Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Landing the Helicopter

There has been much talk and debate regarding Helicopter or "Tiger" parents, and I for one have always been grateful that Israeli society seems to foster more independence in children than in the United States.

In the past 24 hours I have come to understand that I still have room for improvement.

Yesterday Raphaela tried out an after-school activity at the Jerusalem Museum of Natural History, where she had previously experienced one of the her most memorable summer camps.  The 90 minute animal workshop was led by the same woman who managed the summer camp, a kindergarten teacher with miles of experience and a teaching philosophy that I have always admired.

The teacher suggested that if the parents were to remain in the room, we could participate gladly but not minimize the effect for the children.  Personally I would have been happy to meet with a friend for a cup of coffee and return for pick-up, but Raphaela wanted me to stay and meet her favorite bunny.  Throughout the play time, I found myself trying to "help" the instructor and Raphaela by re-explaining or modifying the teacher's instructions.  At a certain point, Maya Papaya Pickle [that's her name at work...] pulled me aside and explained that in her many years of dealing with children and their parents, she knows that all I have done comes from a positive place, with the intention of making my daughter's life "easier."  Maya Papaya then continued, encouraging me to consider how much more it would help Raphaela if I stepped aside and allowed her to work things out for herself, gain the confidence of knowing that she figured it out and conquered her own territory.

Yup.  And so I sat in the corner drinking tea, joining in only when Maya Papaya and Raphaela gave me their permission.

This morning I took Raphaela to speech therapy, where we have finished proper Hebrew pronunciation and have moved onto building the bridge of vocabulary between her fluent English and her fluent Hebrew, both of which get just a bit lost when Raphaela is trying to form complex sentences. I tried to observe quietly, and again, found myself several times trying to give Raphaela hints as to how to find a solution or a word faster, or at least quicker than her own mind was capable of at the time.  Yvonne, her most excellent speech therapist and kind person, gently advised me to generate the patience and give Raphaela the time she truly needed, because if she solved a linguistic issue herself, she would own it and be that much more proud of herself.

Yup.  And so I sat in the corner playing on my iPhone and only interacted in the game and evaluation when invited to do so.

After dropping Raphaela off at school, I went to the Chiropractic clinic and began my work for the day, and that's when whatsapp starting pinging.  First a message from Raphaela's kindergarten teacher, announcing that on Friday the CHILDREN would be celebrating the start of a series of teachings about the Torah.  Deborah asked that the parents send their kids to school that day in fine clothing and with celebratory Torah items, like a flag.  Deborah, the head teacher also requested that four of the parents IE fathers volunteer to read the opening chapter of Genesis, in various ethnic tunes and styles, as part of the celebration. 

PING!  Mother 1:  Well, I am coming to the celebration and I will be making a cake for the party.
PING!  Mother 2:  Me too, I will also be bring a cake.
PING! Mother 3:  I will be bringing a cake that is gluten free, for the children who may have allergic sensitivities.
(Here I am, thinking that the teacher did not want to turn this into a major parent-child event, that I really really want my Fridays free so I can relax from the whole week, and what the hell do parents gain by kissing up to the staff at the kindergarten?!  Didn't the teacher promise that parents would have only three parties the whole year? I  am willing to embrace the lasseiz faire approach...)
PING!  Deborah:  I think we have enough cakes.   Can someone bring some drinks?
PING! PING! PING! PING! (Twenty times over)  Parents 4-20:  I will bring drinks.
PING! Father 1:  I will be able to read the Torah in the Ashkenazi style.
PING!  Father 2:  I will be able to read the Torah in Sephardi style.
PING!  Father 3:  I will be able to read the Torah in Sephardi Israeli style.
PING!  Father 4:  I feel so bad, I am working on Friday and I can't help you by reading the Torah in any style.  But I just wanted to say how bad I feel about not being able to come.
PING!  Deborah:  Wow, you parents are amazing, really. Can any of the fathers read the Torah in Teimani style?  And do any of the other mothers or fathers want to open the party with a blessing for all the children of the class?
PING!  Mother21:  Wait, don't we need throw away plates and cups for the party as well?
PING!  Deborah:  Sure, why not.
PING!  Mother 22:  Hey, I wanted to bring cutlery and plates and cups and napkins!
PING! Deborah:  Please, by all means.  Now we are missing other snack foods like potato chips and such, who will volunteer for that?
PING! Mother 23:  I am going to bring the biggest bag of potato chips you have ever seen.
PING!  Mother 24:  Me too, my bag of chips will be just as big.
(Rearranging my work schedule for Friday and wondering if I am going to have to wear full synagogue regalia for this supposed minor religious gathering.)
PING!  Deborah:  Parents, by the way, you should remember that is just the first session of a full year of parent-child activities every Friday.  I think it is so important that you mothers and fathers fully encourage your children as they get closer and closer to First Grade and to their awareness as proud Jewish children.
(Every Friday?  And you know that there will be repercussions  on some level for parents who can't attend on a regular basis, because of work or Shabbat preparations, or G-d Forbid some grown up time at the end of the week.  I mean, I love my daughter and would do anything for her, but have a little mercy on a single mother...)
PING! Mother 25:  Hey, are you sure we don't need another cake?

Distracted and exasperated, I shut off my phone.

1 comment:

rahel said...

Haha- I know the last part by now also way too well. As my oldest daughter entered 1st grade, I started to see just how much parent involvment is apparantly requested. And well, no, I can't bake cakes and hallot all the time and I won't be attending all those school trips and parent-activities and help out all the time... I do work and I do have two more kids. It took me some time to realize that I am not the only one and that I don't need to feel bad about it. I attend all mandatory meetings/ festivities and that's WAY enough. So- don't start to feel bad, if you can't attend and can't buy tons of supplies for the party and can't bake the most wonderful cake... :-)