Posts by slapin

A Child’s Coat; a Mother’s Love

February 21st, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance No Comment yet

A Your Mother’s Guidance post by Rebecca Masinter

Exodus 28 details the clothing that the Priests and High Priest wore while doing the service in the Tabernacle and Temple.  The Torah describes them as “Bigdei Kodesh” “holy clothing”  because of their function of being worn in holy service. I’d like to share with you another instance in Scripture of holy clothing and this one came about through a mother’s love!

I learned this many years ago from Rabbi Meir Prengler, currently of Los Angeles, and it was so powerful and beautiful that it stuck with me. 

When Hannah brought Samuel to serve in the Tabernacle under the priest, Eli, she was giving up her beloved son obtained miraculously after years of childlessness.  Out of her great love for her son, Samuel,  she made him a special coat – a meil, so he would have something of hers with him even when they were apart (I Samuel 2:19). 

With each stitch she sewed, she imbued the coat with her love, and a mother’s love is eternal.  This explains why the coat grew with Samuel as he grew, and even remained his after his death.  Later,  after Samuel died, King Saul needed to talk to him from beyond the grave and how did Saul identify Samuel?  The man with the coat (I Samuel 28:14).

Rabbi Prengler told us that the great love that Chana instilled in this coat made it an item of holiness, so spiritual that it even surpassed death.  We can’t begin to comprehend the power of our actions or the effect that our love has and will continue to have on our children. The truth is that a mother’s love is powerful beyond belief.

Eleanor’s Eleven Keys to a More Fulfilling Life

February 21st, 2019 Posted by Reading Recommendations, Susan's Musings 20 comments

Have you noticed how many books have a number in the title, like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People?  Or how many articles are enticingly entitled “The Top 5 Reasons We Fall Out of Love”?  We human beings love lists. Who wouldn’t be smitten with the idea that if I only do these seven or ten or fifteen things, my life will be better, my marriage will be stronger and my career will flourish? Of course, it is easier to read the ideas than to put in the hard work of executing them. And, of course, no list—even the most marvelous one—hits every area every time.

I recently read a book from decades ago, with a subtitle that still resonates today. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, one of America’s most admired women, wrote You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life only a few years before her death (decades after her husband’s presidency). The advice she gives holds up rather well, though I think she would be shocked to discover that by today’s standards she might very well be considered a hard-core conservative rather than an icon of the Democrat Party.

As so often happens when reading a book from a previous era (the book was published in 1960), one is reminded that assumptions we make and things we take for granted aren’t necessarily writ in stone. In last week’s Your Mother’s Guidance column, Rebecca Masinter wrote about a Scriptural lesson on the importance of each individual feeling needed. Mrs. Roosevelt wrote on the same topic, in a way that I think sounds surprising to the modern ear.

Mrs. Roosevelt writes,

“One reason why we sometimes find less delinquency proportionately among the poor (my emphasis) is that the children have a greater sense of being needed in the family. They have a sense of belonging, of shared responsibility, of being an essential—and necessary—part of a component whole.”

In our day, we are strongly propagandized that crime is an inevitable consequence of poverty. Yet, it seems that this is not a given.

I find it fascinating that the Public Works Administration was a keystone of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s response to the lack of available work during the Depression. The concept reflects the truth that money earned uplifts workers, but money given too freely corrodes the recipients. Yet, its policy grandchildren of today are a proliferation of public assistance programs that actually discourage working. Programs since the 1960s have had the  unintended consequence (or some will argue, the very much intended consequence) of penalizing those who marry and work while struggling financially. Children not only don’t feel needed in order to help the family survive, but these programs undermine the idea of family itself. Reliance on government programs rather than family members treats husbands and fathers as unnecessary. The birth of children, in and of itself rather than the efforts and help of those children, triggers the flow of so-called government money.

Our children used to joke that homeschooling was another name for child labor as their many hours at home gave them plenty of time to wash dishes, put away groceries, cook and clean. The line between schooling and home was difficult to delineate as we doubled fractions in recipes, compared prices per ounce in the market and recited poems while sweeping. There was plenty of time for everything. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that our children are amazed that their father and I actually function without them since they have grown up and established homes of their own. I think that Eleanor Roosevelt would have understood.

