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I have a confession to make, and some of you might cast immediate judgement—I truly do not like being a stay-at-home mom. Thinking back, I’m not quite sure what my original plan was, six-and-a-half years ago, when I had Man. At that time, I was a speech therapist working with the elderly population in nursing homes. I told them that I would be returning after four months, but in the recesses of my mind I wasn’t convinced. When Man turned three-months old, I barely knew how to take care of him myself, let alone teach someone else how to do it in my absence. Therefore, I resigned from my job with the plan of returning to the workforce when he was one.
Surprise! When he was nine-months old, I became pregnant with Lady. It seemed unrealistic to go back to work for just six months before leaving so I again delayed my return to work. I told myself that I would give Lady the same whole year that I gave Man.
Flash forward a bit to Lady’s first birthday and it grew obvious that Man was not like other children. His then-undiagnosed ADHD and SPD made him VERY dangerous. You must believe me when I say I literally could not take my eyes off him for fear that he was either in mortal danger or putting his sister in danger. At that time in his life he was climbing on counters, getting into ovens, running out of the front door of the house daily, and unplugging any wire he could get his hands on. He was one of those children who defied the laws of babyproofing. I was his babyproofing.
As the years went on he remained dangerous in many ways and I just didn’t trust someone else to take care of him. If he pushed some kid down the slide at a park, I, his mother, needed to be there to smooth over the destruction. I know how overwhelmed I felt taking care of two toddlers, and I felt that there was no way I could ask someone else could do it. Maybe, in the back of my mind, I was just scared to return to work after three-and-a-half years away, and this provided an adequate excuse.
Man entered Kindergarten last year, and in many ways life became easier. However, I had grown so unhappy over the years that the thought of going back to a job that I didn’t love seemed intolerable. I had always wanted children. There was never a doubt in my mind that starting a family was one of my number one goals in life. So, imagine my surprise when after some soul searching I realized that being a stay-at-home-mother was not for me. It took me six long years to admit that to myself. I was under the impression that once you had kids, you were supposed to enjoy taking care of them. Sure, not every moment of every day, but yes, ultimately child rearing was supposed to be satisfying. Personally, for me, it did not bring the level of daily satisfaction that I want out of life.
We scrimped to hire a babysitter and for the first time in six years I had a helping hand. Over the past six months, I have never felt better. Much of that is due to the fact that I am now able fill my days with something in addition to child rearing. A few months ago, I made the decision to fulfill a lifelong dream and applied to schools for a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling. I start school tomorrow and I could not be more excited.
Of course, because the world works this way, my babysitter is on vacation for two weeks while I am beginning school. Therefore, my mother is coming to help with the kids while I am in class. We were going over the schedule:
“Are you getting home first or is J (my husband)?” my mom asked.
“No, I won’t be home until about 9:30 in the evening, I have a board meeting at the place where I volunteer right after class.”
“Oh, well… how are the kids handling all of this, Laura?” she questioned in her most “I’m not judging you, but really I am judging you” tone.
“The kids will be fine. They want me to be happy and being home with them all day did not make me happy. They have had me all to themselves for six and a half years and now it’s my turn.”
‘Uh huh…” she replied and abruptly changed the conversation.
The change in conversation was her signal to let me know that she didn’t agree at all but wasn’t going to engage me in a debate. In her eyes, staying at home is most important, and above anything else, my children need me whether I was happy or not. And P.S.- children are the light of a mother’s life, so why wasn’t I just happy?!
I disagree. I feel I have been there for them and will continue to be there for them every day of their lives. I love them so much, that I put my own feelings aside to fulfill the obligation of being their parent. I thought that that was what was most important. But, after a few years, I wasn’t being the mom I could be. I was a shell of myself going through the motions. I wasn’t present and I certainly was not giving them the mother they deserved.
