Thursday, November 03, 2016

Parashat Noah: Crafts, Snacks and Activities

Parashat Noah has SO much for children. Building! Animals! Rainbows! Boats!

And an entirely terrifying story about the destruction of almost the entire world. 

So let's focus on the positive.

I've gathered together a few adorable and kid-friendly crafts:

Here are some delicious (and easy...always easy) parashah-inspired snacks:

A few fun, hands-on activities:

And finally, my very favorite Israeli song about the flood:
Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Bereshit: Sibling Rivalry

The first in a series, Parshah and Parenting: A Weekly Exploration. Join me each week! 

Bereshit is the first parashah of the Torah. We look to it for the how and why of creation, the first principles of civilization. And there, in the earliest days of humanity, we find an intense--and ultimately deadly--rivalry between the first two brothers on earth.What can parents learn from this intense introduction to family dynamics?

In Bereshit Chapter 4 we read: 

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. 
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. 
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” 
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Why did Cain kill Abel? The straight reading is that he was angry that God had preferred Abel’s offering.The commentator Ramban suggests that Cain was worried that his father would give his inheritance, the whole world, to his brother. Yet another interpretation suggests that Cain may not even have known murder was possible—this is, after all, the first human death in the Torah. He was just so jealous and hurt and angry, feeling cut off from God and family. 

An interesting midrash in Tractate Avoda Zara suggests that Abel attacked Cain first, as the two physically grappled over how they would divide the world:
Cain, aware of how badly it was going with him, began to plead aloud: Abel my brother, there are only two of us in the world, What are you going to tell our father?...Abel, filled with compassion, let him go. At once Cain rose up against him and slew him. 

So emotions are running high, and there is blame to go around. Things get out of control. But then, when faced with the terrible aftermath, he tries to avoid responsibility: Am I my brother's keeper? 

Bereshit Rabbah offers a midrash in which Abel quarrels with God: 
You are the keeper of all things--yet YOU let me slay him. It is you who slew him. Had you accepted my offering as YOU did his, I would not have been jealous of him. 
Fear, deflection. But not much repentance.  
Sibling rivalry is old as human history. A force of nature. How can I stop it? 
We have three boys under the age of 10, and the older two fight over everything and anything. Who gets to wash their hands first. Who gets to sit on the sofa. Who got more dessert. It’s not that they’re competing over scare resources—they are surveying a rich array of opportunities, deliberately seizing on the same one, and going to war. He got MORE. It’s not FAIR. I want to go FIRST. Kicking. Tripping. They waste vast amounts of energy, not to mention good will. It’s not fun for anybody. Like Cain, they sometimes hurt each other much more than they intended.
And yet…they don’t really know how to stop.
I’m not content to let them fight it out. I’m committed to raising kind and compassionate children, and I know that their education in empathy must begin at home. So my boys must learn to be their brother's keeper. And when they inevitably slip they must learn to take responsibility, to admit wrongdoing, ask forgiveness.
It's a process. But today, on the recommendation of this article, we’ve set some ground rules for our little brotherhood: 1) No Hitting or Kicking  2) No Name Calling  3) No Yelling. Nothing radical, but I’m hoping that setting objective standards frees me from the role of referee.
As parents, we have some work to do as well. We are redoubling our efforts to spend special time alone with each of the children as often as possible, in order to strengthen our connections with each of them. We'll strive to ensure that they feel valued for their strengths, supported in their weaknesses, and that they are treated equally. So that they know—beyond a shadow of a doubt—that their offering will always be accepted. 

What do you do to reduce sibling rivalry in your family?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Has It Really Been Seven Years?!

Seven years and two children later, I'm getting ready to reclaim Imashalom as a solo blog.
Watch this space for new content in the coming year, including a weekly parshah & parenting series.
I'm looking forward to reengaging with you!

In the meantime...have you heard about Shaboom? My 2-year-old is obsessed with it (and my 6 and 10 year-olds pretend they are too cool for school but secretly love it too). Check out this one with your littlest little and then binge watch the entire series so far. Jewish values made fun!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Women's Work

So I've been working on a book chapter about Fordism/Taylorism (as in, the assimilation of immigrants through assembly line labor in America) and labor poets. So I've been thinking a lot about 1. what is "American" about certain systems of production and 2. why gender roles in America create so much grief for working women (that is, women who receive compensation for their labor by working outside of the home, as opposed to women who do not receive compensation because they work in the home).

The two concerns dovetail for me this week with the Publisher Weekly list of top ten books of 2009. Forget that we've still got 1/6 of the year to go before 2009 ends. What caught my eye is that there were no books by women listed among the top ten, and only 29 were listed in the top 100. This is the year when our poet laureate is a woman, the winner of the Man/Booker prize is a woman, the Nobel Prize in literature is a woman, and I could go on, but shabbat comes in early today, so I won't right now.

The reviews editors say they were "disturbed" by the lack of women, but they wanted the "best" books, without regard to gender. Susan Steinberg has an interesting and funny meditation on disturbance here.

But what I've noticed is that in recessions years, The New York Times Best-of list seems to exclude women, too. This was the case in 2001 and 1991. (In 1988 women were also excluded. This was the year of Stephen Hawkings and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, so okay, maybe).

