Tag Archives: children

Connecting environmental and racial justice on Tu B’Shvat and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

My nine-year-old and I were updating his PJ Library reusable wall calendar for January, when he noticed Tu B’Shvat, the Jewish holiday celebrating the new year of the trees, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, fall on the same day this year, Monday, January 17.

As we look ahead to Tu B’Shvat, we can be mindful of Dr. King’s work, how climate justice and racial justice are linked, and how we can bridge the Jewish values of caring for our planet and working toward a more just world together.

“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King’s words continue to ring true, as we look back on his legacy and wonder if we have gotten closer to achieving his dream for an equitable world.

While Tu B’Shvat is traditionally a holiday focused on trees, specifically the trees of Israel, and celebrating the land, the festival can be used an opportunity for both Jews and non-Jews a like to consider the topic of environmental justice.

Tu B’Shvat is the perfect time to ask ourselves, and our children, do we have access to clean water? Can we breathe clean air? Do we live in a place that is safe from the impact of hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters? Are we close to parks, nature centers, and other places for appreciating the environment?

If the answer to these questions is yes, we can take the opportunity to think about how others might be living, and note how environmental inequality is very much an issue in the U.S. and beyond.

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Yes, my “big” kids still sleep with me

Pitter, patter, pitter patter, little footsteps make their way across the hall and into our bedroom. Our youngest child, age five, crawls into bed with my husband and me.

Thump, thud, thump, big kid feet noisily follow suit, and soon our oldest, nearly 9, squeezes himself between the covers.

Four of us in a king-sized bed, which once seemed so vast and endless, now filled with our family.

All of us struggling to find our space, yet not wanting to leave. Snuggling close in a sea of arms and legs.

Our bed has always been open to our children.

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Now more than ever, families need internet access

My son groaned loudly. He got disconnected from his virtual school meeting, again. At the same time, my husband was on a video conference call, and I was working on a writing assignment.

Three people. All needing Internet access at the same time. All dealing with the limitations of this still very much new technology.

Though somewhat limited by what our area can provide, my family has choices; we can, and have paid for better quality Internet; and as a writer, I can schedule my time online to be when my kids and/or husband are not in virtual class or meetings.

Many families, however, have little or no access to at-home Internet service. What once might have been shrugged off as unessential, is now very much a necessity. Adults and children alike need steady, reliable internet to work, study and participate in society.

EveryoneOn is one organization who believes all families, especially those in low-income and marginalized communities, deserve access to affordable internet, computers, digital skills training and more to bridge the divide in society and build a prosperous future for all.

By working directly with internet service providers, EveryoneOn helps family find the best and lowest cost internet service they can find. Many of their featured providers are now offering special COVID-19 rates in response to the number of families financially impacted by the pandemic.

EveryoneOn’s flagship program, Connect2Compete, which helps K-12 students and their families receive internet service, is important now more than ever as virtual learning is a reality for many students across the United States.

By supporting EveryoneOn, you can help families afford broadband routers, home internet service, and the empowerment internet connection brings.

Let’s work together to create a more connected world.

It’s time we give our kids more credit for handling the tough stuff

Kids are terrible about wearing masks.

Kids don’t wash their hands.

Kids won’t keep their fingers out of their mouths and noses.

Kids are gross.

Yes, kids are gross.

As a mom of two boys, I know this well. And, one whiff of my house, you would know this, too.

Yes, kids are tiny germ machines, and I understand why many fear them as little vectors of illness.I also don’t underestimate their potential role in spreading COVID-19. However, I think we also need to show children a bit more respect.

While plenty of adults throw tantrums over having to wear a mask for a 20-minute grocery run, plenty of kids wear their masks when needed with little complaint.

Maybe it is because kids are often more caring than adults?

I am not saying it is easy for a child to wear a mask for extended periods of time, nor that every child puts one on without a fight, but I am tired of these blanket assumptions that children are terrible about protecting themselves and others.

Both of my kids have spent hours outside, in the summer heat, in masks. I have seen other children do the same, even while us adults complain about how uncomfortable we are.

For kids, like my oldest, they see a mask as a safe way to do the things he loves. A mask means getting back to school to see his friends. A mask means a chance at some “normalcy.”

We all worry about how our kids will handle the changes at school, and if they can/will be able to comply with all the new “rules.” And, there is plenty to suggest they won’t.

But, as my own kids have shown me, children are often more capable of much more than we think.As many of us prepare to send our kids back to the classroom, anxious about their safety, I offer up a bit of hope and encouragement that they will be OK.

Homeschooling is a privilege many families can’t afford

It is a privilege to be able to homeschool your kids.

Yes, it is also a lot of hard work and sacrifice.But, in the end, if you or another trusted adult is able to devote a significant amount of time on your child’s education, that is a privilege.

A privilege which was thrust into a big bright spot light because of a pandemic that forced our schools to close.

For the first time homeschooling wasn’t a choice, it was a mandate. And as the weeks and months went on, we heard story after story of parents struggling to manage the new normal of working, raising a family and educating their children.

Many parents just asked the bare minimum of work from their kids, others just threw in the towel, believing (hoping) they would get through this until the school year ended.