I don’t like being a-stay-at-home mom and spending my days being at the beck and call of my children and my household. I hate running them from activity to activity and bringing them to play dates just to sit and watch them play with another child. I get bored after about five minutes of pretend play; please, PLEASE, do not make me serve fake food to that imaginary family one more time. Pretty please? I do not want to beg anyone to eat his dinner anymore, standing over him imploring him to eat one single bite after one single bite. I just can’t do it anymore. I feel guilt and shame even admitting this because it makes me feel like I’m a horrendous mother, but I want to spend some of my days doing something else that stimulates me differently. It’s what I need to be a happy person. And as a happy person I will be a better parent when I am with them. It’s not as though I don’t love my children and garner great joy from them, of course I do, but that joy is even greater, even more valuable, when I’m doing tasks outside of parenting.
So tomorrow, I turn my family upside down to do something just for me. I’m sure many of you are thinking, “Well, if you didn’t want to take care of your kids, then why did you have them?” And the truth is, I feel very selfish doing this. Nevertheless, I also know that I have no chance of being truly happy if I don’t. I know I am no less dedicated to them as I was when I was staying at home all day; I am still caring for them. I am showing them that it is never too late to follow a dream, while working towards creating the happiest home I can for them. In my heart, I know I will still be here for them—I will still be their mom. I will make sure that they feel loved and cared for and if they need me, no matter what I’m doing, I will be there. But I will no longer be resentful.
I’m sitting on the couch right now next to Man. We are eating our lunch and watching Senator Elizabeth Warren deliver one of her fiercely powerful and inspiring speeches at the Women’s March. I began tearing up and Man asked why. I explain to him the significance of this march, the importance of protests, and the seriousness of standing up for the equal rights of all citizens worldwide. He seemed to understand it at his six-year-old level.
“Oh, so they are saying that a woman can be a President too?”
“Yes,” I explain, “They are saying that women can do everything that a man can do. Do you believe that?”
“Sure, I don’t understand why they can’t.”
He is blessed to be a young child, bathed in his innocence. As his mother I will protect him, but continue to raise him with the attitude that he so plainly stated.
For various reasons, I am not attending a march, but by no means am I sitting back and remaining silent. I am of sound mind and body, and therefore, take responsibility for doing my part in this historic movement. It’s within the crux of my last statement where the crucial message lies, “of sound mind and body.” My body, my entire being, is strong, not just my pussy!!
This word has been tossed around lately (thanks, Trump) and used colloquially as though it doesn’t hold a most lewd meaning. I am filled with pride to see women wearing their “pussy hats”, but we are SO MUCH STRONGER and SO MUCH MORE than just our pussies!!!!
My heart is strong: it allows me to have empathy and give kindness to those less fortunate. It helps guide me when teaching my children the important difference between right and wrong. It serves as a beacon of strength even when it’s wounded by injustice. It acts as a monitor when deciphering the intricate ways of the world.
My eyes are strong: They remain wide open and take in all that is around me. They have no trouble noticing acts of unimaginable kindness, but they see clearly the evil in the world. I am not blind to what is happening around me, and because of that, I can do my part to create change.
My hands are strong: They sit here typing my words for all to see. I might not be marching today, but my hands allow my message to be carried. They allow the strong women marching today to create and holds signs of anger, signs of hope, and signs of change. They allow our message to be carried worldwide.
My lungs are strong: They fill my body with the breath I need to scream my message loudly to all that will listen. They lend timber to my voice. My mouth is strong: It formulates the words with which to call out inequality, unfairness, prejudice, and discrimination. It provides me with the opportunity to instead begin a meaningful dialogue about change.
My ears are strong: They allow me to hear the cries of those less fortunate. They allow me to receive the ideas of those smarter than me, and with them I am afforded the opportunity to hear the significant and dynamic messages of every woman speaking at the marches today. These messages inspire us to get up and act! In conjunction with my eyes, I can gather knowledge on how best I can work to bring about change.
My uterus is strong: It incubates a new generation of people which will continue to bring our message of strength and hope into the future.
