Matzah, Marvel and Maternal Remorse

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“Where are you going with those?” I ask Eli, my twelve year old son, as he suspiciously tries to slink out of the house for school carrying three unopened boxes of leftover Passover matzah. “Um…nowhere,” he answers. “Bye mom. Have a great day.”

“Wait just a minute, Eli,” I’m not ready to let this go. “Why are you taking three boxes of matzah to school after Passover?”

“I thought they were leftover.” He chirps.

“Yeah… So what?” I challenge.

“Alright mom,” he confides. “But if I tell you you can’t get involved. Promise?”

These are always my favorite intros to any conversation with my kids. Promising not to get involved isn’t something I’m apt to do easily.

“I promise nothing,” I say. “Now what’s with the matzah? And if you miss the bus you’re walking to school. So start talking.”

“I’m selling them to a friend.” he sheepishly confesses.

“Selling them? For how much?” I inquire.

“Fifteen dollars,” he tells me.

This is the part where I go berzerk. “Fifteen dollars? Who would buy matzah for fifteen dollars? That’s insane.” I grab the matzah and insist that it is not being sold to anyone. “If you want to give your friend the matzah that is perfectly alright. But you are not selling it to him for any amount of money.”

“But mom, we made a deal. And you always say ‘a deal is a deal.’ He wagered with me willingly. I’m just fulfilling my side of the bargain”

As I delve into this, I learn that Eli has been making money on the side selling a variety of useless items to his pals who only want Eli to play more advanced PS4 video games with them. Eli has a limited number of players, and since his mother is a meanie and wont splurge endlessly on Disney Infinity and Marvel superhero characters for the PS4, Eli has had to turn to his own ingenuity to raise the funds to support his virtual reality video habit.

“Joey begged me, mom,” Eli pleaded. “He just really wants me to be able to play with him and I don’t have the Star Wars Battlefront Seasons Pass. Can I please go now?”

Then I pulled out my ace. I was sure I had this one in the bag. “Well Eli,” I say, “If you feel that selling something like matzah, that you didn’t even pay for, to Joey, or any other friend, for way more money than it’s worth, is the right thing to do, then you go right ahead. Just make sure you feel good about yourself and what you’re choosing to do.” Ha. This was a page from any good Jewish mother’s parenting book. I felt the guilt dripping off each word as it slowly and purposely rolled off my tongue. No way Eli would collect the cash and exploit a pal with this jolt of maternal consciousness infecting his psyche.

But alas, even sure things sometimes go awry. When Eli came home from school he laid down the fifteen dollars from Joey along with all of his Chanukah and birthday money  and asked if he could use my amazon account to purchase his Star Wars Battlefront Seasons Pass. “Mom, I tried to tell Joey I didn’t want the money,” He explained. “I swear I offered to just give him the matzah for free. But he wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. He insisted, mom. Really.”

I reluctantly gave permission for Eli to buy the Season’s Pass and have been pondering this decision ever since. I’m plagued with guilt over taking another child’s money to pay for a game I wasn’t willing to buy for my son myself. I am deeply perplexed about where Joey so easily scored $15. Did his parents know he was subsidizing Eli’s PS4 practice? Would they think we were shameful people, taking money from their 12 year old son? Maybe they did know about it and were under the impression that we were from some sort of underserved North Scottsdale barrio. Maybe they believed their son was merely giving back to his community as they had undoubtedly modeled through their own charitable endeavors.

The more I mulled this over, the more awful I felt. But I had set this up for Eli to make his own decision and I fiercely believe in allowing your children to make choices and live with the consequences of those choices. I told him to follow his conscience and he had. Only his conscience didn’t lead him to the conclusion I had hoped it would. Now what?

“Is there anything Joey wants that his parents wont give him?” I asked after a few hours of hopeless deliberation. “Maybe we can get him something, you know like a toy or a PS4 game?”

“Mom,” Eli chastised, “Joey has everything. There’s nothing we could get him that he doesn’t already have.”

“But maybe there’s something he’d like that he might not buy for himself?” I pushed. “It doesn’t have to be a big thing. Just something to let him know we appreciate him and his friendship.”

“Well,” I could see the wheels turning in Eli’s head, “He really loves his gecko, Emily. Maybe we could get him something for her.”