Well, now summer is here in the United States, and families have to face the reality that “school” will be much different if and when they reopen.

“Will G-d punish me?” Understanding childhood fear in the age of COVID-19

“Will G-d punish me?” My son asked after admitting he had lied to me earlier that day.

The question caught me off guard, because, while my son does have a strong moral compass and feels ashamed when he makes a mistake, never before had he pondered G-d’s involvement in his own life.

I am all for intense philosophical and theological debates on the existence of a higher power, and what, if any, role said power plays in the shaping of human existence.

However, when these questions come from your own child, no amount of scholarly texts or Biblical excerpts will ease their fears.

Before I could approach my son’s question, I needed to take account of our current reality and it’s impact on my children and indeed all children around the world.

We are in the midst of what maybe the most frightening experience thus far for many of our children. Certainly, this is the case for mine.

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And, even if we as adults do our best to keep COVID-19=related news to ourselves, our childre are smart. They can sense our fear and worry. They see us donning masks to run errands. They conduct their studies via video meetings. They wave to their friends from across the street.

They know life is far from normal.

Take ten minutes to peruse online parenting groups, and you fill find countless cries for help, frustrated commenters and moms and dads at their wits end over their kids’ behavior. Continue reading

Bringing babies to the office isn’t “working”

Every so often I come across a post about some company’s generous policy of allowing new parents to bring their babies to work with them. Usually the praise for the family-focused policy is accompanied by a picture of a smiling baby, happily sitting in a baby seat while mom goes about her office tasks.

These policies are touted as a wonderful solution for new parents who have to return to work and can’t or don’t want to rely on outside childcare.

The reality, however, is much different.

While some babies are calm enough to allow you to get your work done, others demand a lot of attention. Some babies are colicky, need to be held constantly. They need to be burped, changed, cleaned, and on and on.

And, then there’s the feeding.

If you are nursing, you may need to feed your baby as often as once every hour, and if you consider how long a feeding session is, that doesn’t leave much “baby free” time to get work done.

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This can be daunting if your job requires you to meet certain daily or weekly deadlines, you have a customer-centric career, or you have a job without flexible hours. 

Though, I was working from home, I still found it challenging to balance my job and my baby without outside support. I often found myself working in the middle of the night or very early in the morning to catch up on what I had missed caring for my son during the day. I imagine those who bring their babies to the office have to do the same.
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We all contribute to our families’ success

“Who has more bills, you or daddy?”

My son asked me, while we were chatting in the kitchen.

“Neither of us do,” I answered. “Dad may pay a certain amount to use the gym, and I may pay a certain amount on my dance class, but we share a budget, and all of us contribute, even you and your brother.”

I went on to explain while his father is the one who brings in the most financially, and that it is important to recognize that, it is just as important to recognize the non-monetary contributions all of us make.

I spoke about how my writing, though not a big moneymaker, enables me to be home when needed, take care of household chores (however poorly I manage them), take his brother to speech services, and other tasks that would be difficult to complete if I was working full-time.

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I reminded my son his role (and his brother’s) is just as important as his parents. I explained how helping with the laundry, cleaning up his toys and being a good brother, all contribute to happy and well-functioning household.

We are all in this together, and we all play a part. Continue reading

This book made me appreciate teachers even more

Whenever I think about who inspired me to become a writer, my second-grade teacher comes to mind.

When I think about who inspired me to think critically, and ask questions, a high school teacher comes to mind.

When I think about who will shape and influence my children over the years, teachers come to mind.

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The importance and value of great teachers cannot be understated. These dedicated servants to education can make all the difference in the lives of our children.

I have long had a deep respect for this profession, yet, I never fully understood the depth of work and devotion to this career, until I got my hands on a copy of Schooled: A Love Letter to the Exhausting, Infuriating, Occasionally Excruciating Yet Somehow Completely Wonderful Profession of Teaching. Continue reading

Kids understand more than we think

“Why do we have belly buttons?”

My six-year-old asked me, while staring down at his own naval during bathtime.

I explained to him that his belly button is the spot where his umbilical cord connected him to my placenta, which is how he got nutrients inside the womb. I told him how after babies are born, the umbilical cord is cut and what’s left is the belly button.

I went on to talk about how his younger brother’s umbilical cord might not have been cut properly, which is why he got sick when he was born.

We talked about how he had to go to the hospital, and my six-year-old commented on how lucky his brother was to have good doctors working on him, and I agreed.

My son followed up by asking me if doctors still had to help patients even if they didn’t have money. I explained how doctors have a sort of “code” which demands they care for anyone, no matter the circumstances. I told him that afterwards, the hospital or doctor’s office sends a bill saying what is owed to the patient or the patient’s family.

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We talked about how our family fortunate to have the means to pay for his brother’s procedures and NICU stay, and to be financially well enough to afford quality healthcare for our family.

I told my son that some families aren’t so fortunate, and many have to do things like sell their homes, or ask others for help because their medical bills are too expensive.

My son looked at me and asked with the innocence of a child, “Why can’t it just be free?”

I could have just said, “I wish, or, I don’t know,” but I believe our children deserve honest, thoughtful answers. Continue reading