My brain is strong: It allows me to understand my strengths and my weaknesses and focus my abilities on where I can best make change. It tells me that I am more than just my pussy. It shows me that when I use it, I am equal to every other human on the planet and there are no limits to my potential.
My body is strong: when used together, all my parts create a tough, nasty woman, who will sit quietly no longer. A woman who deserves equal pay, choices over her own body, and is as powerful as any man out there. I am a woman who will stand up for equal rights of all people, who will call out injustice when she sees it, and who will teach her children to do the same. WE are our strength, not our pussies.
I’m often asked why I blog. Initially I stayed anonymous, but over time the anonymity began to dissipate and by now, most people who know me also know my blog. Occasionally, one will question why I write, why I allow myself to be so vulnerable by sharing my life so publicly. It didn’t begin this way. Initially I was attempting to write one of those funny mom blogs… but I was the only one who found them funny. One day I was struggling, and I wrote a piece that reflected that struggle. The response was overwhelming. People were commiserating with what I was writing, and it made me feel better. No, it made me feel fantastic.
As the blog progressed and my goals grew loftier, I often tried to find a unique spin on parenting topics- I mean, how else was I ever going to reach a million readers and launch myself into mommy blogger stardom?? I would write something and hand it over to my husband to critique, he would hand it back after correcting my horrendous grammar and exclaim that it’s ready for publishing.
“But what did you think of it?” I always pressed. His words said “great,” but his face said, “meh.”
“It was good. You know I think your best posts are the ones where you write about yourself and your struggles,” he would bravely respond.
And he was right; I would always connect the most with people when I wrote from the heart. You see, I’m not unique, I’m just like you. My voice is all of yours… just posted publicly to 1,700 people.
Like all of you, there are days where I’m Supermom! I’m totally rocking parenting—everyone is following directions; there are no major tantrums; we’re on time for most things; the kids are happy and smiling and so am I.
But, I also admittedly have horrendous parenting days where it seems like the Joker has swooped in and kicked Supermom’s new, larger, mom ass. It’s even accompanied by the crazy Joker perma-grin affixed to my face. I wear this to convincingly pretend that I’m not ready to run from my house screaming at any moment. Those are the days I wonder exactly what I was thinking when I agreed to let my husband touch me with his penis. I immediately flash to the moment, seven years ago, when I did the happy dance as I tossed my last package of birth control in the trash basket. Oh, right, like most of you, I asked for this.
Like so many of you the absolute best moments of my life (except for maybe my wedding day) are the moments I’m watching my children be happy and carefree. I never knew true, pure love until they were born and I wouldn’t give that feeling up for anything.
I’m not unique; I truly miss the days of spontaneous, uninterrupted alone time. I crave some time to myself that is not at midnight when everyone in the house is finally asleep. Sometimes I spend most of my day ignoring what they are doing and playing on my phone. I just need to escape for a while and not be present that day. If one of them is bleeding uncontrollably, of course, I’m right there. But seriously, go and pee by yourselves, I know you can do it.
I too struggle to find the balance between being Laura and being Mom, and blending the two is not as seamless as I thought it would be. I worry that I have lost myself, and if I try to find her, I am being a selfish and bad mom. I have to believe the struggle is even more significant when you are a working mom and have to wear the office hat and the mom hat—kudos to you ladies.
I, along with my lovely gym companions, constantly wonder if my body is ever going to return to its pre-baby figure. Once upon a time there was a woman who could walk around in public without a bra and eat foods other than lettuce without causing her to bloat and still look pregnant.
I have come to rely on the circle of moms whom I am lucky to call my friends. I have lifelong friends that I will forever cherish; however, there is something special about mom friends. Parenting can be a lonely, isolating job, and having a person who can truly understand my day to day life has become vital to my happiness. This is especially important when parenting a child with special needs. Not many people “get it” like those that are in the trenches right along with you.
I am like every mom who just wants her children to grow up happy and healthy.
I am like every mom who looks at her children and is just floored by the fact that she created such angelic beings, that they came from her!
