Category Archives: Think

Feminism must put mothers first

Growing up, I often heard my mother repeat the phrase: “you can do everything, just not all at once.” I am sure she said the same thing to our brother, but I knew she was really speaking to my sister and I, children born in the 1980s, just a decade or so shy of the rise of modern feminism and the birth of the idea that women can do whatever men can do.

My own mother gave up her career as a nurse to raise her three children. Looking back, I realize how fortunate we were to have her home with us. We had someone to care for us when we were sick, to pick us up from the bus stop after school, and to serve as a constant reminder that we were cared for and loved. And we were fortunate to have a mother, who after caring for us for many years, was able to resume her career and even take on new ventures as her motherhood responsibilities shifted.

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My mom, along with several other members of my family, were all strong, powerful women, and not one of them ever downplayed their roles in what society has long deemed “woman’s work.”

These women did not try to compete “in a man’s world,” because they knew a woman’s world was just as worthy of validation.

Modern feminism, as many women have come to interpret, has told us we are not enough. You can’t “just” be a mother, you also have to be an entrepreneur or a part-time customer service rep, or a scholar. And, if you are a woman who juggles raising a family and a holding a job, it better not be in anything having to do with kids, lest you want to forgo any real respect from society. Continue reading

D.C. foundation brings joy of play to homeless youth

When you think about the basic needs of children, your mind probably goes to food, clothing and shelter. The things all humans need for survival. If you were to help the millions of homeless children in the United States, you might, rightfully, give some canned goods to a local food bank, or donate some blankets to an area shelter. These basic needs are something many of us can easily provide for our own children, and ones we easily take for granted.

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There is another childhood need we take for granted: play. Play is a fundamental part of childhood development. Play helps shape our children’s characters, develop critical life skills and forge their sense of self worth. A recent study by the American Association of Pediatrics highlights the importance of play and of every child, regardless of circumstance deserving the right to play.

Play is a vital part of childhood, and something all children deserve to experience. Unfortunately, however, kids who find themselves with unstable housing — often moving from shelter to shelter — rarely get the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of play. Continue reading

If you need a prayer of gratitude, this is it

I’m a minimally observant Jew, and also a mother to two young children, which means my time to sit and focus on prayer is sparse and sporadic. When I do “pray,” I’m mostly thinking of stuff I’d like to happen for myself or my family. Even though these things may be selfless in nature, I realize this isn’t exactly praying, but more like wishful thinking.

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I was doing a whole lot of asking and not a lot of thanking. And, considering how many wonderful blessings have filled my life, I definitely had a good deal of gratitude to express. Like most of us, however, I got caught up in what I didn’t have instead of being grateful for what I already got. I wasn’t praying fully.

Yes, prayer can serve to ask for what we want. There’s nothing wrong with setting intentions and verbalizing your desires. I know this does wonders for people, and can be a powerful way to set you on your to achieving your dreams. However, this is not the true purpose of prayer.

The purpose of prayer is gratitude. Gratitude toward a power greater than ourselves. Gratitude toward G-d. Gratitude in even our darkest times. Continue reading

Exploring The Rubin Museum of Art with mindful intention

Editor’s note: This post is about my experience attending Mindfulness for Families at The Rubin Museum of Art. My family’s visit was compensated by the museum. All views expressed are my own.

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My two boys and I are exploring The Rubin Museum of Art, absorbing the various paintings, sculptures and architecture. We are tasked by mindfulness expert, Archimedes Bibiano, to move through the space, sans electronics, and take mental snapshots of whatever inspires us in the moment. There are no rules — only a time limit — and everything from the chairs in the cafe to the color of the walls is worthy of consideration.

My six-year-old wants to discover the sixth floor, so we ride the elevator up, anticipating what exciting treasures me might find.  We walk out on the floor, and we catch a glimpse of the floor below, which is visible from the top of the spiral staircase, which climbs up the center of the museum. From this perspective, my son notices a pool of water with wooden cut outs floating inside. He sees some visitors stepping from piece to piece and is eager to try this himself. Continue reading

I’m a mom who pushes her kids to succeed

Like many other little girls, I spent a brief moment of my childhood enveloped in the world of tutus and ballet shoes. I recall the early days of joyfully jumping over fake puddles and not worrying about technique or having any real skill. Then, I started taking classes with a serious instructor, a strict disciplinary with a thick Russian accent and no time for foolishness.
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That wasn’t me. I had no desire to train hard and suffer through endless criticism. I also wasn’t all that good, which may be why when I said I wanted to quit, my parents didn’t put up a fight. And, when the teacher questioned my decision, and wondered why my mom wasn’t forcing me to continue, my mom just shrugged it off.

