…and you’re so far away from me

Because I had a conversation about Fiddler on the Roof today, I have that on my mind. Hodel marries Perchick the intellectual and travels away with him. Like Hodel, I moved halfway across the country from my family and my birth place; my hometown.

Most days it was an easy decision, but today its hard as my family ages and I miss all these opportunities to spend time with my family. We have an occasion coming up in a little under a month that I just found out about. If I’d heard about it even a week earlier, I might have tried to make arrangements to be there. In fact, I checked my calendar to see if it was doable even yesterday, but the child is in camp that day and it’s a weekday. I’m wondering, toying with the idea of changing camp and maybe taking a week off, but camp is completely scheduled and I doubt we could get our money back. We could switch to a different week, but there are no other weeks we’re interested in.

Do I just give up that camp week and convince my husband we should drive home for an evening party midweek? What would we do the rest of the time? Mini road trip? The week after July 4th? I don’t know. I’m feeling a little numb and confused.

Unpopular Opinions

I’m not sure what aspect of the meme, I’m going to focus on, but it reads:
“Not going to be real popular for this statement, but undisciplined children grow up to be undisciplined and disrespectful adults.”

And I’m not sure what that means. I’m around a fair number of children because my child is a bit of a social butterfly, and I’ve seen a fair number of different parenting style.

Good parenting is hard and massively contradictory:

Provide structure, but not too much structure, because kids need time to be kids.

Provide support, but let kids learn to solve problems on their own.

Let them know you’re there for them, but don’t be their friend. You need to be an authority figure.

So what is disrespect? Is it unkempt hair and falling down pants? Is it assertiveness? When does assertiveness cross over into disrespect? Is it disrespectful to stand your ground when your boundaries are being violated?

In my experience, the people who tend to post these kinds of memes are sad that children are being taught social and emotional learning and can assert themselves. Is that what’s considered disrespect?

What are undisciplined and disrespectful adults? Are they the adults who pee in the aisle when asked to wear a mask in a store? Are they the ones who berate the wait staff in restaurants? Are they the ones who want to follow people into bathrooms and accost them to check their sex or gender?

What I’m trying to teach my child goes beyond respect. It includes reading the room, understanding people, and understanding boundaries. It includes understanding when jokes are appropriate and when they aren’t. Some people might hear our jokes and think they aren’t respectful. (When my child was a baby, we had an”Evil mommy” song that the child was invited to sing whenever the child felt I was being mean. (usually by insisting on appropriate things like “putting on clothing,” not crazy shit.) Child still had to do the thing, but, it was okay to feel grumpy about it. Would someone hearing the “evil Mommy” song think that the child was being rude and disrespectful? Probably. But only if they didn’t notice that both of of us laughed and the requested thing was done.

Last night we had a big conversation about big feelings. My child is frustrated with having big feelings; thinking it’s in appropriate to feel them and react. “Maybe my feelings aren’t okay.” the child mused.

I said what I’ve always said, “Your feelings are your feelings and you can express them in healthy ways. If your reaction was to hit me, that would be something that wouldn’t be a healthy way to express them. That I would ask you to stop. But to stop having feelings and telling me about them? Never.”

What kind of adult will the child grow up to be? I don’t know. I can hope for happy adult with caring, compassion, and vision; but, I don’t know. We never know. But then again, I’m not sure what an undisciplined, disrespectful adult is or whether the people to whom I applied those adjectives were themselves disrespectful children.

I would guess that growing up to be an undisciplined, disrespectful adult has less to do with being a disrespectful child and much more to do with being an entitled child.

Cog in Great Machine

I live in a small town. This is the first time in my life I’ve ever lived in a small town. I didn’t necessarily choose to live in a small town. I have always lived in a city; not always a super urban city, but always in a city, or the immediate suburbs. While I’ve always had community, it’s always been a very small community in a very large city.

I live in a small town now. I once took a kid with me to the local town parade. My kid was in the parade. So were the other kid’s parents and siblings. This kid wasn’t interested in being in the parade so came to sit with us. The kid asked me as we were setting up chairs on the parade route, “Won’t it be weird if someone thinks I’m your kid?”

I replied, “No one will think you’re my kid. Everyone knows us!”

Sure enough the next person who walked by stopped to chat by calling me my name, and then turning to kid who was with me and asking, “How are you? Where are your parents?”

My point is, I live in a small town, but I don’t think of myself as a person who would be known anywhere, because I’m used to thinking of myself as one person in a big town. Not as a family in small town. It’s critical to understand that.