I am like every mom who sucks at crafts and just didn’t sign up for this crap when they popped out a kid.
I am like every mom who wants to provide her children with a loving and nurturing home.
I am like every mom who would rather gouge her eyes out then hear one more thing about Minecraft.
I am like every mom who brims with pride when her child accomplishes a feat.
I am like every mom whose heart breaks when her children are sad or disappointed.
I am like every mom who sprints from her house screaming “freeeeedom” when the door shuts behind her for a coveted date night with her husband.
I am like every mom who feels overwhelmed and just wants to give up sometimes.
I am like every mom who has let her kids eat popcorn for dinner because the eating struggle is real, people!
I am like every mom who does the best that she can.
I’m not unique; I am like every mom…
I am like you…
I’m sitting, happily gazing at Man during a swimming lesson. Down he goes, and then out pops his little face adorned with a satisfying grin. I too am beaming with pride at his success—you see, until recently, his Sensory Processing Disorder made it impossible for him to fully submerge his face under water. Watching him do this is HUGE and fills me with delight, but, I will admit, also relief. At six, Man was the only first grader still wearing floaties at the pool, something he was acutely aware of, but unable to change. Until now.
I glance up to notice one of his classmates sitting on a bench next to the pool. He is quietly reading a chapter book, a large chapter book, a chapter book that clearly exceeds the literacy skills of most first graders. He is there patiently enjoying his story while his little brother takes a swimming lesson- he has already mastered swimming himself. A pang of jealousy and competitiveness burns inside of me.
“Do you know that I saw XX reading a chapter book!?!” I mention to a mom friend a few moments later. She is not surprised and also casually mentions that he excels at soccer as well. He is a classic overachiever, and is bound to succeed in life- a future filled with a fabulous career and riches galore is most definitely in the cards. My friend marvels at this and comments on how she too would love for her son to be successful. I respond by saying that I just want Man to grow up and be happy.
Maybe it’s because I watch him struggle at tasks that most children do seamlessly without thinking, or maybe it’s because I have already sat in four meetings with his educational team and it’s only the beginning of January, but for whatever reason, to me, success for my guy means getting off the bus with a smile on his face. I know I am not unique in this thinking, and all parents want their kids to be happy, but each of us has a different definition of “success.”
I began to ponder, what are we really asking of our children?
It has taken many years and a boatload of acceptance for me to come to the realization that, at least for the time being, Man is not going to be the star of the class, or the captain of the soccer team, the most popular kid, or the most talented. It’s not that he doesn’t have the potential to be many of these things, for he is smart, and kind, and funny, brilliant and talented in ways many other children are not. But his ADHD and SPD cause him to struggle in many areas. Watching him struggle has taught me that what is most important, what is vital to his future success, is his happiness and self esteem.
I was recently brought to tears during one of our many educational team meetings. I tried over and over again to find something, just one single thing, which showed that Man excelled as a first grader and as a little boy. “Maybe he calls out so much because he has a lot of ideas about the topic you are discussing!” “What if his behavior is deteriorating because he’s bored and already understands what you are teaching?” “Don’t you think he would benefit from some more challenging math work?”
“No”, was the repeated answer. “No, he is not bored or in need of any more academic challenges. He is the way he is and we are all doing the best we can for him.”
“You don’t understand, I wept, I need for him to excel at something, anything!! Just tell me one thing he does really well!! I watch him struggle to participate in tasks like piano and dance, things he loves and he himself chooses to do. I need to hear that there is something, ANYTHING, that he participates in during his day that does not pose a challenge!!”
I was met with sympathetic nods, but more importantly, I was told the following, “Don’t worry, he really is doing well! He is so happy and enthusiastic, he loves to learn and participate, he is kind and has lots of friends and he thinks very highly of himself.”
And in that moment what is most important became clear:
I no longer care that he hates soccer or that he would rather build a rocket then score a touchdown.
It doesn’t bother me anymore that he continuously calls out in class or doesn’t fit into the profile of a typical student.