“OK, that’s a good idea,” I said, “What do you think she might like?”

“Hmmm…” he looked at me coyly for an extremely long moment. “I know. How ‘bout a PS4 controller? They don’t use joysticks anymore so Emily could play with us. I know they would both love that.”

In the Disney Marvel Battleground Universe, I think I’m being set up for a gigantic Hulk smash.

Walk between the raindrops

imagesI’m sitting at my computer writing. It’s 3:30 in the afternoon and there is a sudden and torrential downpour that seems to appear out of nowhere. I’ve just poured a cup of tea and for a moment I’m enjoying the beauty of the rain, the wet wind that brought it in and my toasty state of comfort as I sip on my Earl Grey. Then suddenly it dawns on me that Eli, my 11 year old is getting off the bus from school right about now and will be drenched to the bone after running the 3 blocks from the bus stop to our house. OMG, this is a job for Super Mom!

I bolt away from the computer, grab my keys, wallet and flip flops and run out to the car to save my son. Sure there have been numerous rainy days when I’ve been at work or in meetings at this exact hour. Granted Eli has managed to run home in the rain on multiple occasions and not met with any serious harm. But it is this moment that I convince myself is the make or break moment of motherhood. “A good mother,” I think to myself, “Will race to her son and whisk him out of the elements and into her warm dry SUV.”

I speed to the bus stop like an expectant father whose wife is about to give birth. I will get there before my poor helpless little boy has to step into the cold harsh rainy reality that awaits him. As I pull around the corner I see the bright yellow school bus approaching. “Yes,” I think with great pride in myself and awe in my maternal instincts. Eli steps slowly, cautiously off the bus. The other children follow him close behind. Surely he will see my Bali Blue vehicle stopped right next to the school bus. He looks at me and I think I see deep disappointment in his eyes. “But I’m here,” I want to say to him. “I got here just in the nick of time.”

Then like a flash he is off, racing away from me towards home. I honk. He continues to run, as if he is literally trying to avoid me.  “I’m faster than him,” I think and I speed up to catch him. I roll down the window. “You don’t want a ride home?” I ask pleadingly. “Nah, mom. I want to run in the rain with my friends. See ya at home,” he says and I watch him as he laughs and dances under the big wet droplets of rain with his pals.

I think I’ve forgotten what it feels like to dance in the rain, to appreciate the adversity of inclement weather, to know that it’s okay to get wet sometimes because you are going to dry off in the end and the sheer act of getting wet can be fun and satisfying in and of itself. Sometimes we grown ups worry too much about frizzy hair and drenched sneakers. As famed greeting card mogul Vivian Greene once said, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

Thanks for reminding me, Eli. I love you to Pluto and back

I am a monster

UnknownI am a monster. It’s true. I just woke up a soundly sleeping 14 year old boy and made him climb out of bed, put on some clothes and distribute a pile of laundry to its owner. What has happened to me? Visions of my mother keep floating into my psyche. I remember her wrath about dishes left lying in the sink, her frustration about my slovenly housekeeping, her utter ire about the constant state of my bedroom’s distress. I thought she was an idiot. “Don’t you have anything more important to care about?” I used to lament. I hated her when I was a teenager. Her life seemed…well, menial and insignificant. Why would anyone care about how messy my bedroom was or a few misplaced dirty dishes? I was convinced she had wasted her life by becoming a housewife and mother and was appalled by the choices she’d made that I swore I would never make.

Cut to: here I am in Scottsdale, AZ with two kids, a husband and a fucking house that looks like it’s been hit by a tsunami. I work…outside the home. But barely make enough to pay for the internet connection. I can’t stand the way my kids and husband carelessly leave the kitchen and I told my son before I left for a meeting tonight, “I will wake you up if you don’t clean the kitchen and  put the fucking laundry away.”

So I come home and lo and behold the kitchen is clean and the stupid pile of laundry is still on the living room floor. I’m a firm believer in “mean what you say,” or your credibility isn’t worth shit. So I go into Levi’s room, shine a flashlight on him, rip off his covers and say (in a very calm but stern voice) “Sorry to wake you. But there’s a pile of laundry on the living room floor and I told you it needed to be delivered to its rightful owner. I said I would wake you up if it wasn’t done. So here we are.” He tried to just roll over and ignore me. “I’m not going away,” I said. “You need to put the laundry away.”

