Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Idiot Box Baby Sitter and School Jitters

When I was pregnant, I swore that I would never use the television as a baby sitter, that only irresponsible and lazy parents stuck their kid in front of the Boob Tube instead of investing in one-on-one time with their children.

Most rules are made to be broken, and until now (in Raphaela's almost six years) I have used this tool sparingly.  That is until this past Great Summer Vacation.

Often, when we got back from the pool and we were both exhausted, it was easier to give her a snack and let her watch educational videos.  Worse, in the past week our baby sitter has canceled at the last minute several times on days when I needed her to keep Raphaela entertained while I worked with patients. (I know, time to get a new sitter.)

Given the ten minutes warning, I could not find a replacement, and so the Idiot Box did the job of keeping her sedated while I worked.  This morning, on the last day that the sitter was supposed to arrive, she canceled again.  I tried to arrange some version of a play date, but that failed.

So Raphaela came with me to my business meeting.  (Yup, that's real professional...)  And Raphaela stayed home in front of the television while I worked, with only minor interruptions to change the DVD or feed her.  (Feeling so professional and non-distracted now...)

To add to all this stress, I seem to be much more excited and nervous about First Grade than Raphaela.  I am manifesting all my classic signs of stress, the same ones that appeared in the past whenever I had a major exam (SATs, Chiropractic boards, pregnancy ultrasounds). I tossed and turned all last night, waking up every few hours. I have lost my appetite because of stomach cramps.  I have less serenity and more impatience running through me, not great for taking care of my daughter or my clients.

And I have shifted into major list-making mode.

It is times like this when I wish I had a spouse, or siblings, or parents with whom I could share this momentous occasion, someone who could perform some of the errands that need doing, someone who could tell me that it will all work out in the end.

Or at least a responsible adult who could watch Raphaela while I worked.  But as I have learned, even when others say they will help lessen my burden as a single parent, no matter how good their intentions, I am alone in the good, the bad and the ugly.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Too Much Fun Spoils the Broth

Eight more days until First Grade.  I know that because Raphaela has become so enthusiastic about the idea of Evelyna that she insisted we make up a chart for the rest of vacation, counting down the hours and minutes until this event.

I thought that it might be nice to spend some fun quality time with my daughter during these last days of Summer vacation.  I thought it might be nice to give her a good time, a day of all fun and no pressure.

So today we ventured to the Cinema City in Jerusalem, a first for both of us.  We ate pizza for lunch, walked around the mall section a little, and then bought tickets for the movie, "Inside Out." At the theater, we bought popcorn, because that's what you eat during a movie.

Bonus, they happened to be showing our movie in the VIP theater, which meant that we had luxurious padded seats, with full tray tables, adjustable headrests and adjustable foot rests.  Good thing too, because at the climax of the movie when it was at its most sad and scary, Raphaela started crying and needed to sit on my lap until the end of the show.

Afterwards she declined another snack food run, preferring instead to go to the bouncy castle amusement park they have on site.  Great, I thought, she will play here while I sit on a cool, air-conditioned bench, and when we get home she will be invigorated and exhausted.

Five minutes later, after I had just handed over the money for the park, Raphaela proclaimed that she had "had enough" and that she was ready to go home.  I patiently explained that not only was it a waste of money, but it would also be much more boring at home where there were, in fact, no bouncy castles.  I expressed my extreme displeasure and disappointment that she was acting so spoiled and fickle.

Whereupon she sat at the corner and cried.  After five minutes of crying I took her home, because all the fun had been sapped out of the experience, and explained that she would have to sit quietly and think about why I was both sad and angry.  "Just because we are going home does not mean I am a happy Mommy." A punishment was promised.

Almost immediately upon arriving home, she banished herself to her bedroom and fell asleep, thus ruining the whole evening schedule by taking a nap at four in the afternoon.

Next time we are in a place that provides too much temptation, I will think twice before I say "Yes," no matter how persuasive her enthusiasm.

As well, I join the rest of the parents who are counting down the days until we all return to the routine of school.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Looming on the Horizon

This morning as Raphaela was getting ready for her last day of camp, she rejected every outfit that I suggested.  With tears welling in her eyes, she looked at me and asked, "Don't you want me to feel pretty?"

It made me so grateful that she has some version of a uniform for First Grade.

Which starts in less than two weeks.