I stopped defining the achievements or failures of his days by his behavior chart.
If he is still wearing floaties at the pool this summer, I would be cool with that and I would make sure he felt like a badass wearing them.
It’s not worth getting frustrated about the fact that he has been sounding out short words since he was three, but reads on grade level because he can’t focus long enough to get better at it.
The fact that he has no interest in taking tennis lessons or doing Tae Kwan Doh like his friends is of no consequence.
When he needs to leave his dance class because he is too over stimulated, so what?
That day he sat and colored for the entirety of his piano lesson because he had no more focus left in him, big deal…
I won’t tell you that I don’t worry constantly about his inability to perform the tasks of typical children his age; I worry all of the time. But I can tell you that I am far more focused on teaching him lessons that will make these facts irrelevant in his future. I’m trying to teach him to be himself and to be happy with whom he is.
What are the “tiger moms” of the world doing for their kids if not teaching them to define success by each external achievement? I am teaching Man to define success by each attempt. Failure is great; it means you had the balls to try. If you tried, you can feel proud and accomplished. I want him to understand that choosing happiness above all is what’s important in life. Today it seems that we push kids to do more and be more, what happened to just being happy kids? When did it become so important for a six-year-old to be a superstar?
Success is near impossible without happiness and good self esteem. It is unattainable without having to learn to cope with failure, and to figure out how to pick ones self up, and try again. Not everyone is going to win that trophy, or come in first place, and that has to be ok. We are doing our children a disservice if we teach them that they have to be good at everything, rather then just trying their hardest. They must understand that doing their best is good enough, even when they come in last place. Failure is part of life; it’s the grace with which you handle it and the lessons you take from it, that define you.
He might never play soccer or tennis, be a professional hip-hop dancer, or the valedictorian, but one day, things will fall into place for Man. His future is bright and, following many failures, he will become whatever he wants to in life, I am absolutely positive about this. But every day is a successful one, because when he lays his head on his pillow at night he does it with a smile and a sense of accomplishment.
I was born on December 25, 1979.
That’s right, of the 365 days in a year, I chose to enter this world on Christmas Day.
Right now, the vast majority of you are having the following thoughts:
“Awwwww, a Christmas baby!!! What a great gift for her family!”
“It must be so fun to have a birthday on Christmas!!”
“That sucks, I bet she doesn’t get any presents for her birthday!”
How do I know that this is what you’re thinking? Am I psychic? Well, yes, a little, but that is neither here nor there right now. I know this because these are the three most common sentiments uttered when someone finds out my date of birth.
Most people don’t realize how often your use your DOB in your day to day life, because most people don’t share their birthday with Jesus himself. If you actually stop to think about it, it’s any time you EVER have to present ID and someone glances over your license. From bouncers to medical personnel, from liquor store cashiers to Bertha at the DMV, everyone has a remark about my date of birth.
I immediately see the glimmer in people’s eyes, the sheer excitement that washes over them, as they discover this tidbit of information. It’s as if they have just met someone who has been bestowed with an extra special gift from the universe.
“You were born on the same day as the Big Guy Himself?”
“How awesome, the entire world stops and celebrates your birthday!”
“It must be so nice to have your family altogether on every. Single. Birthday!?!?”
This enthusiasm is immediately extinguished when I Grinch out and utter the following words–“Well, I’m Jewish.”
Confusion ensues, instantly followed with an uncomfortable hesitation over what to say next. If it’s over the phone, there’s usually a nice long pause, during which I satisfyingly complete some irrelevant task like crocheting a king-sized Afghan. If we’re face to face, I give them the “matter of fact death stare” which usually causes the person to become redder than the poisonous Poinsettias decorating a nearby countertop.
Most people are just completely unsure of what this actually means. It’s not that they don’t understand that Judaism is a different religion; it’s that they can’t fathom that there are people who exist who don’t actually celebrate Christmas. Doesn’t everyone celebrate the awesomeness of this holiday?