“Can you give me 30 seconds?” he asked in a voice much deeper than I’d expected. I’m sure in his head he was declaring me the bitch from hell. And maybe that’s who I am. But I said, “Put away the laundry or I will wake you up and make you put away the laundry.” I had no choice really. Think about it. How can you parent if you make idle threats? You lose all authority.

My job is to create good men out of sweet but self-centered little boys. I’m doing the best I can. But sometimes the job feels monumental.

Captain AmeriMom to the rescue!

DSC_3355Senator, I am no June Cleaver. I don’t claim to be a spectacular parent. If anything, I see myself as overwhelmingly flawed and barely able to maintain a home, organize a family, and see to it that my kids get wherever they’re supposed to be at any certain time on any given day. So when my 10 year old son, Eli, announced that he wanted to be Captain America for Super Hero Day, which happened to fall on Halloween this year, I thought, “Oh well, here’s another lost opportunity for me to come through as a mother.”

I had a busy schedule the day before Halloween and Eli’s pronouncement seemed like an overwhelming burden for which I had neither the time nor the money to shoulder. But at lunchtime I found myself at a Party City store combing the aisles for Cap’n America. To my good fortune, there was a child-sized costume for $19.95 and a shield for only $24. Wow, what a bargain. I could buy one or the other and still have money for groceries. We’re living on a strict, Dave Ramsey type budget these days and I’m looking at $30 in my wallet to get us through to the 10th of November. Okay, be responsible. I cannot spend $44 on a tin shield and flimsy muscle tee that he’ll wear once and discard. No. I am not gonna do it.

I successfully left Party City and went on to my lunch and afternoon meetings. But with an extra 15 minutes and Good Will right across the street from my 2pm, I thought I’d duck in and see if there happened to be a slightly used version of my sought after super hero. No such luck. But for $1.99 I picked up an old dart board and a red shirt and threw them in the back of my car.

I couldn’t wait to get home and start working on my creation. I googled Captain America, looked at the picture and concluded that this was a hopeless endeavor. Then, in spite of myself, I grabbed some old t-shirts, a bottle of fabric glue and pulled out my painting supplies. I spent the next three hours recreating the Captain America ensemble I’d downloaded from the internet.

For those of you who don’t know Eli, let’s just say he can be hard to please. If 99% of his day goes well, he’s the kid who focuses on the 1% that didn’t. So as I worked I couldn’t help but wonder how he might react to my home-made outfit. I imagined multiple scenarios, kind of like my own version of Borges “Garden of Forking Paths.” In one, Eli sat weeping as he gazed upon my makeshift costume. In another, my happy little boy stood toe to toe with a cadre of 5th grade bullies taunting him that he looked nothing like Captain America. My final parallel universe shot two decades into the future. I envisioned Eli, in therapy, as a grown man, feeling overwhelming remorse for rejecting his mother’s costume and consequently her love so many Halloweens ago. There was no version of reality that could have predicted Eli’s actual response.

It took me a moment to realize that someone was watching me. I looked up and saw Eli standing in the archway of my office staring at my creation. “Whoa, mom,” he sputtered. “That is the coolest Captain America costume EVER! I love it! Thank you so much for

working so hard on it.” The genuine delight and appreciation in his eyes filled me with so much joy I could hardly contain myself. I told myself to act cool, to not appear too needy. “Oh…I’m glad you like it,” I replied trying to sound indifferent. “Just threw it together for ya.”

He wore the costume all day at school and couldn’t wait to hit the streets for trick or treating in the evening. On the way home from school he told me over and over again how much he loved it. This was a massive victory on my front. But just as I began to celebrate my success he piped up from the back seat, “Mom, there’s just one thing I need to tell you about the costume.” I felt the full weight of disappointment descend as the wind slowly seeped from my sails. “Yeah?” I tentatively acknowledged, “What is it?” “You’re gonna need to reglue a couple of the stripes on my t-shirt,” he smiled. “Cause I am definitely wearing this costume next year!”

