Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Slow Death of Progressive Judaism

Barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. June Cleaver.  I suppose you thought those limiting roles for women were passe, both in the general Gaea population and within Judaism.  Guess again.

Rabbi Tzvi Tau, considered in Israel to be a leader within the Ultra-Orthodox/National Zionist community, recently wrote a vile internal pamphlet, whose contents have leaked their way to the Israeli public.  Despite the fact that Rabbi Tau bucks the Ultra-Orthodox trend and opposes refusal to follow orders in the Israeli army, he is unfortunately less kind and quite backward when it comes to the role of the woman in modern Jewish society.

According to his treatise (translated by Haaretz), "women are not meant to occupy themselves with the depths of science and morals, but rather with carrying, giving birth to, feeding and raising children."  Tau continues, claiming that "the worldwide trend of allowing women equal education, and striving for equality, can only guarantee short term profits.  In the long run this trend will harm the quality of life of the nation and society."

I bet you didn't know that "children born to couples including women who devote themselves to their career will be weak and flaccid...Home is the natural habitat for women, without the bustle [of social activity].  At home is where a woman can fully live her life."

(I don't even want to imagine what Rabbi Tau would say about the children of a single mother by choice who works, the horrors!)

Alrightythen, I am packing up my modern life and going back to the caves.  Good thing I have long hair, so I can be dragged around by the menfolk...

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Tisha B'Av Postscript

In dressing for the Romney event yesterday, I had quite a conundrum:  I am going to meet the man who may possibly be the next President of the United States, so I should appear clean and somewhat formal and respectful.

And yet, Romney chose the unfortunate day of Tisha B'Av, and so I was limited in my hygiene and comfort levels. I heard many people around me ask each other if they had smuggled in food, just in case the speech ran over-time and we needed to break the fast together.

 I wore a simple black pants outfit, with flip flops (no leather shoes), and saw many men there following suit with Crocs.  I did not want to wear real jewelry, so I raided Raphaela's stash and found a beaded bracelet that gave just enough color to the ensemble.

Raphaela gave me permission to borrow her jewelry, and warned me sternly that I must bring it home and return it to her in one piece.  I hope she remembers that when she gets older and starts borrowing Mommy's things.

Mommy met Mitt

Today was Tisha B'av, a Jewish and national Israeli day of commemoration/mourning; Raphaela did not have Gan, and I did not work, and overall fasted rather well.

This afternoon, when returning from a family visit (family with air conditioning :-) an entire parade of motorcycles, limousines, vans and sirens stormed by, prompting Raphaela to rush over to me and grab my leg and cry out, "What is that terrible noise?"

"That was Governor Mitt Romney returning to his hotel," I answered.

This evening, I had the privilege of hiring our favorite baby sitter so that I could attend the Mitt Romney speech, which took place in Jerusalem next to the newly refurbished Montiffore Windmill, across from the walls of the Old City.  I am by nature intensely fascinated by the human political animal, and though I long ago ceased to use my background in political science and politics on a regular basis, I felt jazzed to be at this event.

Half of the space sat the big money people, and the other half were "regular" people like me, Americans who moved to the Middle East, but still care about our native land and have registered to vote absentee in the upcoming elections.  There was much political talk, voters from all backgrounds and all parts of the United States.  As one would expect, we were coached as to when to stand and applaud, so as not to block "the perfect picture" for the swarming international press.  Security was high with many checkpoints, and several people marched off, saying that Romney had lost their vote because they had to wait too long on line.  "If this is any indication of the way he plans on running his administration..."

For the record, the lines and security procedures are typical of a function like this, anywhere in the world, and especially in the Middle East, where everything starts later than scheduled.

I met Mitt, as well as a brief encounter with the Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barakat; and Sheldon Adelson, a good ole' Boston boy who has thus far contributed over $20 million to the Romney campaign.

My impressions of Romney?  He looks "presidential," reminding me in appearance of Ronald Reagan;  Romney is more attractive in profile than as a frontal view.  The speech itself added no innovation nor hint of his potential policy toward Israel and the Middle East, everything that was said tonight has been said or written before.  The words "territories" and "Palestinian" never appeared, not once. 

He speaks well, radiates a certain charisma and inner confidence, and does better in connecting to people when makes a joke or talks about his family, when he veers slightly off script.

