Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Courage when facing authority

Shemot 4:29

וַיֵּ֥לֶךְ מֹשֶׁ֖ה וְאַהֲרֹ֑ן וַיַּ֣אַסְפ֔וּ אֶת־כָּל־זִקְנֵ֖י בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃
Then Moses and Aaron went and assembled all the elders of the Israelites.
A few pesukim later, Shemot 5:1
וְאַחַ֗ר בָּ֚אוּ מֹשֶׁ֣ה וְאַהֲרֹ֔ן וַיֹּאמְר֖וּ אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה כֹּֽה־אָמַ֤ר יְהוָה֙ אֱלֹהֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל שַׁלַּח֙ אֶת־עַמִּ֔י וְיָחֹ֥גּוּ לִ֖י בַּמִּדְבָּֽר׃
Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Let My people go that they may celebrate a festival for Me in the wilderness.”

The obvious question is, if Moshe and Aaron gathered all the elders of Israel, showed them the signs, and convinced the people. why is it that only Moshe and Aaron are standing before Pharaoh?
Rashi on Shemot 5:1
ואחר באו משה ואהרן וגו'. אֲבָל הַזְּקֵנִים נִשְׁמְטוּ אֶחָד אֶחָד מֵאַחַר מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן, עַד שֶׁנִּשְׁמְטוּ כֻלָּם קֹדֶם שֶׁהִגִּיעוּ לַפָּלָטִין, לְפִי שֶׁיָּרְאוּ לָלֶכֶת; וּבְסִינַי נִפְרַע לָהֶם, "וְנִגַּשׁ מֹשֶׁה לְבַדּוֹ אֶל ה' וְהֵם לֹא יִגָּשׁוּ" (שמות כ"ד) – הֶחֱזִירָם לַאֲחוֹרֵיהֶם (שמות רבה):
ואחר באו משה ואהרן AND AFTERWARDS MOSES AND AARON CAME — But the elders slipped away one by one from behind Moses and Aaron until every-one of them had slipped away before they arrived at the palace, because they were afraid to go there. At Sinai they were punished for this, for it is stated (Exodus 24:2) “And Moses alone shall draw near unto the Lord, but they, (the elders; cf. Exodus 24:1) shall not draw near” — He bid them stay behind. (Exodus Rabbah 5:14)

I taught this to my son this year. I am thinking about how every time one has to face the authority and the consequences, there will be redeemers, and there will be elders, the ones who will stay on the sidelines with perfectly good excuses and see how it all plays out. The elders get punished because staying out of conflict is still making a choice, and that choice carries its own consequences.
המבין יבין

Monday, July 30, 2018

feeling of failure

I have this awful feeling that I'm failing at things before I even start them. 

It is scary to admit this because this mindset will surely keep me behind. I know all about fixed mindset vs growth-oriented mindset. I try to encourage this growth in my children. It is also scary because this mindset of failure was reinforced my whole childhood and I subconsciously transferred it onto my oldest. Don't try this, it's no use long-term. Don't do this, it's not your strength. You're considering this?! Why would anyone do it? For some reason I have lower expectations of other children, not really lower, but different, so I give myself that second of breathing space and I am less likely to see whatever they are doing as aggravatingly unproductive. In that second, I manage to reframe their occupation as useful, unschooling, life-skills. I put a positive spin on it, and voila! In the new light, they can grow.

I keep screaming at myself "You are enough! You have done enough! This is good enough!" But deep down, every completed task feels like "Ok and now what? You could be doing so much more. You should be doing so much more. Why are you not doing so much more?"

Every time I think I made progress in this area, the same feeling of not really getting anywhere hits, and I find myself right back where I started.

And that terrifies me, especially as it will be reflected in the mindset of my son.

Only by being gentle with him, will I learn to be gentle with me. Or maybe I have it backwards, and only when I feel myself to be worthy of gentleness will I be able to bestow it abundantly on all my children. I wonder about hereditary low self-esteem, and how often it is demonstrated by pushing the offspring to accomplish what the parents were not able to do while berating the children for not reaching higher, going further, caring deeper.
Image result for you are enough

Friday, July 6, 2018

When is the right time?