Skinny lemon drop martini


images-1When life gives you lemons…

I have a serious question for you. I’ve been told recently that the best way to handle one’s expectations is to follow the sage advice of Benjamin Franklin and expect nothing so that you will never be disappointed. That’s kind of the way I live nowadays. I refer to it as the “other shoe” phenomenon. I just keep my eyes wide open and wait for the alternative sole to descend. True to fashion, it always does.

But lately I’ve been coached by several of my more “woo-woo” pals to “Expect a miracle,” that “You get whatever you imagine,” that “what you believe you make true.” For a fairly negative thinker like myself, this concept is terribly troubling.

I was raised to work hard, believe in yourself and trust no one. My dad was a “Pull yourself up by your boot-straps” kind of guy and my mom was cursed with what we lovingly refer to as the “Nudelman negativity.” I envision the worst possibilities everywhere. I catastrophize over each and every less than perfect happening. I literally look over my shoulder when the sky is falling so that I can always stay at least one step ahead of disaster. So the notion that my attitude creates my reality is a staggering downer.

You mean I’m responsible for creating every lousy thing that happens in my life? That makes me feel even worse about myself. If only I had seen the world through those proverbial rose-colored glasses, then I might not be…fill in the blank; in financial ruin, an emotional basket case, unemployed, etc… Seems to me that this philosophy is an awful lot like “blaming the victim.”

Feeling like we are solely responsible for every peril and pitfall we encounter is not only depressing, but also completely debilitating. I mean I can only do so much to change my attitude. I see potential despair everywhere. That’s just who I am. Telling myself to “think positively” is a useless exercise in futility.

I guess I could just “Fake it till I make it.” But candidly, that kind of input is truly sickening to me. The truth is that bad stuff happens. It happens to everyone and it’s important to keep it in perspective and not let it completely destroy who you are. But telling me to pretend that every misfortune is some kind of “blessing in disguise” is really irksome to me.

This kind of preachy Polyanna propoganda grates on me just as much as the opposite consolation in which a helpful friend seeks to buoy you by pointing out that yes, you have lost an arm in battle, but it could always be worse, you could have lost both arms, and a leg, and a head. It can always be worse therefore you should rejoice in your minor pain and misfortune because something even more horrible may be lurking around the next corner.

What is a person to do when life gives you lemons? I think it depends on the type of lemons, the amount of lemons and the size of said lemons. I mean, a few lemons, some Grey Goose and a pinch of Truvia and you’ve got a darn delicious skinny lemon drop Martini. But when it’s pouring lemons, big lemons, and they’re coming down fast and furious, you had better seek cover and protect yourself lest you risk being pummeled to death by the tough-skinned canary-colored citrus.

So I guess the upshot of all this is that you have to “appreciate what you have,” and “develop an attitude of gratitude,” and…blah blah blah, add whatever platitude you feel best fits. But at the same time, keep one foot grounded in reality and pay attention to the potential risks that await you.

My final advice is this: It’s okay to wallow in misery every now and then. That doesn’t mean it’s your own fault that you’ve had a set-back or that you brought the bad upon yourself. Life just feels bad sometimes and you shouldn’t have to pretend that it doesn’t. But don’t let yourself get stuck in the quicksand of disappointment and regret, because that will pull you under, fast. It’s a delicate balance; one that requires time, effort and sometimes a lot of lemons before you find that sweet spot in an otherwise sour situation.

Freedom

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Passover is the time of year when we Jews celebrate the Exodus from Egypt. We were slaves and then became free people. That’s pretty monumental and it took a lot of wandering, a lot of soul searching and a lot of self-doubt. There were those who yearned to go back to Egypt, because that was as least a known world, a familiar fate. Sure it was awful. But like a prisoner who recommits a crime on the eve of his parole, three hots and a cot can be pretty inviting when you’re contemplating a life of self awareness, choice and independent thinking.

We are supposed to tell the story of Passover to our children. Well, we do that — annually. By now, you’d think they’d pretty much have it down pat. But here we go, we’re gonna tell it …again and again and again. Why is that? What is to be gleaned in the story this year, this telling?

I think I might have an answer. I think this year, with all that has transpired within my world, I think maybe I finally get this Passover story. Freedom is a double edged sword. Freedom brings joy and lightness. It also brings self doubt, fear, even anguish.