Will he be the next President of the United States?  I don't know, Romney and Obama have four months until elections, and a lot can happen in that time.  (I leave my person political views for more private forums.)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

London Olympics 2012

Raphaela and I started watching recaps of the Olympic events, and Raphaela fell under the enchantment of the gymnastics; she now throws herself off furniture and lifts her legs into the air, and says she is "flying."  It is a pleasure to watch her, and I actually feel that same way about the diving competition.

So far the Israelis have not made it into medal contention, but here's hoping that at least one out of the 38 delegates can bring it home.

By the way, London Olympic planners and the IOC, you can include in your ceremony a minute of silence for the dead in two World Wars, as well as 52 British civilians who died in 2005...for f**k sake, you can get the Queen to jump out of a helicopter...but you can't acknowledge the 40th anniversary of the murder of the Munich 11?!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mixed Messages

DISCLAIMER,  to avoid being accused of being judgemental:

I try to avoid global statements about a community of people, because I believe that while various nations have certain personality traits, at the end of the day we are responsible for our individual choices in action and behaviour.

So in this case of this posting, I am not talking about Israelis in general, or French people in general, but rather about the particularly confusing neighbors in my building.  Overall I do not regret my choice to live in Israel, or in this building.


Since I have moved into this building, most of the neighbors have assiduously avoided speaking to me; the message was clear from the beginning, IE "Mind your own business and we'll all get along."  However, one of the tenants made it her point to call me before I moved in, to demand that my movers not scratch the walls, because they had been recently painted.

Israelis may have the aggressive, in-your-face reputation, people who insist on their rights and get things done, but that seems to have bypassed the people who live in this building.

A few weeks ago, two of the older boys who live here hit the large front window with a soccer ball.  For several days, the window continued to become more and more unstable as the crack grew, and I would see neighbors walk by and mutter to themselves, "I wonder how that happened..."  Finally, after it was clear to me that if Raphaela touched it, it would most probably shatter and seriously damage my daughter, so I demanded that the building Co-op manager get it fixed asap.

Therein lies one of the major problems in this shared living arrangement:  the couple that heads the Co-op board are an elderly French couple who don't speak Hebrew, cannot negotiate the Israeli system even to make a phone call to get a repair man, and quite often neglect their duties out of fear of criticism from the neighbors.

In any case, one of the others in the building stayed home from his hi-tech job in order to arrange and assist the window repair people. He then spent several days bitching to anyone who would listen how he lost a day of work for the "good of the building."

As a side note, he has young children who might have G-d Forbid gotten injured as well.  And furthermore, the family whose children actually broke the window never claimed responsibility for their actions.

Starting last week, the building smelled like s**t, literally.  Either an animal had died, or someone had vomited, but the rank odor penetrated every corner of the building.  For one week, I asked the useless Co-op Board to rectify the situation, and what I gathered from the French and the broken Hebrew was that they didn't know from where the smell was coming, they had no intention of checking it out, and they would call the custodian who cleans the building but they don't have his number; he shows up as he pleases and works when he feels like it.

I mention here for the sake of your imagination that it has been almost 40 degrees Celsius outside here in Jerusalem, and nothing smells better than s**t that has been cooking.  (Hope you haven't eaten before you read this sentence...)

Finally, one neighbor said he spotted a pile of human excrement behind the elevator shaft, and knowing that this was important to me, I should be the one to clean it up or track down the custodian. Lik it was not important to anyone else who lives here and wants to keep their family healthy.

Never mind the essential question:  Who would turn a private residence into a public toilet?!

My point, via the long and winding road of narrative:  We Israelis live under the threat and fear of terrorism every moment of every day.  We Israelis pull together to defend our children and our country.  And yet there is a wave of laziness bordering on indifference when a situation arises which clearly needs immediate care, as long as it does not affect you personally.

It's the same attitude that allows Israeli to be extreme litterbugs, because someone else will pick up your garbage and the planet will magically heal itself for your children and grandchildren.  It's the same attitude that allows Israelis to go into extreme overdraft and debt, because your children and grandchildren will have to pay it off when you are dead. It's the same attitude that says that smoking is still cool, that it is their right to pollute their bodies and the air, and it is your children's right to breathe in second hand smoke.

(So much for not generalizing about an entire nation.)