So this week, I got an email from the school principal asking me how we want to handle my child’s transition to a new school. I said I wasn’t sure it was valuable to meet with the old support team, but as we’re transitioning, working with the new team to provide them some orientations might be useful. He wrote back and said that seemed like a good strategy and said something about how the school is going to miss my kid. (like of course. everyone says that) but he had enough detail in what he was going to miss that indicated that he is aware of my child. He sees the kid and knows the kid.

Now admittedly, as I think back, I suspect all the principals of my schools recognized me (face+name) while I was at the school. But it was a bit jolting in that moment to realize the principal has opinions about my kid.

Uncomfortable Realization

So I had an uncomfortable realization this weekend. I realized that to some degree, my social circle is mirroring the dysfunction I have in my family. To illustrate this, I point to something I’ve mentioned before, my boss at the library treats me exactly the same way my mother treats me.

And while long years of conditioning and experience have taught me how to adjust to people treating me that way; maybe I shouldn’t necessarily let her get away with it. After all, she is not actually my mother. Maybe she should learn to treat me respectfully and appropriately.

This comes up not because of anything she did, but because another friend has been treating me like a sister. Which is to say, not like a sister, but specifically, he has been treating me the way my brother used to treat me. More specifically; taking whatever grievances he feels uncomfortable dealing with or assigning to appropriate people and dumping them on me and being angry with me for things I’m only vaguely peripherally connected to. And again, I take that shit from brother, because he’s family (and please don’t give me the lecture about how I can cut off my family. I recognize that, and I have not chosen to do that.), but I do not have to take it from my friends.

What’s that thing they say about experience, “Experience allows you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.” I’m not falling into that trap again. My non-brother friends needs my friendship way more than I need his. I’m happy to walk away. But I’m not okay with being the blame repository. Not this time. Not with this person. Nope to the nope.

Intersections in Real Time

So I got the latest Sonali Dev, The Emma Project last week. It’s the conclusion of her Jane Austen retellings. Our hero Vansh is having a bad morning and he reaches into his wallet and pulls out a quote that a friend gave him. It’s a paraphrasing of this Mishnah from Pirkei Avot: https://www.sefaria.org/Pirkei_Avot.2.16?ven=Mishnah_Yomit_by_Dr._Joshua_Kulp&vhe=Torat_Emet_357&lang=bi.

I like to think I would have recognized the quote regardless of when I saw it, but that this book was released now, in this period between Pesach and Shavuot when we typically study Pirkei Avot, is hitting me hard right now. All the more, as I’m studying Pirkei Avot as I have done more than once during this period. Of course, this is the first time I’m doing the whole thing in community on Clubhouse. Last year, I think a few people were doing it and I hit up some rooms, but it felt more casual to me, because I wasn’t running the rooms, I guess.

Sometimes its the smallest things that stick with you the most. I feel seen by this author who has never met me. I feel like my culture and my heritage matter and influence her world, even in just a small way. And that makes me happy because I’ve certainly been influenced by her culture. It made the act of reading her book feel more reciprocal in some kind of way. Like we had a cultural exchange. It was a reminder that we as different cultures have so much to offer each other.

This is Not Really About the Formula Shortage

I was talking to my husband, bless his heart, who is very pro-women, and I want to state that up front; and he asked me if there are people suggesting breast feeding as an option in the wake of this baby formula shortage.

Because I know that my husband is very pro-women, and he was extremely supporting of my nursing journey, I know he means this from a place of love and it’s part of my task to provide the education he lacks in this regard.

So I explained to him about the following problems with that seemingly simple solution:

  1. Breast feeding is hard.
  2. Breast feeding is time consuming.
  3. Supply may not always keep up with demand.
  4. Employers and spouses don’t always provide breast feeding support.
  5. Lower income families may not have adequate nutrition to provide nursing.
  6. Babies may not be able to to nurse.
  7. Mothers may not have developed a nursing relationship.
  8. Relactating after your milk has tried up is actually pretty difficult.
  9. ….

And it made me aware of yet another problem. My husband who loves me and supported me on my nursing journey has a) forgotten how difficult and time-consuming nursing was for me, the mother of his child, who he lives with, and b) has no idea what mothers who don’t have the full support of their employers and spouses face and c) has no idea what babies, in general, are like.