 There used to be this post going around how at different points in life you want different things, but you don't have them when you want them. It was something like you want sleep when you're a new parent, and energy when you're old and money when you're young. It was true but ironic.

I got to the pool today. I ended up bringing only 8 yo and 5 yo which meant that the youngest who still does not swim and who resembles Heihei from Moana will not repeatedly try to drown. There were friends for both of these kids to swim with. I brought my swim cap and goggles. That meant I was all free to swim, right?

At some point in my life, around high school and college, I would have done anything for an opportunity like this. I loved the water, I loved swimming. I felt comfortable. I had half a year of swim lessons/team. All that was missing was free access to the pool, and ability to swim separate from men.

I got in the pool, swam here, swam there. I did yoga earlier in the day, and that was more intense than expected. I still could not work out my breathing. After two rounds across the pool, not even two laps, I was out of breath.

My mom friends offered to go sit near the lap pool so I could swim laps. I laughed, because I had no ability to do those laps.

Here we go, the opportunity was here, but I had no ability to make the most of it.

And then it thundered.
And the kids, who were not done, begged to be taken to the indoor pool. And I had zero desire get into the much cooler water again.

May our opportunities and our abilities match up.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

parental suffering

Growing up, a common Russian refrain was: wait till you have kids and they will behave towards you like you behave towards me and then you will experience what it is like to be in my shoes. The idea was that parenting required suffering by the parents through the hands of their offspring, but hope was on the horizon, in the guise of those mythical future children who will repay and maybe even make future parental suffering worse.

Image result for parent scolding a child
I thought about this a whole lot. In some ways, there is no way to shield future parents from the basic forms of children's behavior, including tantrums, crying, screaming, disappointment. But that is not the essence of this parental "curse". It is the idea that suffering will be a measure for measure: just as you made me worry about your rudeness, recklessness, disappointment, so may your kids trouble you. Now, does that necessarily have to come true? I do not wish upon my children to experience some of the extreme emotions they have put me through. I hope that they grow up to be balanced enough adults that they will be able to separate their own reaction from the actions of their children. I do not want to take revenge on my children because no matter what amount of heartache they put me through, who gains from this multi-generational suffering? It is not that the behavior of these grandchildren will change, but the parental response. This change has to start with me. I have already been parenting quite differently at year 14 than I was at year 1 or 3. Some of the shenanigans are the same, but my choice how to react to them is different.

May my dear children not experience dread and shame in their parenting. May they grow up to be resourceful, resilient adults who know how to regulate their emotions and teach this to their own offspring. And may I get to see this.

Monday, July 2, 2018

What do I need?

For me, the hardest question is: what is most nourishing right now?

Not most productive, not what you are trying to avoid, not just taking a breather, not settling for a distraction. What will truly nourish my soul, recharge my batteries, be something that I can look back at and say: that made a difference.

Often, what is most nourishing for me is not what is nourishing for the rest of the family, The question looms: whose needs come first: mine or theirs? And if the answer is theirs, then when do I get to do ME? And if the answer is mine, who is there to step in and nourish them?

Every day I have to convince myself that I have needs, that my needs are legitimate, that it is up to me to divide up resources successfully to meet those needs. My upbringing led me to question whether those needs are real. I feel that just making sure on a daily basis that my kids are heard hopefully will produce adults that will not question one day whether their needs matter.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs
If you notice (with some discomfort), most gratitude training has to do with meeting the lowest three levels of needs. I have food and shelter. I feel safe. I have a family. I can write about these all the time and be thankful for them. I am painfully aware that not everybody has those, so this is not a small matter. Yet the needs that I struggle with are believing that I am doing worthwhile things with my life and that I am on a path to bring out the best in me.