Why do I have to be that person who will take up the cause and follow through the necessary steps when no one else cares or no one else bothers.  I can't change the essential personality, that passionate and committed woman, but man, do I feel tired.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Birthday Spa Day

[I am not normally prone to mentioning by name any specific product or business, and this post is not an official endorsement, but I do say that if you find yourself in Jerusalem and need to completely de-stress, the David's Citadel Hotel is the place to go.]

The Day:  English Birthday, number 44
The Place:  David's Citadel Hotel, across from the Mamilla Mall in Jerusalem.  An oasis with amazing feng shui, fluffy robes, high cotton count towels, gentle relaxing music (even in the sauna and the shower) and healthy snacks.
The People:  lovely and absolutely obsequious staff (in that positive service way), other friendly spa attendees with varied family and personal backgrounds, but all with fascinating stories.  I would be friends with most of them if we traveled in the same circles in the "real world."
The Breakfast (with one of my favorite cousins):  pancakes, apple crumble, natural mozzarella and tomato salad, egg white omelet with all the fixins, espresso and hot chocolate fudge cake for dessert.
The Pedicure:  little jet bubbles, foot massage and wonderfully joyous red nail polish.
The Massage: good looking and intelligent Russian therapist with amazing hands, 45 minutes was far too short.
The Dry Sauna:  before and after the pool.
The Pool:  did laps and reclined on the deck chairs.  The cherry on the icing on the cake was the Israeli guy with the dragon tattoo who hit on me, telling me what a great body I had; I haven't received that kind of attention and flirting in years, and even if half of what he said wasn't totally accurate, it is nice on a birthday to feel like you've still got it, that men find you and your post-nursing breasts attractive.
The Hotel Room:  hanging out with my cousin, enjoying air conditioning on this sweltering Israeli summer day, feeling removed from my every day life and loving every minute of it.
Bonus:  lousy phone reception and no Internet connection for my iphone, so I could truly say that I was on vacation.

Raphaela decided this morning that if I was wearing a dress and having a birthday, then it was also her birthday.  She wore a dress to Gan, and told me she was going to make me a crown, as befits all Israeli children on their special day.  When I asked her old she was on her 'birthday,' she happily answered "Ten!"

Monday, July 23, 2012

Birthdays Past and Present

This morning on the way to Gan, Raphaela picked a few berries off the bushes near our house and asked me, "Do you think the Angry Birds would like to eat these?"  Her compassion, even for imaginary birds flinging themselves at random edifices, continues to inspire me.  Raphaela also apologizes to the pigs when we destroy their houses, and insists that I press "reset" so they won't be homeless.

An Israeli friend of mine suggested that I am doing Raphaela no favors by allowing her to sympathize with the "enemy pigs," that I need to teach Raphaela that the birds are in a fight for their very survival.  All of the obvious political implications aside, I think my daughter deserves a few more years to enjoy humanity as a whole, and to take joy in the experience of meeting new people without bias.

Imagine that last year at this time, I was sitting with Raphaela in Hadassah Hospital, preparing her for her surgery. Now I have a vocal, independent, and thank G-d healthy toddler, best birthday present ever.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Find the Castle

As a child, the drive from our place in Teaneck, New Jersey, to my grandparents in Providence, Rhode Island, could become quite tedious for my parents.  As we entered the city limits of Providence, my parents would tell us to be on the look-out for "The Castle," because it meant that our trip would soon come to an end and that we had arrived more or less.  (In fact, the bit of The Castle that we could spot from the highway was the dome of the State House.)

I can appreciate both the memory and the tactic, now that I am myself a mother of a toddler who finds car rides of more than ten minutes to be torture.  We drove yesterday to visit Savta Shira for Shabbat, for my birthday weekend, and to entice Raphaela to sit nicely in the car seat, I reminded her that she has to be on the look-out for "our Mountain, Herodion."  Raphaela believes that Herodion is our special private mountain, because it belongs to Savta Shira's house;  it also marks the end of our travel time.

The weekend itself was wonderful, and welcome break from our normal Shabbat routine.  I bless Savta Shira's family every day for giving me and Raphaela a sense of belonging, a home in which we feel welcome and loved.  Some family you inherit as soon as you are born, some adopt you, and thank G-d for both.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Party Time

This afternoon, Raphaela and I attended the third birthday party of one her friends from Gan, the boy who earlier this year lost his younger baby sister to crib death.  His mother invested much time and effort into this party, inviting ten other children into their home and making this an event that the children and the parents will not forget.