I know there was a backlash after WWII, when women had to return home from factories when the men came home from war. And I know that men are disproportionally losing jobs in this year's economy. Especially since health care and education are relatively stable (despite the recent firing of 200 teachers in the DC district. Boo).

But I was surprised at the venom that has been poured on women who are protesting the PW picks. Maybe it has to do with the value we place on women in general. This is a country that has been listed as the second worst placeto raise children in the developed world, better only than Great Britain, according to UNICEF in 2006. It has the shortest maternity leave for women, and men don't have paternity leave unless their companies give it to them. Pregnancy is considered an illness, actually, in terms of maternity leave and health insurance. Ovaries are, in some states, considered "pre-existing conditions" in terms of insurance policies. Which is why women are more expensive to insure in some states.

I'm not sure why all this is true. But it seems to have something to do with our work ethic. This week's post is really just inquiry. I'm still thinking about it all.

I should also note that I do not dislike my America. I am only thinking about how it can be made better for women and children.

Monday, November 02, 2009

This probably isn't legal in America

I love, love this wildly verbal stage my nearly-three-year-old daughter is in.
But it’s sometimes pretty weird. Like the time she asked me, “do you know how much I love you, Ima?” No, how much? “Twenty dollars!”
Uh… okay, then. But let’s not mention it out and about. It sounds like I’m employed in the oldest profession.
[note to the reader: she did not get that from me. Except the “do you know how much I love you part.”]

She did ask me once why I had to go to work and (sob) leave her alone. And I explained we needed money so that we could buy food and clothes.
The next day she asked me if I was going to work to get some money, and when I said yes, she explained, “Ima, we have enough money today. Please don’t go to work.”

So what I’m getting in the verbal torrent is that my daughter is negotiating work and home life. Which isn’t really weird, since that’s what I’m doing now that we have childcare 5 days a week instead of 4.

My daughter’s favorite game is currently “I’m going to the office, I’ll pick you up when you wake up from your nap.” Which is sweet, because I'm an academic, and having "the office" to go to makes me sound like I have a job with lots of power and prestige. She’ll shut the door of whichever room I’m in, take my purse, and disappear. Then she’ll reenter the room and announce, “I’m back!” at which point I’m expected to run into her arms and give her a big hug.
Why is it that a child with such a short attention span can play the same game for, I don’t know, an hour straight?

Sometimes I act like she does when I drop her off from work, and I’ll beg, “don’t leeeeeave me!” and she gets a really concerned look on her face, and, with a tone of voice that mimics mine to a T, she will say, “I don’t want to, baby, but I have to go teach students.”

Of course, this is also the stage at which my daughter considers “why why why why why why why why why, why why why why why why whywhywhywhy” a legitimate conversation. Indeed, I asked her, “Darling, are you trying to drive me crazy?” and she answered “no, Ima, I’m trying to talk to you.”

Thank goodness for the Nobel Book of Answers. If 22 Nobel Prize winners can’t answer the questions my daughter is asking, then I can’t be expected to answer them either. She can answer them herself and get her own Nobel Prize.

Of course, sometimes she is trying to drive me crazy: Ima? Mami? Mima? Ima? Ima!!!!
And I’m like, “what? What? What? What? What? What?”
And she’s “Ima! Mima! Mami!”
So then I go, “light of my eyes, love of my life, my pride and joy, mi vida, mi cielo, mi amor,”
And she laughs and says, I’m not your cielo!”

But if you plan to use humor to derail the mind-boggling repetition, it’s important to get in there before your brain goes numb. Which is always a danger in my house.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

No Halloween Conundrum Here

Last night I took my son trick or treating. I imagine that many of you will rightfully censure me because of my reluctance to take a hard-line against such an open embrace of goyishe culture, and it's not that I don't agree with you. I say no to treif food, to TV on Shabbat, to all kinds of things. For my family, I draw all kinds of lines. But this happens to be one line I am not willing to draw.

I grew up being sent trick or treating with friends while my house remained dark. For some reason, I see this as a compromise that is more stigmatizing than a real choice. To me, it said, "We will let you celebrate this ridiculous holiday, but don't want to be seen as endorsing it ourselves."

But today, I choose to let my son celebrate Halloween because I don't want to live in that divide, and I don't want to raise a child to be doubtful about where he stands. In this world of being able to be both and both, of whatever category that is, a little bit this and a little bit that, I want to make a clear statement that it is excellent to be a model of integrity regardless of what kind of Jew you are, what kind of community you belong to, and what kind of person you are.

So we gave out candy that was all hechshered, we went only after Shabbat was over, and we did not dress up in any way that would glorify death or violence. If I'd have been gutsy, I would have handed out little UNICEF boxes or something to help kids collect for UNICEF (but I'm not sure if that's done anymore?). We also ended the evening at a special Halloween havdallah complete with spooky incantations (brachot) and a flaming kos yayin (wine cup).

I see it as my job as a parent to help my son live a life of integrity. Sure, he's only a few months shy of 5, but if he smells any whiff of hypocrisy, he'll make sure to say it aloud. We make our compromises where we must, and others we embrace. It's this one that makes me feel good that I made it possible for him to be a part of something bigger, something fun, and kept it consistent with my values.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

An exciting thing happened...

...while I was on vacation. I got a phone call for a placement! I was in Miami at the time, and the little girl in question is younger than my license allows, so I had to say no. Nevertheless, excitement.

Perhaps someday soon there will be a little one in my life?