And that’s part of the problem isn’t it? Even well-meaning men don’t understand what’s involved with female bodies and child rearing. I know, I’m generalizing based on my anecdotal evidence…not all men are well-meaning. Ha ha. Really though. It was a wake-up call. I don’t presume to assume that all women will have my same experience with things like nursing. But I had many of these issues. It took me 2 weeks of constant effort before I was able to nurse the first time. I had to pump initially. Moreover, I had to rent a hospital pump because my home nursing pump didn’t work for me for the first few months until my body got used to pumping. This was BEFORE insurance covered pump rental so I had to pay that out of pocket; how many people can afford to rent a breast pump.? How many people don’t have insurance to cover rental fees, even though they’re mandated now? And based on my experience with insurance companies, I ask how many hoops does the post-partum new mom have to jump through to get the pump and have insurance cover it? I would have had to keep it longer if a girlfriend hadn’t given me a breast feeding kit including a pump as a baby shower gift. Another blessing that not every mom has.

I also had trouble with supply keeping up with demand. Watching what I ate and monitoring how the baby reacted to make sure I was eating food that created a good nursing relationship.

When I went back to the office, I had to find a place to pump. The new office had planned privacy rooms, but the old office, where we were for 6 months after my baby was born didn’t. I pumped in a conference room with no windows and no door locks. I was walked in a few times. It was unpleasant for everyone.

My husband had surgery when the baby was about 6 months old and my mom came to visit to help. I was there all day with my husband the day of his surgery. I needed to pump when he was either still in surgery or in the recovery room before he was assigned to his room. I asked the receptionist where I could pump. She said there was a lactation room in a different building. Then corrected herself and said that was staff only. I asked if I could use the room my husband would be assigned to after being released from recovery. She said no, it wasn’t available yet. I pumped in a single stall bathroom in the basement. It had everything but the sign saying “Beware of leopard.*” But I couldn’t miss a pump because it would throw off my production schedule and I’d fall behind again. I also had to find ways to keep the milk cold until I got home.

These are not the things the men in clean white building with grown children remember or think about. This is why women’s voices and the diversity of experiences within those voices are so damned important. I’m *one* person who had what the world would consider a phenomenally successful nursing relationship. But as easy as I made it look, it did not come for free. And I don’t think enough people realize that.

*In case it wasn’t obvious, this is a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference. Arthur Dent’s house is being torn down. The city counsel claims they filed the plans and gave adequate notice and he points out that while they did file the plans, they filed them in file cabinet in a disused lavatory on which a sign had been placed saying, “Beware of leopard” in a basement which could only be accessed by a set of broken stairs. To be fair, the steps at the hospital weren’t broken, but there were a number of light fixtures in the corridor that had either gone out or were switched off, creating a similar ambiance.

Words of Encouragement

So I was in a Clubhouse room that was in danger of turning toxic, although the moderator kept that from happening, but the person who was attempting to introduce toxicity said something that got into my brain.

He said one of the people on the stage had no business talking about Torah because she wasn’t a Rabbi. She was not talking about Torah from authoritative position; she was stating her opinion. (As was the moderator, who was a self-proclaimed atheist.)

But it got me thinking. Because I’m not a Rabbi, nor exceptionally studied, but I talk Torah on clubhouse ALL.THE.TIME. I run study rooms, I run discussion rooms, I run community prayer spaces. I somehow ended up in this weird position of running a bunch of Torah spaces. Most of them with other people. Some who are knowledgeable and some who are intermediate souls like me. But I talk quite a bit of Torah. Without any kind of scholarship or credentials to back up my position. Now, to be clear, I do not ever claim any kind of Halachic authority and when fielding halachic questions I can state only what I’ve heard and read on the subject along with the sources AND I will always defer to a Halachic authority or recommend they find an actual Halachic authority. But that doesn’t take away from the essential point that I’m literally running rooms on Torah even though I’m spiritually probably on the same level as the cows of Nineveh.

So I asked Rabbi Fine, the Tanya Rabbi, if I should be doing these kinds of things. And he brought an idea from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, quoting a Chassidic saying, “If all you know is Aleph, teach Aleph.*” Meaning that we all have an obligation to transmit whatever we know. And Rabbi Fine went on to say, that a better question is the one that Tanya brings, which is not when or if you should talk Torah, you should of course talk Torah all the time; but how can you talk Torah in a way and a time that invites people in to hear the words of Torah. That’s the real trick of it.

