamed…..

I got a round of applause, literally, from the woman I was hanging out with who happens to be my first friend here and also happens to have a degree in early childhood development.  She told me it was great parenting and gave me props.

I thought about it….and realized something profound.

The applause goes to someone else.

My mother.

My wonderful, amazing mother who, despite all the outside horrors that plagued her children, still managed to instill in me the art of mothering with a full heart, soul and sound mind.

Because when people comment on how I speak to my children with respect and honesty and when I see how I actually play with my children and am an integral part of their education I remember my childhood and realize that, like the starstruck child I always was, I am mimicking my hero and raising my children just as she raised me.

And I am eternally grateful.

Oh Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel…

When I was in kindergarten I colored a dreidel.  To me, it was just another shape outlined in thick black ink that I was meant to color in with whatever crayons I chose.

To my teacher, who happened to be an artist, it was amazing.

My mother worked in the school so the teacher ran to get her.

She pulled her into the classroom and proudly showed her my dreidel.

My mother looked at the twenty-five dreidels hanging on the wall, saw that mine was, indeed, the best colored, and sort of shrugged her shoulders helplessly.

The teacher couldn’t understand why my mother wasn’t oozing with pride over her superior daughter.

My mother couldn’t understand why it was incredible that I colored in the lines.  She’d seen me do it hundreds of times before.


My mother is my best critic.  I love sending her my writings and look forward to her replies.  She always has a comment on a particular sentence or description that she liked and tells me how she relates to what I wrote.  My mother communicates her feelings much easier through writing, as do I (see How I Met My Mother).  I feel validated by her responses and connect with her through those e-mail exchanges.

My childhood, regardless of how things stand now, helps me shape how I mother my children.  I use my mother’s mistakes to fight my natural tendencies.

The dreidel remains as a witness to the words that never voiced themselves to my five year old ears.  She didn’t have to say it was beautiful.  I was secure enough in my abilities to know I hadn’t gone out of the lines, but maybe a comment on the choice of colors would have made me feel as proud as my teacher wanted me to feel.


The lesson I learned actualized itself this week.  My four year old drew another picture.  She draws all the time.  If I let her, she would sit at the table all day with her crayons, markers and pencils, creating masterpieces.  She is extremely talented, and way beyond her years in the creativity department.  I’m not surprised.  She is not exceeding any expectations.  She’s my daughter, my mother’s granddaughter, my artist grandmother’s granddaughter – of course she can draw.

But I don’t say that to her.  I gush at every single thing she makes.  I pick something specific to talk about and make sure to save it to show Abba when he comes home.  I am her number one supporter and because of all the painful silences in my childhood, she knows that.  When she tells me that there’s no girl in the world like her because she’s mine, I know that I will never stop talking.

Together, my little girl and I are taking that dreidel down and making it count.

Mother Terrors


The screams jolt through me, pushing me upwards in a panic.  I race towards her room and stumble at the doorway.

It’s quiet.

She is still on her bed, breathing evenly in a deep, dark sleep.

I sit down heavily at the table.  My arms support my head while my heart returns to my chest.

It’s been going on for months, this tormented sleep.

There is nothing to be done.

Sleep terrors are not nightmares.  They don’t come from thoughts throughout the day or fears hidden just under the surface.

No one really knows where they come from.

I can’t wake her during an episode.

I can’t touch her, stroke her hair, or call her name.

She doesn’t remember any of it in the mornings.

She seems well-rested, and is happy and playful all day.

It isn’t infringing on her life.

I am exhausted.

I am scared stiff.

What is terrorizing my little girl?

How can I make it stop?

I want to be there, inside her head, inside her dreams, and kill whatever freakish thing is lurking there.

I can only watch as she battles this alone.

My limitations are glaringly obvious.

I should be her protector, her savior and her strength.

But, as she thrashes around and screams terrifying chills up my spine, I can only be a mother who must sit back and wait it out.

Oh how I suffer for thee, my child, for thee…