Monday, June 18, 2018

permission to have fun

My older boys are sitting at the computer, typing up a shareable spreadsheet of what they would hypothetically want. It was my idea, when 12 yo approached me with yet another wish that he had. I suggested that he starts writing those wishes down and then, closer to his birthday or Yom Tov, he can take a look and decide what he is still interested in. He wanted to make a Word document, but his more electronics-savvy older brother took over and suggested Excel. I chimed in that if they do a Google doc, we can all see it and edit it and share it. 14 yo immediately corrected me that it is a Sheet...

I am standing there, folding laundry. It is not boys' laundry, but it does contain their bedsheets, towels that the whole family used and many other items. I am folding laundry and every once in a while go to do something else: chop fruit to make a pitcher of sangria "for later", check my phone, put away dinner leftovers.

Since this wishlist ended up being designed like a family wishlist, 12 yo asked me what is it that I wished for. I said, I wish I were not the only one folding laundry so that I could get to sit on the back porch while it is still daylight and watch the second Lion King movie. I have never seen it. I checked it out of the library for the kids because it was free and not available through Netflix or Amazon Prime. The kids saw all three Lion King movies, and some of them twice during the period that we had them out. I know it is due back later this week. I know it was released two decades ago. But I still have not seen it.

So instead of doing what I wanted to do (watch a G movie with sangria and maybe even with the company of those who appreciate Disney sequels), I am folding laundry, convincing myself that as soon as I am done with the laundry I will get around to watching the movie. It is almost like making myself swallow a bitter pill because I know sweet things are coming. Except that I often never get to the rewarding part of doing what I want to do. Because the reward is not a given, I am really resenting this laundry. I am constantly interrupting my tedious task with those other diversions: what's on Facebook? What's in that e-mail? Oh, look, food to be Saran-wrapped and put away. I am distracting myself from a distraction.
Sample Bus Permission Slips & Medical FormsBrene Brown talks about writing a permission slip to herself to loosen up and have fun. I might need to take up her practice. My boys certainly gave themselves permission to sit and browse and hypothesize while the dinner is still on the table, the family laundry is piled high and they might not have a clean dry pair of socks between the two of them

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Refuse has use

I have started composting again. Last time I was composting was four years ago. Then I got pregnant with the fifth and the stench of decomposing matter and garbage, in general, did not do well with my nausea. I had to beg boys to take out the bucket of kitchen scraps or face the pile myself. It was easier to give up on composting than to keep it going.

I wanted to do it again for a while, especially since so many raised garden bed sites said how you go to buy soil to fill the beds while simultaneously throwing out the very organic matter that would benefit your garden. I looked into composting containers. I thought about the location of the pile: off the kitchen, next to the garage, but far away from high traffic backyard area and the trampoline. I was thinking about buying chicken wire and making a cylinder like I did at the previous home, or trying again to get three wood pallets and assemble them into a proper enclosure for the pile.

But I just started one day simply piling up the food scraps, the peels, the ends of veggies and the guinea pig straw. There was a small heap on the ground, covered in Sunday coupons, attracting flies. It is not glamorous-looking. Every time I come out and throw a new batch on top, I see how the quarter of the watermelon is changing color, becoming soft and brown, crawling with ants. The process is unappealing, but I get to see the decomposition in real time.

I have always been intrigued by the pasuk from Hallel:
אֶבֶן מָאֲסוּ הַבּוֹנִים. הָיְתָה לְרֹאשׁ פִּנָּה
The stone that was left by the builders has become the main cornerstone.
Psalms 118:22

Clearly, whatever "the experts" considered to be unworthy of another look became the essence of the foundation. I have seen previously that this refers to David, who was rejected from kingship because he did not look the part.

I wonder, how many of us "do not look the part" either and get rejected by the experts to the garbage heap. It seems that the obvious solution is to try to blend in, look and behave appropriately, fit in because nothing hurts like being sorted out and hurled into refuse. But what if this trip into the nothingness is exactly the necessary part to transform into rich nourishing compost, the sustenance that will feed the rest? What if this is not a rejection, but a separation that results in a new rebirth? It does not look pretty just as decomposing stinks. But it is the only path to come up with something essentially new.

I will keep on gardening. I will keep on composting. And I will keep on thinking about how doing my own thing can give me insights into how to construct my life.