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Frustrate Your Child Today

February 18th, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 4 comments

The above words may not sound as nice as, “Do a random act of kindness today,” but they may be just as important. Stick with me as I make a case for following them. First, let me give you a few suggestions how to go about accomplishing this aim:

  1. Make clear that the newest, greatest, best birthday present they ever received will not be available for use until a hand-written thank-you card is ready for mailing.
  2. Respond to the words, “I’m bored,” with a grateful smile and a broom or mop.
  3. Meticulously follow through on carefully thought out statements such as, “Any clothing/shoes/toys/stuff left lying around the living room after bedtime will be quarantined for seven days.
  4. Present an age-appropriate poem to each child (and adult) and pick a date where only those who recite their poems will be invited to a family ice-cream social. Be flexible here and allow everyone to pick his or her poem as long as it meets approval. (The poem Fleas: Adam had ‘em should not be admissible for anyone over two-years-old.)
  5. Have a policy that unless there are the type of extenuating circumstances that occur no more than once a year,  whining never turns a no into a yes, a yes into a no, or a whining child into a quiet one watching a video or playing a game on your phone.
  6. Refuse to complain to your child’s teacher because the work is too hard unless your grandmother would have complained to your mother’s teacher over similar work. (In other words, the 8X table does need to be memorized.)

I think you get the idea.

Life frustrates babies and toddlers. They cannot communicate as well as they would like to and learning to walk automatically includes a great deal of falling and bumped heads. Generally, babies aren’t able to control their lives very much. The good news is that we can’t fix their deficiencies. We can certainly smooth the way by understand their abilities, clearing obstacles from their path, and setting routines in place that help them thrive, but we cannot yell at the pediatrician because our six-month-old isn’t walking or expressing himself in full sentences. If we saw a mother who never let her child try to crawl or walk out of fear of the child falling, we wouldn’t applaud her but hope that she found a mothering mentor. And when, after lots of failed attempts, an upright little one navigates his way across the room or builds a tower of blocks that stands, his beaming face tells us that the reward is a function of the effort.

As our children get older, their frustrations come less from the tremendous physical and physiological growth they are undergoing and more from character, intellectual and self-discipline development. Yet—and this is true for adults as well—without hitting limitations, being frustrated and overcoming those hurdles, they and we do not grow.

A thirteen-month-old crying in frustration raises our sympathies or, at least, our understanding. For the most part, we can deal with him. We can distract him or hold him or put him in his crib to fall asleep. Assuming a healthy child in a healthy atmosphere we can be pretty sure that today’s challenge will disappear over the next few weeks.

An older child yelling in frustration often scares or angers us. She may blame us for her unhappiness or demand that we fix things. After all, no one else’s parents demand written thank-you notes rather than a quick text, the other teachers let their students use calculators and everyone else her age is allowed to own a smart phone. We are the problem.

Responding in kind by yelling back and threatening punishment or, alternatively, complaining to her coach or teacher may provide temporary relief, but long-term damage. Clearing the roadblock by letting her drop a class or even by arranging prematurely for a tutor, teaches that she cannot help herself and find her own solutions. It sets her up for a life of passivity and failure rather than the joy of accomplishment.

Obviously, I’m not suggesting that frustrating your child should be the sole guiding path in your parenting. But in a milieu of love and support, staying out of the way and letting our children fall down, bump their heads and get up and try again can be one of the kindest actions we take.

Insensitive or Unforgivable?

February 14th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 58 comments

Starting in 1965 and continuing through 1971, Hogan’s Heroes was a popular TV comedy. Actor Bob Crane played Colonel Hogan, the highest ranking American prisoner of war interned in a German POW camp. Unlike the actual Nazis, the Germans in the show were invariably rather benign and clumsy oafs, continually being outwitted by their prisoners.