It is amazing thing to hear from a Rabbi that my words and my contributions are important, and to always be looking for that opportunity to touch people’s lives in a meaningful way. And the beauty of that idea is that I don’t have to be a great scholar or sage, I just have to be me and be open to sharing what I know and receiving the wisdom of others.

*I was looking for a good link to include as a citation to this story, but if you google “If you know aleph, teach aleph” you will find MANY stories where the Rebbe said this and I couldn’t pick transmission of this story I liked best. So I decided to keep it simple and omit the citation, but I’m starting to really love this idea; which if I’d heard before I’d forgotten.

Mother’s Day without End

So every year Mother’s Day is difficult. My nephew who passed away as a toddler was born on Mother’s Day which was amazing while his life lasted, but really sucks now.

Also there were so many Mother’s Days in which I was unable to celebrate being a mother while having to be happy for all the mothers around me which is hard. It’s not impossible. And I done it enthusiastically, not begrudgingly. But it’s hard. (probably be a little easier if I did it more begrudgingly). But now that I is a mother, I don’t try to control my feelings around it as much, because now it belongs to me too, and I feel like I can express my feelings in their complexity.

Ironically, I find myself in the same position as my mother a few years ago who did not wish to have any reminders of Mother’s Day because it was a too painful reminder of the loss of her favorite grandchild. But I think she likes the remaining grandchildren better now or has come to some kind of terms with the day and doesn’t avoid it. I don’t avoid it either.

I can handle Mother’s Day. One.Day.Of.Mothers.Day. What I find much more challenging was this year’s three day Mothers Day weekend extravaganza. As if to make up for in volume what the day lacks in respect, my Facebook feed started trumpeting greetings starting early on Friday and continuing clear through to today. And the more I saw people posting about it, the less I wanted to celebrate.

To be fair there was a lot going on this weekend. I had to help a friend with a project this weekend that did not go smoothly. I also started my period, which is annoying since it’s been only 19 days and I’m more used to long gaps than I am shortened ones. I also had a migraine on Shabbos, a Derby party Saturday evening, and a bunch of kid-related errands. I was not really able to relax and enjoy being spoiled, even if being spoiled were a thing that would ever happen for me in my home. (although I am a little spoiled. My husband has done 90% of the shopping outside the house since COVID started. That actually does make me feel a little spoiled.)

It’s hard to state how conflicted and upset I feel about this Mother’s Day in particular in light of the leaked draft of the SCOTUS decision on abortion. When something becomes an obligation instead of a choice, how can we celebrate it? Many people have asked me, how I, as a infertile woman, can support abortion. I think I’ve probably even talked about that here. I’m aware that there are all sorts of feelings. But no, I don’t think “shortage of children available for domestic adoption” is a reason to deny abortions. (I’m not even really sure that’s true, but that’s a different story. It wouldn’t matter if it was.) If G-d doesn’t owe me a child, certainly humanity doesn’t. And yes, I think right to privacy for medical issues, does trump the state’s interest. I think leaving equal rights in any form, or privacy issues in any form, to the states has proven to be a mistake repeatedly, and we should stop trying to do it. The only people who want it are people who want to prevent equal rights and the only way to do that is to say that the state gets to choose who qualifies as equal. Which is the opposite of equal.

My inability to have children does not translate to me wanting to make someone else have the children I can’t. Which does not mean I’m opposed to surrogacy. Although I suppose that would be a wonderful use for a uterine replicator. Then the problem goes away entirely.

How do you do guest lists?

I’m starting to compile a b’mitzah invite guest list for the child. It’s early(ish) but I figure I should get an idea of how many people we want to invite. And I’m finding it an amusing exercise. First I started by state, as far away from me as I can go. And then there’s “who should we invite?” Like what’s the criteria. People I visit when I’m nearby ? Or just people who I think would come to me? It’s a conservative Shul, so I do invite or not invite my chabad friends and family? And then there’s the odd brain flarp. Like when I forgot my cousin’s husband name and just wrote “the gun toting moron.” (since that actually describes more than one cousin spouse, I’m fine with just putting it out there. I did eventually remember his name and delete it. I had nightmare visions of it still being there when I printed placecards. Can you imagine? Table 5: Marina DelTorres (not her real name) and the Gun Toting Moron. I imagine there would be complaints.)

I think I’ll just write down everyone for now and then start paring down when my husband tells me I’m crazy.

And cousin and husband and +one, for my cousin going through infertility because I’m hoping she’ll be there with at least one child.