Thursday, September 17, 2009


Last night I had a dream-within-a-dream.

For a reason that I don't recall but that was unrelated to foster parenting (hey, cut me some slack, do you remember all the details of your dreams?), I was at the local child welfare agency. Because I was there anyway, I stopped by my licensing worker's desk to get an update on my licensing process.

In that inscrutable way that dreams have of making complete sense while being completely illogical, I found myself with my licensing worker, her supervisor, and a few other social workers, being told about a little girl, 5 years old and very short (this was the first thing they told me). Apparently, in my dream, I was licensed already, but they just hadn't told me. So I showed up to ask, and it turned out that they had been about to call me with a placement.

That was the inner dream.

The outer dream was me trying to process the fact that they were telling me about a placement when I'm not actually yet licensed. (Update on that--maybe in about a week? Or maybe I'm just being naive. Probably the latter.) I wouldn't have thought that it was a dream except that I wasn't awake yet.

I learned something very important about myself from this dream: I have a hard time saying "no." Okay, I knew that already. But with all of the actual reasons in my life why today of all days I should NOT come home with a kid--Rosh Hashanah being in two days which wouldn't be a great situation for a kid I don't know, my apartment being a disaster area (I am not exaggerating...I have to climb over things to get in and out of the apartment), not having some of the necessities like a booster seat yet (the plan is to buy/find these after licensing but before kid)--I still was having a difficult time saying no. File that lesson away for the first time I get a call!

May the coming year bring you wisdom to know yourself and to say "no" when you need to.

Shana tova.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

So close and yet so far... A brief introduction

At this moment, I have both hands free for the first time in three months. Our new nanny is watching our precious little girl in the next room while I sit in our bedroom preparing to go back to work on Friday. She's not so far away from me, and yet I miss her already. I keep peeking in to see how she's doing (I hope I'm not annoying the nanny!).

I'm a new contributor to this blog, and to be honest, I'm not sure what my precise perspective will be. I had my first child in mid-June, and every day I am blown away by how fast she is growing up, how sweet she is, and how big her personality is already. Similarly, I feel oddly relieved to finally feel like a grown- up again and to try to reclaim my previous identity as a working professional. I certainly know I take a minority view when I say that I don't think I am cut out to stay at home-- the last three months have been some of the most trying and exhausting times in my life.

I'll break it down to three primary lessons learned:
1) Babies are born needy. After giving birth, I was also needy. It is extremely difficult to give when you need, but somehow you just have to power through and trust nature to sustain you both.
2) When she cries, she is not crying at me. I did nothing wrong. It is not my fault. She did not know how to express pleasure yet, she only knew how to express displeasure. And it was my job to learn how to figure out what she needed when.
3) It is okay to cry. Uncontrollably. Multiple times a day. With her, next to her, over her, because of her. Bonding takes a very long time sometimes, and even when you feel so close, sometimes there is just nothing else you can do that moment but cry.

And now, the three things I love most about my daughter:
1) The way she flings her arms and legs around and grins at me when I find her after a nap. I live for that smile now, and I look forward to it. Even at 4am.
2) I love how she is soothed by resting on me, how she leans in for a kiss, and how she has learned to have a conversation with me. I will tell her for the rest of her life that her first word was "How," and that she takes after her Daddy.
3) At least for now, I can solve her greatest troubles in life. I pray that I'll be able to at least help a little bit, no matter what's wrong, for the rest of my life.

Of course that list could go on and on and on. And perhaps at my first day back at work on Friday I will post again with more when I am truly away from her for longer than 2 hours for the first time in her life.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

First Day of School

Cross-posted to The Blog at 16th and Q

Today is a very special day at the JCC—the first day of school. For so many parents and their toddlers coming in with their new backpacks and nervous faces, it’s truly the first day of the rest of their lives.

My son started at the Washington DCJCC when he turned two last year. For us it was a BIG DEAL, and I’m pretty sure we were more scared than our son was. We’d put so much care and love into raising him and here we were, we thought, making him cog in a machine, just another child in a room full of children, getting 1/12 of his teacher’s attention. What if he hated it? What if he thought we weren’t coming back?

For the first week or two I spied on him to make sure he was doing well. A few days into the year I passed his door and he was in full, inconsolable meltdown mode. His cries gutted me, and I wanted so badly to rush in and save him. But I knew that I’d do more harm than good, and so I forced myself to walk past. And then I somehow made my way upstairs, called my husband and cried.

Fast forward 10 months. Today our son began his second year at the Washington DCJCC preschool. Instead of being one of the babies, he’s got three younger classes below his. He’s got more friends than I can count, has made connections with loving adults who care for him almost as much as I do, and has learned an immense amount—from the ABCs and Baby Beluga to kindness and empathy and the things we do and don’t eat (FYI: we don’t eat bugs). I have no doubt that he’s going to have a great year.

While it’s never easy to watch your children grow up and need you a little less, that difficulty is balanced by the joy of watching them flourish. I made the decision to send my son to the Washington DCJCC preschool for purely logistical reasons, and barely had a sense of what I was getting us into. But today, on the first day of my no-longer-baby’s Tzavim year, consider me a Washington DCJCC Preschool Parent by Choice.

Thinking in the Box

Yesterday, my son was reading signs. We were making our way through Manhattan and he saw one of his favorite buses. The BoxM100. For those of you familiar with NYC public transit, that would be the cute way of saying BxM100, which would be a bus with the number 100 that starts in the Bronx and goes into Manhattan. But it got me thinking.

I recently had the pleasure of learning how to think creatively with a team of facilitators from a group called SIT, Systematic Inventive Thinking, located in Tel Aviv. Wow. They work with Fortune 500 companies all over the world, and with little people like me who don't do any work whatsoever with companies, let alone in the Fortune 500.

One of their basic principles is thinking inside the box (yep, reference back to that Box Bus above). We go too far out when we reach for innovation. Instead, we should think within the boundaries of what is familiar to us and most accessible, and think about how to use what is closest to us to solve problems and do things differently. You might not fully get this: it took me three full days to understand it and by the end I thought my brain was gonna explode.

And you're wondering now how this has anything to do with a Jewish parenting blog. Well, lucky for you, SIT has some pretty amazing applications of their work to parenting.

How do you soothe and distract a hurt child?

How do you get your child to tell you how his day at school went?

Now that I've learned a few of their handy tools, I'm trying to apply them myself too.
Back on the bus...