If Nazis and captured American military men don’t sound terribly funny to you, I agree. As a child, I was enough offended by the show that when an adult in my orbit enjoyed it, it seriously reduced my respect for that individual.

Now, decades later, I am rethinking my views. Increasingly, accusations are being hurled at people for actions they took decades earlier. Imagine if there had been a TV show that portrayed a Southern plantation in the 1850s where the Black slaves actually ran the show because the White masters were incompetent? Would one of the show’s actors or anyone accused of liking the show be electable today? I doubt it.

I still think that Hogan’s Heroes was juvenile and in poor taste. But, maturity has provided me with the ability to see that disagreeing with me is not automatically contemptible. One of the stars of the show was a man named Robert Clary. As a Jewish teenager, he spent a few nightmarish years in Nazi concentration camps. After his release from Buchenwald, he discovered that his parents and many other family members had been murdered in Auschwitz. Robert Clary did not think that the Nazis were amusing clowns.

Werner Klemperer, who played the German Colonel Wilhelm Klink in the show also had a Jewish father.  If his family had not left Germany in 1935, he too would have met Nazi standards for extermination.

John (originally Johann) Banner, who played the bumbling German Master Sergeant, Schultz, was born into a Jewish family in Vienna, Austria. They emigrated in 1938 to the United States, avoiding the fate of many of their family members who were murdered. Mr. Banner served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II and told TV Guide, “Schultz is not a Nazi. I see Schultz as the representative of some kind of goodness in any generation.”

These are only three of Hogan’s Heroes actors whose lives intersected with the Holocaust and World War II. If you are shaking your head not understanding how they could participate in a comedy about the era, so am I. Despite reading their explanations for appearing in the show, I still don’t get it. I also don’t get how anyone found the show anything other than offensive.

However, I have no choice but to recognize that decent people disagreed with me. Pretending that those who watched the show were all anti-Semites is foolish. Jews and ex-GIs were not only among the actors but also among the audience. It is sophomoric and dangerous to suggest that it was o.k. for Jews and ex-GIs to appear in the show or find it funny but that anyone who had anything to do with the show who is not in one of those categories is a hateful human being.

I doubt that a show like Hogan’s Heroes would run on national TV today. Neither would a movie that featured blackface get made today. But, as much as I would like to see Democrat VA Governor Ralph Northam out of office, I fear that the forces urging him to resign care less about all Americans respecting each other as they do about political calculation; and it is a calculation that promotes hatred, resentment and victimhood. (It looks now like the press has decided to allow Governor Northam to tough it out—my point still stands.)

Here is a paradox. Until a few years ago, anti-Semitism and racism were declining. One of the factors in both their revivals has been that they have been turned into cudgels. Accusing someone of either “ism” became a weapon with which to destroy careers and lives. Because of the “isms” is has become impossible to have honest conversations about issues that affect and harm America and her citizens.

Today, the press and the expanding far-Left influence are out for blood rather than trying to create a nation of individuals who can live peaceably together.  By insisting that people identify by their nationality, bloodlines and genes (unless it has to do with specific approved gender issues, of course) we set ourselves up for loathing the other. We are all losers when we shut down free speech even of the juvenile, insensitive and offensive type. We imperil our society when we turn every single American into someone whose less than finest hours dangle over him or her like the sword of Damocles. 

Hogan’s Heroes isn’t going to be revived today, but we now have elected officials in Congress who speak positively about real-life, not fictional, people who want to wipe out the Jewish people. Today, we are judging people by their gender, racial and ethnic groups more than we did a few decades ago.

Is this progress?

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Everyone Needs to Give

February 12th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance No Comment yet

A “Your Mother’s Guidance” post by Rebecca Masinter

In the Sinai desert, the Tabernacle was the place where human beings could get closest to God.  Building it was a project for everyone—no exceptions.  Everyone in the nation contributed to it.

In our homes, we often have different people with different strengths, weaknesses, and contributions to make.  Just as the Tabernacle needed to come from men and women, leaders and laymen, our homes are also built when everyone has a role and can contribute and be a giver in his or her own way. 