I was glad that Raphaela and I were on the invitee list, that the events of last week did not color the opinion of me, or cause social isolation for my daughter.

It was actually a bittersweet feeling, to stand in a room with children and their parents whom I have known for the last two years, knowing that in less than a month we will all go our separate ways to different nurseries all around Jerusalem and all around the country. I have always preferred the close friendships of several quality people, rather than having 50 acquaintances, and I know that both Raphaela and I have received the gift of two or three close friends.  I also know that friendships, like any other relationships that are worthwhile, demand dedication and effort, which I am certainly willing to do.

As much as I cannot wait for this school year to end so that we can all move on, change is still change, and takes some adjustment.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

28 Tammuz

In honor of my Hebrew birthday, Raphaela woke me up at four am instead of her usual five-ish.  It was promised that the heat in Jerusalem would reach a smothering high of 39 degrees Celsius, and the US dollar exchange rate hit its own personal high of four NIS.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

For those in my generation who grew up with the ecclectic gender-bending record, Free To Be You and Me, you will appreciate this Raphaela annectode:

We were listening this afternoon to the Carol Channing piece entitled "Housework," essentially a diatribe against the media and  house cleaning, and Raphaela turned to me with an expression of extreme irritation and said, "But I don't want to buy any soap or detergent!"

Out of the Mouth of Babes

On Shabbat, when Raphaela and I were playing her new favorite game, Peter and the Wolf, Raphaela looked at me with a very serious face and said, "The wolf ate E." 

In case you have not read recent postings, E is the boy who has been bullying her and other children at Gan since the beginning of the year.  As an adult, I totally understand and even admire her efficient solution to the problem. 

However, holding back my laughter, I explained that it would make everyone very sad if the wolf ate a boy or a girl, and that people are not tasty.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Rights of the Non Father

Very often, people will ask me questions about the process at Hadassah Hospital and their affiliation with the sperm bank, run by the very capable and discrete Ruth.  Inevitably, the follow up question is some version of, "Do you want another child, and can you use the same donor, so that Raphaela and her sibling will be related?'

The Israeli High Court of Justice may soon make a ruling that will define that critical issue in fertility treatments;  since Israel is on the cutting of fertility technology, they also tend to deal with cases that will set precedent for all the globe.

An Israeli woman currently living in the States bought all the 'product' of a particular donor, so that her daughter may have a sibling who is biologically related.  The donor, having become more religious since making the deposit, has decided that he does not want to father any other children anonymously, and has demanded that the sperm bank destroy whatever is left, despite the fact that the woman paid for it and technically owns it.

The reasoning behind the donor, and the State of Israel's legal position, is that the donor's right not to be a father against his will is stronger than the recipient's wish to have children who are biological siblings.  The donor has the right to change his mind.

The woman challenged the initial ruling, stating that the decision was unreasonable and "damaged her rights 'as a woman, an individual, a mother and a signatory of an agreement.' "  (Haaretz, Ronny Linder-Ganz, "Court to rule if sperm donor can renege" July 13, 2012)  She argues further that her case has repercussions for both married and single women who are considering using fertility treatments, and may feel the pressure to act sooner, before the donor flips his decision.

To quote Stan Lee, with great power comes great responsibility, and the medical world will surely be looking at this Israeli case for guidance.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Have Fun Storming the Castle

Yesterday afternoon, four of the parents came up to me on the premises of the Gan itself to let me know that they do support me, and that this incident represents the larger picture of the inadequacies of the discipline of the Gan for the last school year.  They want to start a revolution of sorts, with me as the standard bearer, and I told them that these last few days have been so traumatic, and I just want to put it behind me.  Some part of me might enjoy the burning of the castle, and the other part of me wants to move onto more positive times.

However, I won't lie;  the public show of support did me a world of good.

Straight from Gan, Raphaela and I went to the Orientation meeting of her school for next year.  The teachers, the atmosphere, and the communication with the parents reassured me that I have in fact made the right choice.  Raphaela warmed up to the room right away and explored, she played with play dough and markers, she went outside to their playground and made friends with one of the other girls her age.