First, let me reiterate that it stinks to have your birthday on Christmas, whether you celebrate or not. Having nothing to do with gifts, attempting to acknowledge and celebrate a birthday—a day that should not go unnoticed by the most important people in your life, is virtually impossible when overshadowed by what is practically the largest national holiday we have. No matter what, your day, the one day of the year when it is acceptable to indulge in somewhat selfish, narcissistic behavior, is eclipsed in LARGE part by the fact that most of the people you know are celebrating something else, something better. It’s not even a competition, if given a choice to celebrate you or to celebrate the gift-givingest, Rudolph-the-reindeer-flyingest, Santa-Claus-Down-the-chimneyest, tree-lightingest, eggnog drinking, gingerbread house making… FYI, I had already lost at “gift-giving’est”. Clearly, Christmas is numero uno, far superior to a silly little birthday celebration. Really, how can you say, “Well, it’s my birthday; tell your family you will do Christmas on the 26th!?”
Somewhat disappointing is the conversation that often occurs as a result of my birth date- I’m constantly being reminded of what a minority I am. I am proud of my heritage, my religion, and passing on my traditions to my children. However, explaining to people that Christmas is a religious holiday, not a national holiday gets somewhat tiresome. Why don’t I just let people assume I celebrate Christmas, you might be thinking? Well, because that’s like allowing people to assume that because you’re female you like pink, or because you’re a boy, you like sports. That’s just not who I am, and it’s an unfair assumption. As I said, I’m proud of who I am, and I want people to know that.
However, it is simultaneously fabulous and wonderful. Very few people learn of my birth date and don’t have some sort of comment. Whether positive or negative, everyone has an opinion about the day that I was born. My family and friends are also always, in some capacity, around. It’s not like having your birthday on June 17th, which could be a Tuesday in which everyone is off at their respective jobs. Someone is home to spend this day with me. So what if I eat Chinese food and go to the movies every year, I still get to do it with people I love. Why? Because their offices are closed!!!
So, in short, it can be slightly frustrating, but also, like the song says, “it’s the most, wonderful time of the year…”
I am Jewish. There was a time in my life when I was in a serious relationship with a non-Jew. When discussing marriage I always considered the religious difference; it hung heavily over my head like holiday mistletoe. Would we celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah? How would we explain it to our imaginary future children? It was certainly confusing. Ultimately, this relationship ended (not due to religious differences) and I married a Jewish man. I assumed, therefore, that other religions wouldn’t be a factor for our children.
This was my big mistake.
When he was one, I took Man to sit on Santa’s lap. Why not? Since he was too young to ask questions or build memories, I figured there was no harm. We waited on the obligatory long line until it was Man’s turn—and finally we arrived. Before us, there sat the red-suit-clad Santa with a real beard (a nice touch!) and a permagrin affixed to his rosy-cheeked face. If I had listened closely enough I’m sure I could have actually heard the angels singing. Like a little Santa factory, Man was placed on his lap, a picture was snapped before he could resist too much and off of his lap he went. It was all of 30 seconds and if it weren’t for the single picture (and the fact that I’m now telling all of you nice folks) I could deny that this event ever took place.
I had never heard the word “Santa” out of his mouth again, until about two years later. Then when his sister grew old enough to understand about Christmas, it became impossible to escape. Christmas is everywhere, and well, let’s face it, Hanukah just doesn’t come with as much flash and pizzazz.
The questions started simply enough:
Q: Where does Santa live?
A: The North Pole.
Q: Do we have a chimney?
Q: Can we go meet him?
Q: What do the elves do?
A: Build toys.
But now the conversations have grown more complex. And just when I’m finishing answering a battery of questions from one of them, I turn around and have to answer a litany from the other:
Q: Why does “so and so” have a Christmas tree and we don’t?
A: Because we don’t celebrate Christmas.
Q: Why not?
A: Because we’re Jewish and we celebrate other holidays like Hanukkah.