Here’s the kicker: it’s not that the Tabernacle needed to come from everyone as much as that everyone needed to build the Tabernacle.  The Israelites were fresh from generations of slavery and poverty and needed to see themselves as people with great resources and skills.  By having all the Jews contribute to the Tabernacle, God was showing them their abilities, wealth, and talents.  Through being givers of such magnitude, they could recognize their worthiness and value.

There are two ways we can ask for help in our homes.  One is focused on our need,

“I need help.  I’m overwhelmed.  Can you do x, y, or z?” 

That is not bad or wrong and is certainly sometimes the reality.  But think for a moment of the same help being contributed but with a whole different attitude.  What if it’s not about me, it’s about my kids? It’s important for our children to know they have worth, resources, skills, and talents that contribute to our families.  What if I ask my child for help not because I desperately need it, but because my child needs to give? 

When we need help in the moment we tend to ask the one who is most capable or easily available, but in truth, it’s a good idea for us to think proactively about what each child can contribute and how we can make that happen in the best times in the best way.  Here’s a simple example: for many years I have kept a lightweight battery operated vacuum cleaner in the kitchen.  This vacuum can easily be operated by a 3 year old and it is a real help to have my kitchen floor cleaned!  I also store dishes in bottom cupboards to allow younger children to unload dishwashers and set the table. 

My older kids also need me to think through how I can facilitate their contributing.  The older they get the less frequently they’re home!  But even my high school son who’s rarely home knows that he is a huge contributor to our family; we need him and count on him.

Finally, it may not be easy or obvious to figure out how a particularly challenging kid can be a meaningful contributor to the family.  This child needs it even more than the others!  We have to see and believe in his strengths and give him the responsibility to contribute positively to our family, so that he can begin to believe in himself and his abilities too.  The lessons from the Tabernacle are so profound! No one is exempt.  Everyone needs to be a giver, and everyone has what to contribute. By giving, we all, in actuality, receive far, far more.

Book Recommendations: Navigating Early and Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster

February 11th, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations No Comment yet

I am rather excited at finding not one but two books to recommend for pre-teen and teenage boys. Girls will enjoy these books too, but I find that a disproportionate number of fiction books cater to girls and frequently many boys aren’t interested in them.

I assume that I picked up the first on someone’s recommendation, because the title would not have enticed me. I’m sorry I don’t remember who it was so I could direct my appreciation their way. Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster might be a title that you too would overlook, but in my opinion it is worth serious perusal.

Jonathan Auxier crafts a gripping story that is, in his words, “a tangled knot of fantasy and fact.” He inserts the legend of the golem—a creature brought to life by Rabbi Loew in 1500s Prague to protect the Jewish community from vicious anti-Semitism—into the life of a young female chimney sweep in Victorian England. The book provides fertile ground for a homeschooling unit study and I hope you will consider it as a read-aloud that might spark numerous important conversations with your child.

The second book I heartily recommend is Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool. While all children are different, my teenage grandson who read this on his own did not enjoy it while his younger siblings (ten and up) who heard it as a read-aloud by their mom loved it. I can’t stress often enough how a well done reading aloud experience can transform a complex, sometimes confusing, story into a gem. Like Sweep, Navigating Early inserts serious topics, in this case, autism, resilience, and appreciating those who are different into an adventurous tale.

Though both these books touch on important issues, they are enjoyable reads that include wonderful story-telling and language. I’d love to hear what you think of these books and whether you agree with me that they deserve a place on your bookshelf.

(If you do like what you see and purchase using the links in this post, we will receive a small commission on the purchase.)

 

Winter White; Congressional Blight

February 7th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 65 comments

I have a book on my shelves titled, Our Hearts Were Young and Gay. Anyone under the age of thirty could be forgiven for thinking that it is a contemporary political tome. It isn’t. Published in 1942, it is the story of two young women taking a European tour after finishing college in America in the 1920s.