At a certain point when the children were hearing a story book, the manager of the Gan took the parents aside and explained how we could best help our children adjust to a new place and a new experience in the Fall.  They had clearly put thought into the process, and as well - given my experiences of the past few days - I felt secure that the administration of the school was responsible and responsive to parents.

After the "special party," Raphaela and I went straight to the pool for her swimming lesson, and we both came home happy and tired.  I slept well last night.

The New York Times today printed an article apropos the beginning of sleep-away camp season, entitled, "Separation: Easier when practiced" by Perri Klass MD.  He spoke about home sickness at all ages, and how in fact it is the parents who determine the ease of the transition; it's not the most genius idea to say, "Have a wonderful time at camp, I don't know what I'll do without you."

Instead, homesickness and separation anxiety needs to be re-framed as a "reflection of love...Separations are temporary, these emotions are temporary."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Score Card (thus far)

A selection of the responses I have received regarding this situation:
One mother of a child at the same Gan said, "It was bound to happen to one of us, we have noticed that the staff does not intervene in a timely manner.  My husband and I are sorry it happened to you, hang in there and let us know how we can help."

Another mother of a child at the same Gan said, "Really S's email rings true, if there is a discipline issue you should have turned to the nursery teachers. But I know you and I want to hear your side of the story, because I find it hard to believe that you would do such a thing.  S made it sound like a monster!"
(I directed her to this blog, so she could read for herself and make her own judgement.  It is most convenient for my sanity that I do not have retell the story.)

The father of one of Raphaela's classmates, one of the most sweet and sensitive boys I have ever seen, told me that he has held himself back on many occasions from reacting to E and defending his own son, and though he would not say it in front of a group, he knows that I reacted appropriately given the boy and the situation.

Another mother of a child at the same Gan suggested that I have to seriously consider the consequences for Raphaela, to move her away from her friends a month before Gan ends, whether it will entail too much trauma.  Her place for next year, Emunah, seems to agree and will not accept Raphaela for the last month before the Summer break.

An American  friend who has several children and veteran experience with the Israeli public and private school system reminded me that I protected my daughter, and that I can't let S or E's mother change that story, that I must validate and strengthen myself if we are all meant to come to a decent resolution.

The mother of Raphaela's closest friend, called this whole story "a tempest in a teapot," offered to take Raphaela to Gan this morning, but then encouraged me to fight my inner demons (and the bullies in the Gan) by showing up this morning, with my head high. I did go to Gan, felt nauseous the entire time, snuck in with Raphaela and then ran away before anyone could see me or try to make eye contact with me.

Apparently there is a secret cadre of Gan parents who are on my side and are planning an all out blitz to take down the enemy, whatever that means.  I would pass on the major maneuvers and the sweet revenge if it meant that people would come up to me, in public at the Gan, and express their support.

S left me a message on my cellphone, she seemed to think that there was a "misunderstanding..."

Monday, July 9, 2012

My Scarlett Letter Part IV

Two hours have passed since my last update, and here's the big news.

E's mother called me, in response to both the private email I sent of apology and the public group email that I sent.  She spent approximately ten minutes telling me that I am the violent one, that I am a danger to my own child and others, and that she essentially does not accept my apology as being genuine.

She continued and said that because I "assaulted her child psychologically and physically," I am not to "even make eye contact with her or her husband," and if she sees me within ten feet of her child she is going to have me arrested by the Israeli police, with whom she intends on filing a report.

Two of my closer friends, Israeli parents of other children (and other victims from the Gan), have basically made it clear that I should try to ignore the situation as best as possible, and make it through the next month. They have made it clear as well that they will not necessarily back me up should E's mother or the Head Nursery Teacher take my persecution further.

An American friend of mine suggested that E's mother would not have dared to bully me the way she did, as well as take no responsibility for her son's part in this story, had I been a fellow sister of Israel.  Because I am American, E's mother thinks she can yell and scream and intimidate because I don't have the metaphorical balls to stand up to her.  (Apparently, E does get his impulses from somewhere.)

Maybe E's mother is right:  I am sitting at home with no appetite, unable to sleep and crying without end.
I cannot even conceive of taking Raphaela to Gan tomorrow and being able to look anyone in the eye, because I am in this parallel universe where I have become the wrong doer.   The bully has won this round.