I went on to attempt many activities from gymnastics to ice skating to piano. Some lasted a few years, others barely a few weeks. My skills in each varies from decent to not terrible, but no matter how well I did, I was never pushed to continue if I wanted to stop.

I am so appreciative of my parents for not pressuring me to keep doing something I didn’t love. I had to prove nothing to no one. I could just be a kid.

I always thought I would model this example as a parent. I would let my children try many things, and be ok if they want to stop. I wouldn’t be a “tiger mom” pushing my kids to succeed at all costs.

Yet, I find myself close to doing exactly that. Continue reading

Nature vs. Nurture: Nature (slightly) wins

I took an advanced placement course in developmental psychology, during my senior year of high school. Although, at the time, I was a long way from having children of my own, I was fascinated with how the human psyche is shaped over time. We studied various views on personality and behavior, including the long-standing debate of nature versus nurture.

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Reading the works of the likes of John Locke, I was convinced that our behavior and character was almost exclusively shaped by our environment and that we are truly “blank slates” when we first enter the world. This view made me regard every future child I encountered with a certain level of judgement for their parents. If their kid was awful, it had to be because of something they were doing wrong.

Then, I had my own kids. Two boys, being raised in similar circumstances, but who could not be more different. And, this difference was apparent from the moment my second son was born. Continue reading

“This Is Us” and the lens of loss

This post contains minor spoilers.

Right before the infamous slow cooker ignites and starts a chain of events leading up to the demise of Jack Pearson, we see the family patriarch loading the dishwasher, cleaning the kitchen table and sweeping the floor. All while his wife and two of his three children rest upstairs. There is nothing inherently special about any of these mundane tasks, except, for the audience, it is one more reminder of just how great a husband and father Jack had become.

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And just as the end of the epic Pearson romance is marked by Jack’s unending devotion, so too is the beginning. As we all saw in the season premiere, a hopeless romantic manages to charm the beautiful Rebecca with just $9 in his pocket.

For many viewers, Jack Pearson is just a little too perfect. He sweeps in with grand gestures and always seems to have the right words for every moment. He is an embodiment of an ideal we find impossible to attain. No matter how great the men of our lives are, they are no Jack.

We can never compare Jack to our own partners for two reasons. One, he’s a fictional character, and Hollywood has a long history of creating impossible standards. Two, he is dead. Continue reading

I don’t regret putting my five-year-old in first grade

I was an anxious newly minted mom of a school-age child, one year ago, and like most parents preparing their kid for kindergarten, I worried about my son making new friends, handling the school work and whether he would eat the lunches I made. Having never sent my child to daycare or preschool, I was thrusting him into a whole new world. And, all of this was happening when he was only four years old.

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My eldest was born in November 2012, which fell about a month behind the New York State cut-off for entering kindergarten in 2017. I knew he would likely be the youngest child in his class, and how many parents in my place would have held him back. I had every intention of sending my son to school, but the voices of concern both in my head, and from without, filled me with a lot of doubt. I wondered if I was making the right choice, especially since conventional wisdom is to red-shirt children. Continue reading

How I get my kids to bed early

My eldest was in camp for most of the day, for the first half of the summer, meaning he continued his early bedtime/early wake-up routine he was used to during the school year. When his month at camp ended, we took a more laid-back approach to bedtime, and let him stay up a bit later than normal.

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Summer is coming to an end, and soon will my relatively lax rules regarding bedtime. My son will be starting first grade in a few short weeks, and the demands and rigors of school require a healthy sleep routine.

People have asked me how well my kids sleep since they were born. The answer has never been great, and we have a lot to work on as a family. My eldest is an especially restless sleeper, while my youngest sometimes gets random bursts of energy in the middle of the night. One thing we are fairly decent at, however is getting our kids to bed early. Continue reading

How to encourage free play in an over-scheduled world

Throughout the year, I read many parenting pieces, several of which lament the over-scheduled, too-structured lives of our children. They wax poetic about the good ole days of playing outside until it got dark, inventing wacky games and the general ease of a childhood long gone. In the same pieces, those same writers lament about all of the activities they have to schlep to, the numerous play dates they’d rather not do and how they are exhausted from what they have presumed they must be in today’s parenting climate.

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But, there is hope.

In my short time as a mom, I have seen more push back against the over-scheduled, helicopter-style parenting of the past decade or so. The free-range movement is gaining popularity, and more parents are embracing the idea of “less is more.” We are tired of being tired, and we want our kids to have the less structured childhood we remember so fondly.

If we want our kids to have a “freer” childhood, we have to make it possible. Continue reading