Tag Archives: parenting

viola

The Concert

My dog did not eat my son’s homework; instead she ate his tie for the concert.  Being a natural girl, she preferred the silky, designer, light blue accessory to a white, wrinkled piece of paper with the scribbles that you would need a magnifying glass and strong decoding skills to read.   Who can blame her?  She was home by herself with the bright toy positioned on the dinning chair right in front of her face.   It looked too delicious to be ignored.  She attacked it with the vengeance, so that by the time my husband came home only the half of it was left.

A few weeks before the concert my son’s conscience usually starts telling him that maybe it’s the time to start practicing.   He knows that it is the right, but very hard thing to do.   He had a very busy schedule, especially during the week, but pledged to spend a half hour Friday to Sunday working on these “fast notes” he was having trouble with.

He is also being eaten by guilt that we spent money on buying the viola based on his intention of practicing on the regular basis; but 8 months into the school year it is still gathering dust under the table in his room.    He practiced only once in this period of time, but it was enough to establish that he did not like how this viola sounded; the quality of the instrument was poor; he could not sustain his plans for practicing and, therefore, without further a due, the viola should be returned, so that at least part of the money could be recouped.   I debated that if he started practicing, the money would become well spent; plus considering that he wanted to continue the orchestra next year it made no sense to return it…  Finally, I agreed to ask about a trade-off while visiting Sam-Ash to replace the A string he broke during his only practice.   After staying in line for longer that his the one and the only practice lasted, and paying $7.50 for the new string (the work was covered by a warranty we purchased anticipating a lot of broken strings due to heavy use of an instrument) we were promised half the price if returned at the end of school year.  My son is thinking about it.

Now that we were clear on the viola situation and the practicing schedule, we could move on to the wardrobe.  The music teacher wanted to stay with the black pants and shoes, but to go “springy” on the top.   She never did it before, and in her own words “was using this year’s orchestra as the guinea pigs” to test how “the rainbow” musicians would look on stage.   The visit to the mall became unavoidable.

Looking for the shirt I asked neatly –dressed, ready-to-help salesmen to measure my son’s neck.     Panicking, realizing that he had nowhere to run, he gave me a killer look, virtually asking me if I was nuts.   Never shopping for the formal clothes before, he did not know that the shirt sizes go by the neck size and the sleeves length, that to look sharp the clothes should be fitted, and kept on the hanger in the closet, that the shoes should be polished, and the belt should match the shoes.  It also would not hurt to shave and to comb the hair.  Can I also throw in ironing and tying a tie, or am I asking for too much? There are certain situations, in which looking like a shmuck is not appropriate, and the concert is one of them.

Settling on the lavender shirt, picking the “right” tie was proven to be particularly difficult.  It was supposed to be plain, in a nice, bright color, and to match the shirt.   Plain meaning plain.  Even if there is some tiny line hardly detectable by a powerful microscope it is not plain.  All the final choices came with the price that even after a discount was still too high.  I don’t know why the ties cost more than a shirt or a pair of pants; what makes them so valuable. And they are way too expensive if consumed as a gourmet dog food.

While I was dropping my son off at school an hour before the concert the school called to inform us that there was a power outage and the concert might be canceled.  They would call a half hour before the concert to let us know.    Nobody called.  We went to the concert.  It was cancelled.  Rescheduled to the next day.  That was how the concert tie ended up on the dining chair.  What was the point to put it in the closet to be taken out again the next day?

The concert was a success in my opinion, sucked in my son’s.   I especially liked “The Sweet Child O’Mine” (Guns N’Roses) performed by combined 9th and 12th grade orchestras at the end.  He said that some people in the audience did not even realize what song was being played.   He did not play some of the fast notes altogether, trying to minimize the damage to the overall performance done by his horrible playing.  However, the pieces they did were way more difficult than last year’s, therefore, comparing to last year he improved drastically.  Mazel Tov.

Make-A-Wish Super Bowl Splash 2014

Would any sane parent let his/her child jump into the freezing, ice-cold ocean in the middle of winter?  My answer was firm” NO!!!”  Then “May be?” Then “Yes” (never said that).  Being raised by a Jewish grandmother, I learned from the very young age, that making yourself exposed to cold by taking off gloves, hats, scarves, or any other items of clothing could lead to bad, very bad things; including, but not limited to untimely death from hypothermia.   This unproven, but undeniable fact was engraved in my brain forever.

We tried; we offered to just make a donation, but our son was on a mission to make our lives difficult.  He was determined to jump in the bitter cold water in February.  He made a decision.  Luckily, the God collaborated with meteorologists and brought 49F temperature to Long Island that day.

