When it comes to parenting, there is no manual. Back in the day, my mom kept Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care paperback in her nightstand, next to the S&H Green Stamps and the TV remote. I never noticed any dog-eared corners on the faded brown pages so doubt if she ever referred to this “timeless bestseller.” Turns out she probably could have used some expert advice on how to redirect her high-spirited daughter because her idea of discipline was chasing me down the hallway with a flyswatter.
It’s almost Labor Day, and I’ve procrastinated to write this back-to-school blog. Maybe because my youngest is a high school senior and in 300-something days I will be an empty nester. (Yes, I obsess about it). For the last 12 years, I have taken my daughter’s first day of school photo in the front yard, with her holding our toy poodle Luci, next to the Chinese maple tree, which has grown from her shoulders to as tall as the two-story gutter.
On the seventh night of Hanukkah, we lit the candles on the menorah to commemorate the miracle of our ancestors, but it was also a prayer vigil for the lives lost in yesterday’s Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown. People of all faiths from all over the world light candles as our hearts ache collectively for the families of the 20 innocent first graders and six adults, who were shot point-blank by a 20-year-old madman dressed in combat gear and armed with semiautomatic weapons. As details of the latest school shooting unfold, parents everywhere try to deal with their own feelings of fear, despair, and confusion as we struggle to find the best way to explain (or not explain) to our own kids what is happening in our world that seems to be falling apart. I felt this same way when I wrote about Virginia Tech and the Israeli war. Things haven’t changed.
With the holiday season upon us, and presents are left for children who are gone forever, it’s impossible to wrap our heads around another senseless tragedy—the second deadliest school shooting behind Virginia Tech in U.S. history. We’re vulnerable everywhere we go—school, mall, movie theatre, workplace, airplane, a political rally.
A nation in shock, we ‘re quick to blame someone, something besides good versus evil. Political discussions abrupt again about how to improve school safety, gun control laws, mental health care, dysfunctional families, violent video games, social media, and on and on.
And yet one thing has always remained the same. God. Whatever your religious or atheistic beliefs, many of us fall to our knees and surrender to something bigger—call it God, Divinity, Buddah, Muhammad, Spirit—otherwise we can’t cope alone. God did not let this happen. People did. And we need each other to heal. We are the problem, and we are the solution.
So many of us turn to our faith when we’re obligated to (the high holidays, Christmas, a wedding, a funeral) or when we hit rock bottom. But the lesson here is to keep God in our hearts, always. And by this I mean not just prayer, but action. For example, notice how communities come together in times of crisis. When disaster strikes, whether it be Hurricane Sandy, 9-11 terrorist attack, or a siege on a quite New England town in Connecticut, we hug each other, we feed each other, we listen, we clean up, we mourn, we give money, we give ourselves.
In the words of Mr. Rogers: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
And in the words of Rabbi Shaul Praver, of Temple Adath Israel in Newtown, who attended to the family of 6-year-old Noah Pozner, “Death doesn’t really exist — it’s just a transformation because we all come from God and everything in the world is from God.”
He continues, “At the same time we’re in a very dark place, we’re in a very sacred place. Everybody, for the last two days, are brothers and sisters. You can hug strangers in the street.
And, finally, in the words of Kohelet in the biblical book of Ecclesiastes:
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to plug up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”
This blog was actually posted last year in www.jewishinstlouis.org, but didn’t get in my website, so it’s worth repeating, even though my son is now a senior and the ACT is OVER!
In an effort to help my son achieve academic success (get into a decent college), I’ve decided to do my part without being overly involved. I know, it’s a tightrope act moms try to balance everyday with teenagers. As a parent of a high school junior, I feel overwhelmed just thinking about the near future. Somehow, Jack has to maintain a high GPA, stay involved in his activities, get a job, study for the PSAT, SAT, and ACT, schedule campus tours, fill out school applications, and, most importantly, learn how to operate a washing machine so that when he leaves home next year he doesn’t have to wear the same smelly t-shirt everyday and offend his roommate and accounting professor.
Just when I think my volunteer days at school are over, the other day I decide to help at my daughter’s Scholastic book fair. I realize that nothing is more embarrassing for a seventh grader than to spot her mom in the school library, especially when the stranger wears a red sticker on her blouse that has the same last name as her daughter. Continue reading
Ten years ago, on the morning of September 11, my day started out ordinary. My husband Scott went to work; Jack, in first grade, was at school learning how to tell the time; and Sari, only 2 years old, dressed her dolls in beads and bows, oblivious to the national crisis that was about to explode before our very eyes. Continue reading
The older I get, the more I feel that life is on fast forward, and the pause button on the reality remote control doesn’t work. For example, how can it be back to school time already when I barely have tan lines? Even though summer is not officially over, it sure feels like it when bags of Halloween candy corn hoard the store shelves that are still scattered with rejected spiral notebooks and pocket folders. Continue reading
Lately, I’m feeling nostalgic, and it happens every time around Valentine’s Day. This traditional romantic holiday, which dates back to third century Rome and is named after a Christian martyr named Valentine, is not the reason for my sentiment. Rather I’m reminiscent of when I was in elementary school (before disco became popular) and I decorated a Stride Rite shoebox to collect all my valentines. There were no holographic stickers, washable markers, and glittery gel pens in those days. To make my box pretty, I used red construction paper, pink hearts, and white paper doilies that I stole out of my mother’s dining room hutch. Continue reading
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock lately, you’re probably aware of the “Hit A Jew Day” incident that occurred a couple of weeks ago at a Parkway middle school and sparked an ongoing heated emotional discussion within the Jewish and secular communities. Whether this unfortunate act of ignorance was meant as an innocent prank or a religious attack, the Anti-Defamation League took it seriously and so did the local and national media, which wasted no time reporting the controversial event. Even as anti-Semitism is supposedly on the rise during difficult economic times, this widespread concern about a group of six graders singling out Jewish students during an unofficial “spirit week” represents the growing acceptance of zero tolerance in our society. The instigators were immediately suspended, and the bystanders who knew what was going on and didn’t report the problem to administrators were disciplined as well. This blatant insult to Jewish students wasn’t ignored. Everyone learned a critical lesson, hopefully. Continue reading