This year we have found ourselves free from the constraints of a harsh, abusive work relationship. Becoming free was painful. We suffered intense betrayals, deep anguish and still find ourselves walking the halls in the wee hours of the night because self doubt and worry keep us from restful sleep. We wonder how we will survive on our own, without the punishing security we’d grown used to. How will we take care of our children? How will we maintain our standing in the community?

Freedom doesn’t come easily. It is terrifying. I’ve always wondered how my Jewish ancestors would have been anything but overjoyed as they raced away from Pharaoh and the shackles that enslaved them for decades. Yet here we stand, naked, unprotected from the elements, and we are afraid.

We spent less time preparing for Passover this year. In the scheme of things, Passover prep had to take a back seat. We are too busy struggling to get back on our feet, find solid ground and begin to remake our lives as free people. I feel guilty about my lack of focus this year. But the truth is, the rituals, the foods, the seder, they all seems less important right now. Because I get it. I get why we do all of it. We have been “gifted” with an opportunity to feel the truth of an Exodus from slavery. That’s why we eat special foods, say special prayers and thank G-d for the opportunity to experience freedom.

I think I could skip all the rituals entirely this year. But we wont. We have family to celebrate our new found freedom with. We have children to whom we must continue to tell the story. We have each other, sometimes frightened, sometimes boldly empowered, and together we will journey forward through the uncertainty and fear.

We step into a new world of freedom, choice and self direction this year. We graciously acknowledge the family and friendships that have stood by our side through our imprisonment and propped up our spirits as we reluctantly fled from our captors.

With freedom comes responsibility; the burden to live well, to offer the best of who we are to everyone we meet, to appreciate each and every kindness afforded us. And so to all of you whose kind words, thoughtful deeds and deep love and support have strengthened and sustained us this Passover season, we thank you for making our path easier to navigate and our road more clearly defined.

We admit that the uncertainty remains scary and unsettling. But like our ancestors, going back is not a choice. We must keep our eyes focused ahead, our hearts open and  our faith deeply in tact. For it is only with clear vision, love and trust, that we will emerge at the border of a promised land and will retain the insight, courage and readiness to venture into it as free souls who understand the perils of slavery and appreciate the power of liberty.

I can see clearly now…

Levi sans specs

Levi sans specs

The milestones are flying by me so fast I don’t know where to look first. Bar Mitzvah, overnight camp, his own set of house keys, laptop, cell phone, the list goes on seemingly endlessly. He was a toddler like two days ago. Really. But the most recent milestone affected me more than I’d anticipated. My thirteen year old son, Levi, just got his first set of contact lenses. Now Levi’s been wearing glasses for as long as I can remember. They were unobtrusive at first. But as time went on and his quirky style began to emerge, we were able to find specs that matched his personality and charm. In fact, one of my proudest mom moments was when I bought him a pair of non-returnable, retro, tortoise-shell frames without him even being in the room. They fit him perfectly in every way. “That’s how well I know my kid,” I boasted to anyone within ear shot.

But this contact lens thing has me shaken. He looks so grown up, and so…handsome suddenly. His bright, happy face is now unobscured by frames. He’s more open, more vulnerable, more himself. Can a pair of contact lenses make someone more of themselves? Not sure. I suddenly feel the pain of losing him. I’m scared that he’s growing up too fast. He talks about driving all the time. How am I ever gonna cope with that?

I’ve always insisted that I was the type of parent who welcomed each stage of development. Not one to linger in the past or lament the “good old days,” But what happens when they do grow up? When they go away? When your life isn’t about them anymore? Then who are you? Who do you become? How do you still matter?

It’s really unfair that you go through these huge identity crisis when you’re young. You struggle to figure out who you are and how you fit into the Universe. By your mid 20s you think you’ve got it nailed down. Then by 35 you realize you weren’t even close. You settle into a comfortable routine in your 40s, meaningful work or building your family and fortune. Then suddenly your kids grow up and you have to start the whole darn process all over again. It’s daunting to say the least.

My youngest son, Eli, is in 4th grade. He’s still somewhat dependent. But his stubborn individuality reminds me daily that he too will be flying the proverbial coop just as soon as his minor status terminates. He’s in the stage where everything I do embarrasses him. I remember that stage with my parents all too well. My father used to insist on holding my hand as we crossed busy streets and my heart would crumble with shame if anyone saw us. Sure wish I could hold his hand one last time today.