The new Long Beach boardwalk was filled with people.   Dressed in orange shirts, volunteers were directing people to drop the donations and waivers; American and Make-A-Wish flags were flying in the sunny sky; the loud music was coming from the stage assembled on the sand.  Thousands of people crowded the beach, playing football, dancing Lambada, running around, laughing, or just sitting on the blankets enjoying the view.   I didn’t remember seeing that many people being in a good mood at the same time.  People of completely different cultures, religions, believes, gender, age, skin color, sexual orientation came together for a great cause.  It was beautiful and powerful at the same time.

The thanks were extended to officials that helped to organize the event; the “Make-A-Wish” kids told their stories; prayers said; big donations announced.   Participants, including few dogs, emerged in the chilling winter water, and ran back to the shore; some wrapping themselves in the warm towels right away, some enjoying a cold breeze for a bit longer.  It was a great experience.

“Make-A-Wish” is the cause that depends solely on the donations of the regular people, like us.  There are no government programs, or grants, or allocated companies’ budgets.    We are the ones to make it happen.  Supporting and helping each other unconditionally is a universal concept, and it works every single time.  Doing Mitzvah never goes out of style.  After all, these special moments, that “Make-A-Wish” foundation helps to create, make the life worth living.    Next year, we all are planning to jump, just because it is something we want to do.

The Scarf

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Don’t ask me how I got myself into this situation.  It’s one of those “I should’ve known better” scenarios.  Everything started innocently enough with my son saying his favorite three words “permission to purchase”.  As always I told him that I did not want to talk about it, but he persisted.  For the past few months he was watching the show on BBC called “Doctor Who”.  Apparently, he liked this Doctor so much that he had to have the scarf he was wearing.  ASAP.  The scarf was no laughing matter – 12 to 14 feet long depending what Doctor he wanted to resemble (there were at least 10 of them as far as I know).  The exact replica could be bought only from some British website and cost a lot of money in pounds (I was scared even to convert it to dollars considering 1.6 rate).  Since I could not deprive my son of the happiness the scarf would bring him, I came up with the alternative solution – to knit the “bloody” scarf.

Within the next 10 minutes, the complete and thorough research was completed, which produced few pieces of paper describing different versions of yarn color palette that could be used (7 colors), and exact measurements in inches of each color stripe.  The next step was to go to Michael’s, and pick up the exact colors I needed.   Next lunch hour I spent in the Michael’s torturing the sales people for no reason, since they did not carry these colors anyway.  After work I’ve delivered devastating news to my son.  Clearly upset, he did not give up.  He found the exact specifications of the yarn and the stores in our area that carry it (I’ve always known he was bright).  On Saturday we drove 25 minutes to the store with the yarn we needed – or so we thought.  Apparently, they did have a contract with the manufacturer, but they could order only by box.  Nobody except for us wanted this yarn, so it did not make sense to order, plus we didn’t have time for that anyway.  We compromised to get the colors that resembled the ones we needed the closest

Without further interruption the knitting began the same night.  Since I had other things to do (not as important as scarf, of course), like work, cooking, laundry, shopping, checking homework, etc. I could not spend as much time as required based on my son’s timeline.  I compensated by knitting while waiting for my kids from swimming, watching TV, driving (in passenger seat).  Not one free moment could be spared.  My son was watching.  He was watching and measuring – every half an hour.   First he measured the color stripe I just finished to see if it was the right number of inches (it was critical since it could affect the look and the length).  Then he measured the whole scarf in regular position and stretched, followed by a mental calculation of how long it would take me to finish if I work in the current pace, slower pace, faster pace.  His  Mathlete batch for participation in Math Olympiad was put to a good use.  The speed of his calculations increased as the scarf was progressing from about 2-3 minutes at the beginning to 30 seconds or less at the end.   What was not accomplished by his math teacher with 20 years experience was accomplished by the scarf.

The Haloween was coming and my younger son decided to be Doctor Who.  He needed a scarf to complete the look.   It was getting dead serious; I had to finish it in one week.  I re-grouped; I got organized; I set my mind to not give into pressure.  It was getting intense.  At 11:00pm on Monday night, two days before Haloween parade, I closed up the knit, and started working on the tassels.  My older son was there to help.  I asked him to cut each color yarn the same length and put them together to make the tassel.   It took me half an hour to explain to him what needs to be done, but the yarn somehow never ended up being the same length.  I guess his cutting skills are not as good as calculation.  When he came out from the shower, the scarf was done.   The hugs and kisses were followed by my mostly naked (dressed only in underwear), water-dripping son modeling the scarf, admiring it at every possible angle.  I guess it was all worth it at the end.