My daughters grew up doing Rainbow Brite® puzzles and drawing pictures of nature’s colorful phenomenon. The rainbow’s vibrant appearance made it a popular theme for children’s parties and decorations. Today, the rainbow is a political statement.

I have a number of white articles of clothing in my closet. On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the dominant color in the synagogue is white as Jews illustrate the idea of our sins turning as white as snow after we repent. I am drawing the line here. I am not surrendering the color white to today’s political resistance to the President.

The Democrat ladies of Congress made a clear statement at President Trump’s State of the Union Speech. It may not have been the one they were hoping to make. They looked arrogant and self-centered. Their attitude showed a lack of caring about minorities, and indeed all Americans, who are back at work in a growing economy. They were indifferent to young girls enslaved by human traffickers. They showed contempt for human life in its earliest moments. Their only celebration was of themselves.

These women do not represent me nor do they represent millions of other American women. However, do not underestimate the peril they present. In August 2016, I explained why I was supporting Donald Trump even though good and caring friends were not voting for him because they were uncertain about his stance on abortion. (https://rabbidaniellapin.com/what-trumps-abortion/)

The past two-and-a-half years have made clear what would have happened on this issue had Hillary Clinton been elected. The Democrat Party has transitioned from being the party of abortion to being the party of infanticide and euthanasia. It is  the party that fights free speech and opposes private property. It is a movement that denigrates traditional values and religion. Those of us who recognize the dangers of their ideas becoming more widespread have to focus completely on the patient in the emergency room—America—and stand up bravely, wisely and with steel-like resolve. We need to stop seeking perfection in our representatives (just as we do in ourselves) and get out our vote. At the same time, let’s go ahead and wear white— complemented by a bright red MAGA hat.

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Alexa and the Next Generation

February 5th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting 2 comments

The temperature last week was frigid. When my great-grandmother, or perhaps great-great-grandmother, was growing up, someone in the household used to awake and build a fire so that the rest of the family could have at least minimal warmth in which to get dressed. I am immensely grateful that all I have to do is press a button on a thermostat to be more comfortable than my ancestors could even imagine.

This is to say that I do not nostalgically want to return to days of yore. However, having just spent two days in an Alexa-filled home, I am not sold on the technologically brilliant invention’s overall benefit, particularly where children are involved.

Other than on Shabbat, during which Alexa was thankfully silenced, the machine was a constant presence though my son-in-law may have used it more than usual in order to tease me. Let’s start with the idea that I am breaking precedence by calling Alexa “it.” As the machine’s name implies, we are meant to think of her as “she.” It has a female voice and since having a machine listen to every word you say and being omnipresent is creepy, perhaps that encourages seeing this intrusive computer as a benign fairy godmother. (I still found it creepy.)

Alexa turns lights on and off, plays music on demand, tells the outside temperature and performs a host of other actions. Those of us who grew up in the olden days—say, more than five years ago—find it odd, but to my three-year-old grandson, it is normative. His parents are concerned that the polite phrases they usually require from him, like please and thank-you, must be dropped when speaking to Alexa. It is a real concern. It is incredibly cute to hear him say, “Alexa, turn on the kitchen light,” but it is also incredibly cute when little children attempt to call their parents by their first names. Cute, but not something to encourage. 

I doubt that calling out a command like a Grand Pooh-bah rather than walking over to a light switch is going to automatically result in a generation of lazy and insensitive slackers. Perhaps, it is simply one of modern life’s blessings. I in no way have the industriousness and strength of my great-grandparents. Physically getting through the day in their times was difficult and challenging in ways I can’t even imagine. Weaker people didn’t thrive and often didn’t survive. Is Alexa simply an extension of electricity, running water and automatic heat? Or is it different in some troubling way that will only become evident down the road? Even as I write, I just don’t know. If you are raising young children today, you don’t have the luxury of indecision.

Oops! I Didn’t Mean To

February 4th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 2 comments

A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter

Hello!  Exodus 21: 12-13 introduces to us the concept of the cities of refuge.  If a person kills another accidentally, God provides for him a place of refuge where he can run and be sheltered.  God takes into account the motivation of a person, even when he has participated in a most terrible action, that of ending someone’s life!