When Raphaela was a baby, I would take her out for walks every day, and inevitably, random elderly grandmothers would stop me on the street.  The first would say, in an accusatory tone, "How can you dress your baby this way? Can't you see she is too hot? Take off that hat." Which I would do, because what did I know as a first-time mother.  Several meters later, another random elderly grandmother would stop me in the street and shout in an equally accusatory tone, "How can you dress your baby without a hat on a day like today? Can't you see she is getting cold?"

It amazed and frustrated me that here I was, an intelligent woman with three degrees, able to help people every day as a Doctor and run my own business, and yet I did not know how to dress my own child. I felt stupid.

As First Grade becomes more and more of a reality, I find myself revisiting those feelings of ignorance and frustration.  I don't know what kind of meal to pack for her, or if she will eat them at all.  I don't know when she has school vacation and when her afternoon program starts.  I pray that we do not have tempestuous struggles over homework.

All  I want to do is help Raphaela experience the easiest and most successful transition to this new adventure.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Giant Steps

I offer you these small moment of giant steps in Raphaela's journey:

We had a serious conversation yesterday about Superman, my six year old could not understand how simply putting on a pair of glasses made him unrecognizable to those who know him and work with him.

This morning, listening to the radio alarm, Raphaela got confused because they were singing a song about "rice cakes." (First time in her long life that she will get the words wrong to rock music.)

On the way to camp, we got stuck driving behind a learning driver, predictably weaving and terribly slow.  While I vented my frustration with Jerusalem driving, Raphaela said to me, "Mommy, there are learning drivers EVERYWHERE. Get over it."

Her camp is offering a fun option of a camping night sleep-over the last night of camp.  I gave Raphaela the details and she said, "I'm not ready for that yet.  I would miss you too much."  (When I was a life guard at a Jewish day camp in Boston, I always volunteered to be the extra staff person on the sleep overs; there is nothing more amazing than swimming in the lake at the crack of dawn.)

Speaking of swimming at camp, yesterday afternoon when we were trying to relax and escape the insufferable heat wave, Raphaela casually mentioned that she may have learned how to swim and that she had gone alone into the deep end of the pool by herself, for the first time.  I could not have been more excited and proud.

Friday, August 14, 2015

This morning, while doing local errands:

"Mommy, do you know why I am happy?  Because I'm with you."

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Endings and Beginnings

When Raphaela graduated from Kindergarten in June, I felt proud and pleased;  for a mother who cries at certain commercials on television, I did not feel anxious or sad or overly emotional.  Both Raphaela and I were ready for the Nursery/Gan experience to come to a close, eager for the next chapter.

Today I feel differently however.  Today is the last day that Raphaela will spend with our English tutor, with whom she has learned for the last three years.  On this last day of English camp, I am saying good bye to something more personal, akin to extended family.  I appreciate this woman for the energy she has invested in this class and these children, and for the warmth and love she has given Raphaela over the years.

She told me that she is so proud of how Raphaela has grown intellectually and socially, and that when she looks at my daughter she sees a beautiful child who is ready for First Grade.

Without family in the country or a spouse, that kind of feedback and support means more to me than I could have ever imagined.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

We're all Human

Yesterday Raphaela and I spent three hours at the Pediatric Ophthalmology Unit at Hadassah Hospital,  getting her vision reassessed.  Raphaela was hoping that after the last year of being really good and wearing her glasses all the time, the doctor would tell us that at the very least her eyes had improved, and ideally, giving us a date when she would no longer need her glasses at all.

Instead, we got a lovely pep talk, "Stability is a Good Thing!"  And yes, while I am grateful that her astigmatism has not gotten worse in the last year, both of us were admittedly a little disappointed.

I knew that her eyes would be sensitive after all the tests and the dreaded eye drops, so I had brought sunglasses for Raphaela to wear, on our walk back to the parking lot and to the car.  Unfortunately I brought the wrong pair, they were mine actually, and they kept slipping off Raphaela's face.

I apologized and said, "Mommy made a mistake, I'm sorry."

A Israeli woman in her 40's, sitting near us during this exchange, immediately added her (unsolicited) opinion:  "Oh no, a Mommy is not allowed to make mistakes. Parents are never wrong!""

I replied, mostly for myself and so Raphaela would hear, "That was exactly my point.  People, especially parents, are still human beings, and we are not perfect.  I think it is important for a child to know that even their mother or father can be wrong on occasion, and that it is always appropriate to acknowledge the other and apologize."