I am even thinking about pulling Raphaela out of this Gan for the last month, and starting her in the place where I intend to send her next year, so both she and I can be free of this situation.

I am feeling vulnerable and assaulted, with absolutely no support system.

My Scarlett Letter Part III

Please recall for the purpose of this discussion that I immediately apologized to E's parents, and that I immediately spoke to the Head Nursery Teacher and told her the story.  I volunteered the information with the hopes that it would lead to an efficient and benevolent resolution on all sides.

One hour after speaking to S, I checked my email.  There was a letter from S and her husband, the CFO of the Gan, speaking in response to the "incident" that happened at the Gan today.  She stated unequivocally that under no circumstances is a parent to touch another child who is not his or her own, and that the offending parent (that would be me) has been banned from the Gan, and may only drop off his/her child at the front gate.  (S was careful not mention names)

This ban was certainly not introduced into our discussion when I spoke to S this afternoon, and yet she felt comfortable enough to tell everyone together in a public group email.

So here's where the situation stands:  E has been torturing his classmates all year, S has devised a completely ineffective solution to the problem, and quite purposely ignores all the parents who have asked her to get this continuing story under control.  His parents seem completely clueless regarding the full extent of the problem.

In my mode as Don Quixote, the warrior of Windmills, I react to an active and present situation in which my daughter is being threatened, and now I have been punished.  Most likely, E's parents will see this move as a vindication of their inability to see that their son E -whom I pity at the end of the day - exhibits aggressions that make him anti-social.  Aggressive tendencies and a lack of impulse control that if not nipped in the bud at this age, will only become more trouble as he grows and develops.

I decided that I could at least do damage control, and frame the rumors that will inevitably start swirling. I clicked "Respond All" to S's email, and wrote the following:

1.  I am "the incident."
2.  I take responsibility for my part in "the incident" and am always looking for ways to improve my understanding of myself and my parenting skills.
3.  I have already apologized to the parents involved.
4.  I then apologized to the rest of the parents on the group list who might feel uncomfortable because of "the incident."
5.  Should anyone feel the need to yell at me or give me feedback, they should feel free to do so.

I sent the email out as a priority, and now I await the downpour.

BTW, if you readers also choose to castigate me, feel free.  I will allow that I am human and make mistakes, and will make plenty more as a parent.

My Scarlet Letter Part II

I got home with Raphaela and began to realize that I needed to apologize to E's parents for disciplining a child other than my own, in a way that may have been perceived as harsh.  I tried to call E's parents several times, leaving messages and asking that we be able to speak in person, so that I may apologize and explain.

I waited several hours and when I did not hear from them,  I sat down in front of the computer and wrote them an apology, what I would have said to them had they answered the phone.  I apologized for overstepping and behaving inappropriately.  I assured them that in no way could I ever physically harm a child, and that was not violent with their son.  I invited them to please speak to me in person, or not, but that I needed to express this to them before this night was over.

I was abused in high school, and I know how it feels to be vulnerable that way, and I would never even threaten physical contact.

I called the Head Nursery Teacher so that she could hear the story from my point of view, before it became the grist for rumor and exaggeration.  I told her the story in all truthfulness, I told S the story with full disclosure.  She then spent the next 15 minutes yelling at me, saying the following:

1. I have violated Israeli law by even talking to a child who is not mine.  I am not allowed, by Israeli law, to touch, talk to and certainly not discipline any other child than my own.
2.  She understands that I was defending Raphaela, because "all mothers are the Lioness when it comes to their own children."  According to the Montessori tradition, however, I did more harm to my own daughter than good, because in standing up for her I made Raphaela appear weak, I "stole her power and self confidence," and I destroyed any learning potential from the situation.
3.  IF I were returning to this Gan next year instead of removing Raphaela from her family - yes, the guilt trip continues because S thinks that will make me emotionally dependent on her - I would have understood better how to handle the situation.
4.  It doesn't matter if I saw E attack Raphaela with my own eyes, and it doesn't matter if it wasn't the first time.  There is one month left before the end of the academic year and she no longer feels that E and his behaviour represent a topic worth tackling, so she, as the spiritual and educational mentor of the Gan, has no intention of rectifying the situation for Raphaela or any of his other victims.