P.S.   He did wear the scarf to school few times, but then decided that it was not the right match to his pea coat , plus it was too big to put in his locker anyway.   He promised though to wear it on other occasions as the weather gets colder.

Am I a Jewish Mother?

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This question came to my mind unexpectedly, while I was looking through the window of my office, waiting for my boss to provide me with the 25th round of changes to the next year budget.   Even though this exercise was completely useless, because the 26th round was coming tomorrow, I felt guilty.   Feeling guilty for me is like eating or breathing- everyday necessity.  If there is no apparent reason for it; it’s not a problem, I can always make up one.  I blame my mom for it – my Jewish mother.

My mom loves my sister and me deeply and unconditionally.  We talk every day.  If my mom calls and I am not home, I feel guilty.  She would come up with some horrific scenarios in her mind and worry herself to death.   She would feed us and our families until we can’t get up from the table.  If I don’t try everything she cooked and complement, I feel guilty – it hurts her feelings.   I don’t remember hearing “Good Job” from my mom.  There is always something small (or big) that could be done better.  She compares us to others, but somehow fails to see that we grew up to be independent and successful people.  First, my mom seems surprised that her kid actually has accomplished something; second, there is always someone else who has achieved more.  She is worried that we don’t think everything through before making an important step.  When I told her that we were buying a house, she asked: “Are you sure you have money for it?  What happens if you lose your job?”

My parents’ primary goal was to make sure we had food, clothes and roof over our heads.  They wanted us to get an education that would lead to stable jobs – with “stable” being the key word.  It’s OK to be stuck at a job you hate, as long as you get a paycheck.  Everybody is doing it.  We talked about politics, books, but never about personal matters.  I could not imagine having a conversation with my parents regarding alcohol, drugs, sex.  It was not something you discuss at a dinner table.

My parents wanted us to have a good life – stable, calm, risk free, without any major ups or downs.  They did what they knew how and were comfortable with.  They are great people, and I’ve learned a lot from them.  They shaped a person I grew up to be.

In my opinion, my mom is a partially “Jewish mother”.  She definitely overfed me (too bad I was naturally skinny) and always put me first; but, she also instilled a feeling of guilt in me, worry about non-existent problems and doubt about my abilities.  She was never overprotective, or wanted something back in return for her “hardships” of raising me.  I give her a lot of credit for not getting too involved in my life after I got married.  She could comment on minor things, but she stood away from my relationship with my husband, kids, career choices, money decisions.   In some areas of raising my children I follow my parents, in others I take completely different route.  As probably any parent, I constantly question my approach to disciplining my kids, and decisions I make on a daily basis.  I may think that I handle things the right way at the moment, but the next day I realize I’ve made a mistake.

Which brings me to the question at hand:  am I a Jewish mother?  Sure, I am a mother and I am Jewish, but these are not the only prerequisites for obtaining this Honorary Degree.  In fact, you don’t even have to be Jewish to qualify for a “Jewish mother”.   I am yet to figure out if this is an insult or a complement.  I guess it depends on the circumstances.

I’ve decided to look what others think about it, and came up with the following “Jewish mother Syndrome” definitions:

Wikipedia

The stereotype generally involves a nagging, loud, highly-talkative, overprotective, smothering, and overbearing mother or wife, who persists in interfering in her children’s lives long after they have become adults and who is excellent at making her children feel guilty for actions which may have caused her to suffer.[1] The Jewish mother stereotype can also involve a loving and overly proud mother who is highly defensive about her children in front of others. Like Italian mother stereotypes, Jewish mother characters are often shown cooking for the family, urging loved ones to eat more, and taking great pride in their food. Feeding a loved one is characterized as an extension of the desire to mother those around her. Lisa Aronson Fontes describes the stereotype as one of “endless caretaking and boundless self-sacrifice” by a mother who demonstrates her love by “constant overfeeding and unremitting solicitude about every aspect of her children’s and husband’s welfare[s]“.[2]

Urban dictionary.com

Jewish mothers an unstoppable force of nature that will feed you, pamper you, and pester you at the slightest provocation. known to spout Yiddish randomly.

be warned: if you come to my house, you WILL leave with a full stomach and a bag of leftovers. 

