Read my latest essay, “Seven and still sucking his thumb,” in the inaugural issue of Motherwell Magazine (www.motherwellmag.com). I’m thrilled to be part of this launch, which features essays by some of my absolute favorite writers. Check it out: you won’t be disappointed! And then follow Motherwell on Facebook to be part of the conversation.
The baby comes out of the womb ready to suck, its tiny, toothless mouth as powerful as a Hoover and, more often than not, clamped onto your nipple. In the early days of new motherhood, I prayed my babies would find something— anything—to suck that wasn’t attached to my body. So when Oliver, my youngest, found his thumb, I collapsed with relief and exhaustion. “Be careful,” my mother-in-law told me, “the thumb is harder to take away than the pacifier.” Whatever, I thought, adding that to the long list of things I would worry about later.
I’m happy to share my latest essay, published in the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine. I wrote it shortly after returning from my twentieth college reunion last June. I had attended earlier reunions, but this one hit me hard, I think because everyone was more vulnerable and real. We were ready to admit what our college years had meant to us and also willing to reveal the ways in which life had surprised us–and maybe even let us down. I wanted to bathe in it forever.
Was I really going to reunion? I was busy, my schedule impossible. And reunions were lame, the epitome of all the rah-rah hokum I’d avoided when I was in college. Yet here I was, making the drive up I-91 with two friends, my heart pounding in an unexpectedly familiar way as we got off at exit 13. Back on campus for the first time in years, time telescoped in and out, life at Dartmouth seeming both a minute and a century ago….
I am thrilled to have my latest essay on Full Grown People today. It is such an amazing site with great essays about life, death, love, loss: the messy business of being an adult. This one was a long time coming, and I’m so happy it found a home there.
When my mother found out she had cancer, she said she wanted to do two things when she got better: learn to play the piano and get a bird.
“A bird? Why?” I asked, remembering the nasty parakeets I’d had as a child who kicked feathers and birdseed shells into my underwear drawer.
“Well, I have a friend who has this really beautiful bird, and I’d like to have a bird like that.”
I rolled my eyes, a childish act, that, at twenty-seven, I was probably too old to still be doing. It was so typical of my mother to want something simply because it was beautiful: bird as objet d’art. Her desire—requirement, really—for things to be aesthetically pleasing was not a trait we shared.
In the emotionally chaotic days after her cancer diagnosis, it still seemed reasonable to make plans for the future. My mother would stagger her chemotherapy treatments with her schedule at work. We located the city’s best wig store. She ordered shelving for her new apartment. And she was going to break up with her boyfriend, Steven, because, although he was nice, she said, “Nice is not enough.” She would stop postponing joy and make the time for things she always seemed to be putting off. So if a bird was part of the life she imagined for herself in her post-cancer future, who was I to argue?
“Why are we going to a Christmas show when we’re not Christian?”
Thanks to Brain, Child Magazine for reposting my story from last year about raising Jewish kids at Christmas. I thought my kids would love the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Instead, it raised questions for them about what it means to be an outsider. As someone who grew up celebrating Christmas, I was surprised that they thought the show was for other people, not for them.
I realize that in my efforts to raise proud, Jewish children, I may have made too much of the fact that we don’t celebrate Christmas. After reading Galit Breen’s excellent piece “What This Jew Thinks About Celebrating Christmas” I’ve come to think that there might be ways to combine the two traditions without confusing everyone. The fact is, I did grow up celebrating Christmas (with my Jewish father) and maybe it is O.K. (of course it is) to share some of those traditions with my kids. So we’re working on it.
My latest piece is about Paris, and why we need to have fierce conversations with our kids.
I wasn’t a mother on 9/11, but I spent the day with children. I was teaching third grade in New York, and September 11, 2001, was our first day of school. As the news trickled in that morning, parents arrived early to pick up their children, and by the end of the day, only a handful remained in our care. After they were gone, I finally let my guard down and cried.
When school reopened a few days later, we were instructed to discuss what had happened with our students, but only in the broadest of terms. When difficult questions arose, we were to bounce them back to the parents, as we were uncertain how much detail each family had chosen to go into. We felt it was better to err on the side of saying too little than delve too deeply into the particulars of this strange and terrible new world.
My latest piece at kveller.com is about my struggle with Ellie over playing the flute. She really wants to quit, but I won’t let her. The comments have ranged from “Let the poor girl quit, you lunatic” to “You go, Tiger Mom!” Have you dealt with something similar with your children? And how did you resolve it?
“I’m giving you a gift you’ll thank me for later!” I shouted.
“I never asked you for that gift!” Ellie screamed back. “I hate that gift!”
My 10-year-old daughter and I were arguing about her flute lessons again. Things had gotten so bad, her teacher had written me an email with the subject line “Ellie happiness :).”
“I am still confused about Ellie,” she wrote. “I’ve been trying different strategies and feel that I’m missing the boat.” She suggested that we meet with her colleague Michele, someone who had insight into learning styles and might be able to “diagnose” Ellie.
“So, we’re having therapy for flute now?” my husband, Ken, asked me. “Please let her quit, would you?”