Q: What else do we celebrate?
Q: What’s that?
A: You remember when we had a “seder” and we couldn’t eat until we finished reading stories from that little book, the Haggadah?
Q: Mom, can we decorate our house with blue lights for Hanukah?
A: I’ll talk to dad about it.
Q: Mom, those people don’t have lights on their house, does it mean they are Jewish too?
Q: Why is our holiday so boring? We don’t get to decorate our house or do anything fun!”
A: It’s not boring! We get to spin the dreidel and eat latkes!!
I could hear audible sighs of disappointment from the backseat of the car, and the rearview mirror reflects two little faces full of regret. I could see that I had lost them. Here was this holiday with trees and sparkly lights, ginger bread houses, and a sweet old man who gives lots of gifts; everything really did seem merrier and brighter. How could any of our Jewish holidays compare to that!? I mean, it’s not like there is a man at the mall dressed as a Menorah, eagerly waiting to seat my kids on his lap and ask if he’s been a “mensch” this year. To a six-year-old and a four-year-old, lighting the Hanukkah candles just doesn’t seem as exciting as having a big, beautiful light up tree.
Compounding this is the fact that everyone around them seems to celebrate. It’s everywhere; Curious George celebrates, as does Peppa Pig, Team Umizoomi, and the Odd Squad. So do most of their real life friends. All of these people get to celebrate and they don’t, and this is obviously a travesty. They want, no, they “neeeeeeded” their own tree and gifts. I remind them that we celebrate Hanukkah, a holiday where they receive gifts eight nights in a row! This does not soothe them in any way, for so do half of their friends who are of mixed religions and get to celebrate both holidays.
I feel trapped! I have no other answers for my children then the ones I have already given. We just don’t celebrate Christmas and with every discussion they grow more and more disappointed.
Now, you might be thinking, “What’s the big deal, it’s just a tree and some lights, why not just give it to them?” But it is a big deal. This is a religious holiday, which is not our religion; it is not an American holiday. Do you fast during the month of Ramadan because your child’s best friend does? I would be betraying our religion if I showed them that it was alright to celebrate something that we didn’t believe in just because it comes with fancy accoutrement. I am proud of my Jewish heritage and I won’t compromise that. Moreover, I will raise my children to be proud Jews as well. So, for now they will just have to be satisfied with eating Chinese food and going to the movies on Christmas as Jews have done for thousands of years before them.
I teared up this morning as I propped my four-year-old daughter on my knee so she could help me vote. Her tiny hand gently held my arm as I filled in the bubble to cast my vote for the first female president. I wanted-no, needed her to be a part of making history. As I then watched her feed the ballot into the machine, I could fight the tears no longer and I let them flow.
My daughter and I making history!
We have always been a very civic minded family, at five weeks old; my husband carried my son in his arms as he cast his vote on Election Day. Every year since we have brought our kids to the polls along with us and added to the album we call “Voting with Daddy Year By Year”. However, not all in this country share this passion. Just because our citizens have the right to vote, it doesn’t mean that they have been exercising that right.
This year the election has been emotionally draining for each and every citizen. I was told that the AMA actually put out special guidelines for health care professionals to treat the resulting anxiety produced by the campaigns. However, if we take the time to look beyond the stress we see that something very important has happened- people have passionately backed a candidate in a most wholehearted and democratic way. Democracy, at its finest, has been achieved.
This country was founded on the basis that every citizen has the right to elect the official of their own choosing. The person who secures the majority of these votes wins the position. People died in wars fought to establish and maintain this very idea. Brilliant men debated and labored to form a Constitution which holds these ideas as law of our land.
This election has been teeming with more passion and dedication by our citizens than one can recall in recent history. Social media is bursting with pictures and posts of mothers, brothers, friends, sisters, millennials, elderly, African American, white, male, female, transgender, gay, straight, bi, priests, nuns, and rabbinical voters- you name it, EVERYONE in every group has been driven to the polls to vote.
