Bring on the Parenting New Year

There’s January 1, there’s Rosh Hashana, there’s Chinese New Year, and then there’s the day or two after Labor Day (or if you live in the South, three weeks before) when parents get the opportunity to finally breathe deep enough again to consider what they want to do differently this year when it comes to raising their kids.

And then there’s the day after that when we’re all hungover from smiling and liking friends’ first day Facebook photos and feeling good about our lives for a second, and decide we’re parenting just fine thank you for much.

But then come the backpacks on the floor. And the bickering in the backseat on the way to ballet. And the globs of toothpaste in the sink.

Sigh. Someone pass me a Bloody Mary, please.

But wait … what if there was a book with easy, practical advice offered by an expert in a package that not only set you up for quick success, but made you laugh along the way?

Well, my dear friends with children between the ages of 4 and 12; have I got the book for you.

GetBehaviorYouWant-BookCheck out The Times of Israel today, which is featuring my author interview and book review of Get the Behavior You Want Without Being the Parent You Hate by Dr. Deborah Gilboa. Then go download the book on September 10 when it goes on sale.

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Head Shaking Madness

This war    this war    this war    this war

This  world    This world    This world    This world

My kid’s food allergies.

This world.

 

This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

Cancer. The bad kind.

This world.

 

This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

The boogeyman’s make believe.

This world.

 

This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

My husband on a plane somewhere.

This world.

 

This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

I can’t throw up like that again.

This world.

 

This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

Miss you.

This world.

 

This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

Money in the way.

This world.

 

This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

I killed the cat. That was       THE CAT.     FUCK.

This world.

 

This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

Gotta make it before the siren.

This world.

 

This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

How many miles til Hadera?

This world.

 

This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

She’s going to die. She’s dying.

This world.

 

This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

These people      These pronouns

These words            These words

This world.

Their stubborness, their bodies

Yesterday wasn’t the first day I was reminded that we accidentally on purpose train our daughters to give up rights to their bodies.

Even though the more mindful of us will have conversations with our young ones about ownership of their “private parts,” about “stranger danger”, about saying “No,” there is one place many of us do not let our daughters (or our male children) say when and how someone gets to touch them:

At the doctor’s office.

Or in our case, as of late, the dentist’s.

My daughter has been wary of the doctor since she was a baby — before she had the means to communicate with any body part other than her eyes. Our pediatrician at the time, a kind and aware woman in New Jersey, often joked about my daughter’s “stubborness.”

We joke about it, too.

“What does that mean?” My daughter (four years old, at the time) asked one day after being told (by me), “”You are so stubborn!”

“Stubborn means beautiful,” I would say, caught in that uncomfortable place I often find myself as a mother.  I hadn’t meant stubborn as a compliment, but I didn’t necessarily want her to know that. At that time, stubborn meant “willful” or “demanding” or “contrary.” It referred to my daughter’s insistence on pouring the milk by herself; carrying in her tiny hands the two-layered birthday cake that took an hour to ice.

But, the truth is, stubborn is beautiful, especially when it comes to our daughters. For it’s our willfulness that allows us to say, “No” when we need to.

Unfortunately, when it comes to our young daughters (let’s say under age 10), it seems that only adults get to determine when there is a true need to tell someone, “Hands off!”

When our young daughters say no — whether it is to the doctor or the dentist or the tailor trying to hem a dress — we are annoyed at them. We scold them, or punish them. What message does that send? Do we really expect them to have the courage, later, at age 12 to be able to say a firm, “Get off!” Do we really expect them to believe at age 16, “my body, my choice?”

My daughter has had a few traumatic experiences at the dentist lately. The last one was the last straw and I took her and her file out from the free dental clinic provided by our national health care system here in Israel.  I couldn’t responsibly watch my daughter in that chair anymore being told what to do and that “big girls don’t cry.”

What to do, though? My daughter needed two fillings. How could I make her get them without “making” her?

After a few days, we decided to bring her to a private dentist recommended by a friend — something not in our budget, but as I saw it, a necessity. His reputation was for being kind and gentle and good with children.

He was amazing. He treated her, even at 5 1/2 years old, like someone who was in control of her body. Someone who got to make decisions about when someone touched her and how. He told her from the moment she entered his office, “You are in control. You get to decide.” He even created this “trick” by which the mechanized toothbrush would stop spinning whenever she raised her hand up in the air. She, indeed, got to decide.

I know it’s not simple. Our kids do need to see the doctor and the dentist. There will be times when we make them do things they don’t want — get flu shots, have their ears checked, try on new shoes.

But let’s not fool ourselves, those of us who claim to be advocates for women. Let’s not pretend that we give our girls full freedom. That they make the rules about their bodies. They don’t. At least, not always. Not even in families or with doctors with the best, most progressive intentions.

We send our children, our daughters, very mixed messages.

The straight message: Force is force. Whether it’s in the dorm room or at the dentist.

Is there a way to be more mindful of this, as parents, so our children learn early on the message we want them to internalize? I think so.

I think it starts with: Stubborn is beautiful.

 

 

If it was a place

fortitude

If it was a place —
cognitive dissonance, it
would be here, Israel.

Where in one swift shift
I move from embarrassment
(I forgot about swimming

lessons) to fear of
war. Shame I forgot about
it; murder and them

(those who can’t forget
except in dreams which aren’t real)
and yelled at my son

for telling me he
was bored on the second day
after school ended.

If it was a place —
cognitive dissonance, it
would be here, Israel.

Where over coffee
I compose long to-do lists
grateful in a way

to be a mother
with room in my heart for lists.
For tomorrow’s plans.

If it was a place —
cognitive dissonance, it
would be here, Israel.

Where over bacon
(made from turkey) I slowly
savor the almost flavor

of America,
and imagine I lived there
again. Would the world

be less dissonant?
More in tune with my inner
rhythms? harmony?

If it was a place —
cognitive dissonance, it
would be now, this, we.

It would be — it is —
the surreal surrender in
waking, in spite of.