I was not sure how to react to this diatribe, except to assert that I acted in response to an immediate situation, and out of frustration that it was clear to me and other parents that her approach to styme this behaviour has not worked since the beginning of the year.


My Scarlet Letter

Here are the facts of the case:

Since September, two children ("Y" and "E") have consistently bullied, hit, stolen toys and destroyed belongings of their classmates, including Raphaela.  The Montessori approach to bullies claims that these children lash out because they don't receive enough love and affection, and so the Head Nursery Teacher ("S") rewards the bully with hugs and kind words, and gives the victims of these two boys lessons in assertive behaviour.  In fact, bullying is a serious problem in the Israeli educational system, starting from this tender age and it gets worse and more scary as Israeli children get older.

Since September, other than the stories from Raphaela and several of the parents of her close friends, I personally have witnessed E come over to my daughter as I am standing there with her, hit her or try to take away something of hers by force.  I have held my tongue and swallowed my need to "do something about it."  All the parents have done so, because we know from experience that no matter how many times we complain to the Head Nursery Teacher and ask her to take definitive action, she will not.

This afternoon, with Raphaela standing next to me at the end of the Gan day, E rammed into Raphaela's leg with a riding toy.  Raphaela fell to the floor and started crying, and so I picked her up and comforted her.  I then bent down and was eye level to him, and firmly told him that he needed to apologize to Raphaela for having hurt her.  He stared me down for five minutes and refused.  I then told Raphaela to tell E that he hurt her and that she finds it uncomfortable when he hurts her.  Raphaela did so and E did not budge in his stubbornness.  So I said that since he hurt Raphaela with the riding toy, he should not be allowed to continue to play with it, and removed him non-violently.

NB This entire time, the nursery teachers stood by and watched the proceedings, and the Head Nursery Teacher was not even on the premises.

E started to cry, and at that moment his mother arrived.  She immediately started shouting, "What happened E, who hurt you?"  I calmly explained, without mentioning at all that this was a repeat and recurrent occurrence, that her son hurt my daughter, and that I asked him nicely to apologize and he refused.  She gave me a look that would kill, and stomped away, sheltering her angel son from me.

I felt little remorse, though I did think afterwards that my taking away the riding toy was beyond my jurisdiction in this case;  to me, I am the first parent this whole year to actually react to the problem and issue that we parents all obsess about in private to each other.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Motherhood Online

Ms. Deborah Kolben, in her timely article "The Perils of Facebook Parenting," (The Forward July 8, 2012) poses a question and initiates a discussion which has challenged me recently as well.  She writes that there "are now an estimated five million moms who blog...Add to this the countless non-blogging mothers who share updates and concerns on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter..."

Raphaela, like many other children of proud 21st century techno-parents, has a long-running online presence, but where does blogging and the like become what Kolben calls "oversharing"?  When does the constant stream of mostly silly information begin to violate the rights not only of our family, but also our basic right to privacy and quiet of the mind?

I wonder whether Raphaela will appreciate having her life documented on the world wide web, or whether it will cause resentment as she gets older.  I will certainly respect her wishes should she express her displeasure, as she defines herself more and more as her own person.

[NB Kolben is the editor of a Jewish parenting website called Kveller.com, which includes multiple blogs as well as practical information.]

That Insidious Television

Normally, Raphaela goes to sleep between 7:30 and eight pm, and I devise all these plans in my head for my own enjoyment, for some adult time.  More often than not, reality sets in and I collapse from exhaustion, maybe have dinner, and park myself in front of the television for about two hours.  The TV provides me with the comfort of English speaking escapism at the end of a Hebrew speaking day, not to mention some off-color language and humor which I dare not speak while Raphaela is within ear-shot.

My television is ancient by today's standards, large and clunky, and every once in a while it has a nervous breakdown or looses its connections to the cable system and the DVD.  That started again today, and some voice in my head spun into a panic;  what would I do without my good friend to entertain me and put me to sleep at night?

The dependence I have on that random voice in the background, it scared me, though I suppose it is symptomatic of my being a single parent.  In lieu of a human being, a partner who asks me about my day, I have come to rely upon the boob tube (no breast feeding pun intended) as a companion of sorts.

I shall make this one of my birthday resolutions, to bring friends who are human into my life on a more regular basis, in order to replace the vapid noise of the machines.