I think about my father a lot, about how much he taught me and how much I miss him. In my son, Eli’s, fleeting serious moments, he begs me not to die and leave him, ever. Not sure it’s right to promise him what I surely cannot deliver. But I do so anyway. Just like my dad promised me. Life is about broken promises.

In the meantime, I find myself often tearful, lost and afraid of what the future holds. I want to protect my boys from everything and everyone. I want to be able to shield their eyes from pain and stand between them and any potential heartache. The realization that I can’t do that is what’s breaking my heart. For their lives to work, they will have to see beyond my horizon, to see for themselves. I guess the whole contact lens thing signifies something a whole lot deeper than I first imagined.

What does forgiveness look like?

Tonight marks the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days. Much of the emphasis of the next ten days is on forgiveness. We ask forgiveness from those we have hurt. We ask forgiveness for ourselves for being less than we know we can be. We ask forgiveness of God for our failure to lead good and righteous lives.

I was asked to create a piece of art that illustrated what forgiveness might look like. This is what I came up with.

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What does forgiveness look like?

A broken vase, a treasured gift
from a father who is gone.

My grandfather’s Havdala spice jar,
dropped by a five year old’s inattentive grasp.

The Kiddush cup we got when our first son was born,
mangled in the garbage disposal
as I hurriedly tried to rush through kitchen clean-up.

Broken bits of life that used to shatter my heart.
I chastised myself for their loss.

At first I didn’t know why I saved them in that crate in the garage.
They were painful reminders of moments gone wrong and the
things and people I could never replace.

And then one day I found them and realized
that although they were not whole, as they had once been,
they could live anew, as they now were,
precious pieces of a creative expression.

Entangled within cabinets, picture frames, shelves,
these beloved mementos remind me to forgive, to let go,
to welcome the changes that come sometimes with
carelessness, hurry, and the natural course of our existence.

Forgiveness allows what is broken to become whole.
Art is the process by which those shattered shards come together
to express the imperfect beauty of life.

L’Shana Tova to all.

It’s all about perspective

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So this morning I walk into the kitchen at 5:20a.m. Don’t even ask me how long the rest of my nocturnal crew has been awake. I see my husband, Mark, standing in front of the island sink. He is absent-mindedly spraying the sink basin with Pam cooking spray. He does this for approximately 10 seconds as I silently watch with perplexity. Next he returns the Pam to the pantry and pulls out his carton of Egg Beaters. After a few violent shakes, he opens the carton and proceeds to pour several servings of Egg Beaters down the drain to follow the Pam cooking spray. At this point, I am finding it hard to keep quiet.

So I say, in a less than kind tone, “What the hell are you doing? Why would you waste food like that?” I am irritated, and yes a bit concerned, that during the night he has lost or hopefully only misplaced some of his mental faculties. He looks up and simply says, “I’m making my breakfast.”

Now Mark enjoys a good joke and has never missed an opportunity to tease, toy with, or good-naturedly yank my rather easily accessible chain. But at this point, I am not amused. We are working hard to make ends meet. We are living sparsely, avoiding waste and trying to maintain a cash only spending regiment. Why would someone in that position carelessly spill an entire meal down the drain?

“What is seriously wrong with you?” I ask more with bewilderment than ire. “Nothing,” he retorts, still standing over his eggless creation in the sink. At this point, I’m taking into consideration the possibility that he has had some type of brain aneurism and can no longer be held responsible for his behavior. I quickly move towards him to catch him in case he topples over from the force of the bursting vessel within his brain. But as I get to him, I see that sitting on the bottom of the sink is his microwave egg-cooker, filled with plenty of Pam and two servings of Egg Beaters. He, of course, is snickering madly. He picks up his cooker, places it in the microwave and turns it on for 1:30 seconds.

“Why did you do that?” I continued my interrogation despite his giggles and snorts. “It’s more efficient,” he explained. “I don’t get Pam all over the counter and if I spill any of the Egg Beaters, I just turn on the faucet and clean the sink.”