 Based on Richard W. Malott at Western Michigan University who spent fair amount of time studying this syndrome: “The Jewish-Mother Syndrome: You can never do it right; no matter how hard you try. So you try harder and harder, because, if you don’t, you’ll feel even more guilt. Successful people seem driven by this guilt, fear, and anxiety. Without his own Jewish-mother syndrome, we would never have had the world’s most brilliant, insightful psychotherapist Sigmund Freud. But, without their Jewish-mother syndromes, Dr. Freud’s patients wouldn’t have needed the world’s most brilliant psychotherapist. Nothing is free. So what happens to the unfortunate who have not had a good Jewish Mother? They will have a low rate of empathetic behavior, and they will also have a low rate of other productive professional or work behavior. Those who have had moderately effective Jewish mothering will start fearing failure at the beginning of the month when the task is assigned and will start to work on it right away, with the immediate results of a mild decrease in their fear, and with the long term results that they complete a high quantity of high-quality tasks on a timely basis.” 

The other day I was talking to my son’s swimming coach, asking her to make him work hard.  She said: “You must be a Jewish mother.  I have three boys myself, all grown up now.  They are successful because I’ve made them work.”  I believe in working hard, and doing your best.  Laziness and/or ignorance drives me crazy.  I don’t like leaving assignments to the last minute.  If there is a problem in school –academic or otherwise- it should be communicated; otherwise, I don’t have an opportunity to help, and my kids have to take full responsibility for the outcome.  Is that a lot to ask of a kid?  Probably, but I believe that if they don’t learn discipline and work ethics at the young age, they won’t be successful.  My standards and expectations are high.  I want my kids to be challenged.   I make them work.  I scream if they don’t listen, and then feel bad about.  It is really hard to compete with U-tubes, X-boxes, I-pads, etc, but this is a topic of another conversation.

I don’t overfeed or nag.  I would never blame my kids for anything I have to “sacrifice” for parenting them.  That is because, despite the common belief, I don’t sacrifice anything.  If you choose to do something, you take all of it – good and bad- without complaining.  It applies to careers, sports, hobbies, friendships, but somehow society has a different set of rules for parenting.   If one buys a luxury car, everybody understands- he enjoys driving it-money well spent; if he pays for his child’s college – he sacrifices.  Well, knowing that my kids get a good education gives me more pleasure then driving a luxury car.  Children do not choose to be born, nor do they choose how they would be raised, so they don’t have to pay for it.

I try not to be overly protective, but my husband compensates for it.  No amount of scientific evidence is enough for him to prove that cold weather doesn’t cause flu epidemic.  He is willing to go above and beyond to dress my teenager into something warmer than his classmates are wearing.  Putting a basketball hoop on the driveway took months of intense negotiations.  What if the ball bounces off to the road?  So he clearly fills that part of a “Jewish mother” requirements.

I believe in pursuing one’s interests in choosing a career.  I tell my kids that I don’t care whom they would become as long as they are good at what they do.  There are no limits as to what they can accomplish.  This concept is foreign to my parents.  They believe I have to point my sons in the “right direction”.

We talk about everything.  I don’t believe that telling the truth about my mistakes and weaknesses impacts the level of respect my kids have for me.  It strengths our bond, reinforces the concept that nobody is perfect and it’s OK.  We criticize each other constantly, make jokes.  My 8-year-old can grill us on how many times we got drunk or if we ever tried drugs, and he would get an honest answer.  I remember when my older son came back from an overnight camp trip, and started telling me about how the bunch of boys found a bra in the woods nearby and worshipped it in the bunk.  When I told him that I didn’t really want to know all the details of this ludicrous act, he said:” But mom you wanted to know everything.”  There is no elaborate philosophical or educational tactic behind it; I just get a kick out of hearing their opinions and take on things.

My son feels guilty when he is not doing something he is suppose to do (like school project).  He blames me for that (sounds familiar?).  “Mom, I feel bad about it.  Are you happy?” he asks me.  I try not to overdo the guilt thing.

A lot of parents I know consider raising kids to be “the job” –exhausting and all-consuming.  For me, even though it’s quite overwhelming and stressful at times, parenting is mostly about fun.   Based on the definition that goes against the very core of a “Jewish mother” term. Nevertheless, I still consider myself a “Jewish mother”.

In my opinion, the term evolved through the years.   We live in a more open and inclusive society.   The corporal punishment is replaced by a more lenient alternatives.  Being grounded in the room with an iPhone and a computer, or spending 30 minutes in a detention doesn’t do much disciplining.  Parents don’t have as much influence on the kids as they have had before due to abundance of information coming from all the different sources.  You can’t protect your kids from it; only to teach them to deal with it and make the right choices.  At the end I am pursuing the same goals as a traditional “Jewish mother” does; I just have updated my methods a bit.  I don’t know if my approach will bear fruit or back fire.  Time will tell.   To me a “Jewish mother” is a mother who is crazy about her kids.  I am definitely one of those, just more liberal one.