While the verse about accidental murderer may not seem to directly parallel parenting, it did make me think of how we as mothers can best react when a child does something wrong and immediately claims, “I didn’t mean to!  It was an accident!”  Whether or not we believe ourselves that our child’s intentions were pure, there are compelling reasons for us to give him the benefit of the doubt and acknowledge that his intentions were positive.  What are those reasons?

According to developmental psychologist, Gordon Neufeld, our aim as mothers should be to change our children’s minds, not their behavior.  Instead of obsessing over bad behavior, we can solicit our children’s good intentions and their desire to do the right thing even while acknowledging that they can’t always follow through. It seems so much simpler for parents to be behavior focused – use star charts, prizes, or consequences, but those tools aren’t really helping our children develop the values we want them to have in life.  On the other hand, if we help them reach a place of good intentions, our children are aiming in the right direction and that starts the process of them developing their internal sense of right and wrong and strengthens their desire to do right.

You and I know that despite many of our good intentions, we, ourselves, often fall short, but it is the very fact that we are aiming for something meaningful and positive that inspires us to get up and try again and again and again.  By showing our child that we believe in their innate goodness and their desire to do the right thing, even when sometimes they mess up or give in to an urge to do wrong, we are demonstrating our belief in their greatness. 

Accepting their claims of positive intentions or accidental errors, even as they mess up, lets us validate them and help them think through future situations without feeling defensive or shamed.  For example, “I like that you were trying!  This situation didn’t work out the way you were hoping it would, let’s see what we can do to help you do better next time?”

Rabbi Meyer Schwab of Denver explains that although the rest of the tribes of Israel are counted in the desert from the age of 20, the tribe of  Levi is counted from one month old. Why?  Levi served in the Tabernacle directly before God.  They had extremely lofty goals and standards of behavior. When someone knows they are aiming for greatness, you can count on the fact that their education will be successful even while they are still babies. 

If we can come alongside our children’s positive intentions, even while they make mistakes, they will know we believe in their goodness and their intentions to always keep aiming for greatness.

I wish you a day filled with great intentions!

Not an Army of One

February 1st, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 26 comments

For a few years, the United States Army’s recruiting slogan was, “An Army of One.” Unlike the slogan, “Be All You Can Be,” or other ones that were used for over twenty years, “An Army of One” was introduced in 2001 and retired only a handful of years later in 2006.

My husband and I were privileged to spend this week with senior officers and their spouses. We both had the honor of speaking at the Army’s 2019 Religious Leaders Symposium which gathered chaplains stationed around the world for sessions designed to equip them to better help their troops.

It became clear to us why, “An Army of One,” failed. Although it was probably designed to encourage young people to recognize how serving in the Army would benefit them and allow them to maximize their individual potential, it missed the boat. One of the strongest gifts of army life is that you are not alone; you are part of a community and family.

The military community is formed with one’s fellow troops as you bond while fulfilling a common mission under stressful conditions. Speaking to the chaplains’ wives (there are female chaplains but no husbands attended my session) I saw another reason that this slogan didn’t ring true. Like you, I have often wanted to express my gratitude to members of the military when I pass them in airports. They are most recognizable, of course, if they are in uniform. Yet, every chaplain I met this week, didn’t sign up as an individual. While not issued a uniform, his wife and family are full partners in his service.

The women I met were strong, courageous and resourceful. Like any good soldier, they recognize the importance of the mission and subordinate their personal desires and needs to that mission. Like other military wives, the task of raising children falls disproportionately on them. They continue to build their homes despite continual packing up and moving around the United States and the world as their husbands are assigned to new bases. They manage their emotions as their husbands are deployed to active war zones, the women’s imaginations supplying information their husbands cannot share with them. These women form a sisterhood that celebrates joyous occasions and mourns tragedies together. As chaplains’ wives, they must be role models and pillars of support for others on the base, often under crushing circumstances. They too are part of the military family. An army of one? Not in the slightest.

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