I have especially seen parents bringing their young ones to the polls. As stated, we have visited the polls yearly and our children have been the only ones under the age of 18 in the room. This year, however, parents are making it a point to vote as a family; thus, passing on the vital importance of the idea of democracy to the next generation. We had once become somewhat complaisant with our right to vote, but no longer do we feel this way. A new life has been restored to the idea that our vote matters, that without it, we would not be the incredible and free democratic society that our founders fought for.
Everyone agrees that this has been an incredibly challenging and particularly emotional election year. Some even say that, as a result, the cavernous divide in this country is irreparable. I will argue that there is a silver lining- the entire country has been filled with such a passion for our democratic right to vote; that the next generation is already being taught how important it is to maintain and continue this right; that we will never become complaisant again!
It’s Halloween, be safe in the knowledge that being a parent far scarier than anything else you will see on the streets this evening.
“Mom, I don’t want to be a princess for Halloween anymore, I want to be a ghost!”
This declaration hits me like a punch to the gut. I mean, Lady can be whatever she wants for Halloween; the costume itself has absolutely nothing to do with my reaction to this seemingly innocuous statement. It’s the use of the word “ghost” that makes me cringe and break out into a cold sweat.
“You’re already like a little ghost,” I think to myself, sadly.
Did you know, dear readers, that I have a daughter too? I write about Man all of the time — hell, my blog is called MANvsMommy, but I so rarely write about his sister, my sweet Lady who is 18 months his junior.
I did not coin the term “ghost child” myself, but I am quite familiar with it. This term refers to the siblings of children with special needs. Their parents are often required to dedicate so much time to their brother or sister that they are forced to be more independent than they should be at their age.
Lady has an unbelievable maturity about her. It is unclear if this is because she is a girl, she was born this way, or because her older brother requires so much more of my time that she is forced to be this way. It’s likely a mix of all of these factors. However, there are times when as a four-year-old, she acts as such. You can see her independence failing her and her need to have her mom’s attention pushes itself to the forefront. Who can blame her? She, like Man, is simply a child who needs her mom.
I want you to know, Lady, that I see you.
I see how amenable and flexible you are because you understand how much I struggle with Man some days.
I gaze at you happily eating all of your dinner, no matter what I put in front of you, because you see how much time I spend trying to get Man to eat.
I feel how happy you are just to sit next to me, no matter what I’m doing, just to be in my presence.
I see you pick out your clothes and get dressed and tidy your toys without me even asking.
I watch you let your brother go first… every time, just to keep the peace.
I am in awe of how long you can sit and entertain yourself, because I am otherwise occupied.
I am grateful for the smile you put on my face every day.
I feel incredibly guilty that there are some days when your needs come last. I hope one day to be able to make this up to you.
I am struck by your uncanny ability to know just when I need a random hug or a secretly whispered, “I love you, mommy.”
I try my hardest to carve out special time just for the two of us, though probably not often enough.
I admire your independence. At four, you are more independent than I, your parent, will ever be.
I see your sadness when I have to leave you to take Man to one of his many appointments. I hear you question why you don’t have as many appointments with mommy as he does. I listen to you beg to go with us and not quite understand why you have to stay home.
I watch your happiness every day. Absolutely nothing gets you down. Luckily, you have inherited this trait from your dad.
I take notice of the words you choose to use when you try and help soothe your brother from a total meltdown. The care you take of him is exceptional. Your understanding of his challenges, without truly understanding them, is nothing close to miraculous.
Your inner and outer beauty makes me shine.
Your, “whatever Man can do, I can do too” attitude makes me joyous.
The little girl that you are now and the woman that I know you will become one day makes me proud to be your mother.
I glow as I watch the command you have over every room you walk into. You are larger than life in a most innocent and purposeful way.
I can promise you, my Lady, that I will always be there for you no matter what—that when you truly need me, I will be by your side, as I am for your brother in his times of need.
I see you. I see all of you. You are not a ghost; you are my daughter and I love you.