Raphaela's Band Aid Obsession

If you ask Raphaela, she has very definite and consistent ideas as regards the care of various "boo-boos":

1.  Aloe Vera pretty much solves every problem, on every part of the body (followed by a band aid)
2.  Lavender Oil comes in a close second (followed by a band aid)
3.  The placement of ice cubes feels wonderful, and when they melt, you can drink it!
4.  Just because a Mommy can't see the wound, does not mean that it negates the placement of a band aid
5.  For a variety of inconveniences, including coughing or a stomach ache, drink some water
5.  When we sleep, our body fixes things

After a brief stint as a hypocondriac, Raphaela is slowly accepting that it is not fun to go to the family doctor on a regular basis, and that just because a medication is "new," does not mean it works.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The half-blind, half-deaf elderly Israeli gentleman who cleans (more or less) the hallway and stairwell of our building came up to me yesterday with the following story:  apparently, he had found a "beautiful cat that clearly had someone taking care of him," and it was dead.  He threw it away in the garbage.

This man proceeded to explain that he couldn't remember what my cat looked like, and that he hoped that it was not my Harry that he had tossed in the bin.  (This cleaner was injured, both physically and mentally, in the Yom Kippur War, and several buildings in the area give him work out of kindness.)

Of course, Harry goes outside all day and I don't see him until late in the evening, so I spent the entire time  thinking he was gone from this plane of existence.  Thankfully, Harry came home around nine pm, looking no worse for wear, and it means that some other cat owner on our block will be receiving sad news.

Even with all the current "sibling rivalry" between Raphaela and Harry, I could not imagine how she or I would handle that.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Healthy Compromise

From an article in today's International Herald Tribune (Jeff Zelendy, A Possible Number 2), about Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, the man whom Mitt Romney may very well choose as his running mate in these 2012 elections.  About his 26 year relationship with his wife, Jane:

"She agreed to become Republican when he agreed to become Methodist before their marriage in 1986."

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

First Meeting

One of Raphaela's closer friends at Gan is also the result of the choice of her mother ("A"), to become a single mother via fertility procedures.  We happen to be friends, though as a rule I do not specifically seek out the friendships of other single parents.

A recently sent me an email, an invitation to a meeting of SMBCs from the Jerusalem area;  Raphaela and I attended that first encounter yesterday afternoon in the park, along with A and her daughter, and five other women with their families.  I went out of curiosity, and with some skepticism, because I have found in the past that these groups tend to attract women who want validation for their choice, even after the children have been born and represent "facts on the ground." I find it tiresome and troubling when I hear many attendees of these groups express the following sentiment:  "I am here so my children don't feel like they are freaks and outcasts in society.  I want them to see that there are other families like ours."

I totally agree that it is advantageous and healthy for Raphaela to know that there are all different types of family units, and that many children have at least one parent who does not live at home; and that it does not negate the deep and unconditional love that I feel for her as her mother, and the self-love and confidence that Raphaela should cultivate within herself for the rest of her existence.

On the other hand, I have fully committed to my choice, love Raphaela beyond imagining, and think that it could become less healthy for her to be around children whose mothers are afraid of society and who feel the need to constantly remind their children that they are different, as occurred as well at the gathering yesterday.  Penelope Leach, the author of the essential guide Your Baby and Child, wrote the following:  as long as a child has one person in their life who they know loves them to the Moon and back, that one person they know they can always count on to protect them and care for them, from that small wound on their finger to the bigger emotional trials, that child will grow up to be a loving and confident human, a person who connects with others in a healthy and mutually supportive way.

As with all behaviours, our children take their cue from us, the adults around them, and especially the unspoken messages we broadcast.

For most kids, that one constant is the mother, and for Raphaela, that is me, supplemented thank G-d by a network of friends and adopted family here in Israel.  Leach's statement does not make a husband/father unnecessary by any means, but more so a bonus in a child's experience.   I remain open to finding that other half who will enhance me as a woman, and love Raphaela, wherever he may be and whenever we are destined to meet.

The meeting ended with a discussion of the next event for the group, at which point the organizer suggested a "Mommies Only" Day.  I'm glad that they have extended family who will watch their offspring at a moments notice, good for them that they don't need to work.  As much as I greatly desire the friendships of like-minded people, and would appreciate expanding my network of support, I don't have that luxury at the moment.