I had to admit that did actually make a lot of sense. But from my perspective across the room, watching his actions was like watching an inane rerun of The Three Stooges. But then it hit me; that is truly what life is about. (Not watching inane reruns of The Three Stooges.) Life is about how we each view the world from our unique vantage points. Thus our challenges in life, our relationship difficulties, our negative attitudes are only as accurate as we allow them to be. If we change our perspective, by say walking across a room, or bending down, or climbing a few rungs of a metaphorical ladder, we may actually see the entire world differently. That’s an enormous realization.

When we argue with people or when someone close to us hurts us, it’s so easy to accuse, condemn and vilify whomever has done us wrong. But maybe we’re not really seeing the full picture. Maybe what appears to be careless or random idiocy is really thoughtful and considerate conduct. Maybe if we shift our mental or emotional viewpoint we will see that the situation is vastly different from our original interpretation. And maybe, just maybe, we too will find ourselves laughing at misconceptions that never actually even existed.

Why did the boys cross the road?

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Why did the boys cross the road?

Long pause filled with uncertainty.

To get smoothies from A.J.s and scare the bejeezus out of their mother.

It may not be the funniest joke ever, but my two tiny, helpless, toddlers… okay, they’re not really tiny anymore, and technically they’re not helpless. I guess you could also argue that nearly 13 and 9 no longer designates them as toddlers. But they’re crossing a busy street and I’m not with them and this is freaking me out!

It’s summer vacation, camp is over, I have no help and I’m feeling like a dried up piece of sand paper. So I made an appointment for a manicure and pedicure. I thought my husband would be off work this morning when I originally made the appointment. But he had to work at the last minute. I didn’t want to cancel. Does that make me a monster? My heels are coarse and leathery, and my feet look like they’ve been through a Crayola blizzard with so many splotches of colors on my toenails because I’ve been layering over my last pedicure for a month. The salon I go to is across the street from AJs. So the boys convinced me that they could come along with me and venture off alone to get smoothies while I soaked peacefully in the pedicure tub. I gave them money and instructions, several times. “Be careful crossing the street!” I said. “It’s a busy street. And call me if you need me. Maybe text me once you get there. No, that’s silly. You don’t have to text me. Yes, text me.” Okay, seriously, they’re only going across the street. Motorists are cautious around here. I mean it’s a residential neighborhood. But there are a lot of elderly folks in this area. Maybe they wont notice two innocent little tykes, one toting a beloved stuffed polar bear, darting across a four lane freeway. Okay okay, it’s not exactly a freeway. But it gets really busy sometimes and it can be as treacherous as the 51 on a Friday afternoon.

Why is it so hard to let kids grow up? I know this is good for them. It teaches them responsibility. It allows them to learn independence. When I was 12, I used to peddle my bicycle 10 miles across town to the local Bunny Hutch to meet friends and enjoy the best french fries in town. What were my parents thinking? Did it scare my mom that I rode in the street? Did she just not think about it? Why does it freak me out so much?

Levi, my nearly 13 year old, went away to sleep-away camp for a full month this summer. He managed to brush his teeth without my constant reminders. He got dressed by himself and handled a litany of daily responsibilities without a single word from me or his dad. (Although I do confess to putting a few brief instructions into the loving letters I wrote on a daily basis.) But he probably ignored those.

I really don’t remember my parents being this over-protective. I don’t think it was that much of a safer world back then. I’ve even read numerous books and articles that insist there are not more child abductions or mass killings today than there were back in the day. It’s just the way the media covers them that makes them all seem so looming and prevalent. But parents’ levels of angst have sky-rocketed since the time of my childhood. It’s like we’re so scared of something happening that we don’t want to ever let our kids out of our sight.

I think it ultimately cripples both them and us. It keeps kids in a perpetual state of childishness. We protect them from anything that even hints at grown-up responsibility which keeps them completely void of the experiences they need to grow up and become responsible adults. In turn, their neediness and inexperience prevents us from letting go and keeps us stuck in perpetual parenting mode without any hope of escape or eventual freedom.

The funniest part of all this is that we’re only doing it because we love them so much. We just don’t want to see them hurt or watch them struggle or worse, possibly fail. But that’s really the only way to learn anything, isn’t it? To fall down. To make a mistake. To err. Without error, life poses no challenges, no opportunities for growth.

So take a deep breath. Love your kids. But let them cross the street by themselves once in a while. It’s really the only way to get from here to there anyway.