Life in General

Why can’t you just?!?

There’s so many things we want our kids to do. To succeed at. To respond to. And so many things we expect them to do.

And when they don’t, we can’t stop ourselves from saying it.

“”Why can’t you just…?!”

Why can’t you just do your homework and get it over with?!

Why can’t you just finish what’s on your plate?!

Why can’t you just put your shoes where they belong so you can find them in the morning?!

Why can’t you just listen to the teacher and do what you’re supposed to?!

Why can’t you just do what the other kids in your class do and follow the rules?!

Everyone else does it, why can’t you. I have no problem doing this, why can’t you.

Why can’t you just ….

It happens in school. Frustrated and impatient teachers look at their students and say, “Why can’t you just…?!”

Irate principals reach out to parents and exclaim, “Why can’t your child just ….?!”

It happens in any and every close relationship; this line sneaks in…

Between spouses; Why can’t you just …?!

These four words are a red flag. The brightest of reds you can find.

They are a reason to freeze you in your tracks and think.

Think of things you might want to do but can’t just do them. You also just can’t. It takes time, work and patience to achieve change.

Why?

Because we are not machines. We are not robots or computers. We can’t “just.” There’s a mind and heart involved too. And when we start the “why can’t you just” rant, we are bulldozing right through the heart and mind of the other person, as if it doesn’t exist.

Why can’t you just?!

Because I can’t. I can’t just.

I can discuss, think, practice, brainstorm and many other things in order to find solutions and make changes. But I can’t just. And neither can you. It just doesn’t work like that. And it’s a feature, not a bug. We are designed as humans to be so different than each other. To think differently from one another, have different interests, have different personalities. What comes easy for you doesn’t come easy for me, and what comes easy for me doesn’t come easy for you. And there’s a beauty to it!

So look out for the next time those words start slipping out and stop the bulldozer before it attacks … are we trying to build or break?

As the new school year starts, I turn to you, the teachers and principals who will spend so many hours with each of my children every day and on behalf of parents everywhere, I beg:

See each child for who they are, and not for what they’re not. See their talents and strengths, and not just where they fall short. No child wakes up in the morning and says today I want to fail and make my teacher kick me out of class. Every single child wants to succeed. And they will, if they can. And if they are not succeeding, it is you and I, the adults in their life, who need to step up and help them. And the mindset of “Why can’t you just” won’t lead them to success. Be patient and believe in them.

Take a moment to remember that we are talking to little humans, not machines. And I can guarantee you, the results will probably be a lot better too.

Life in General

The big bad FORMULA!

I’m going through my mound of discharge papers one day a couple weeks ago, and it’s quite a book considering my postpartum complications – and one paper caught my eye. 

Risks to babies of formula feeding include an increased risk of:

And then it goes on to list over a dozen different conditions: Asthma, Allergy, Acute respiratory disease… and the list goes on and on.

As I read, my jaw drops in shock. Am I really seeing correctly?

What in the world is this all about?

Why are they trying to scare me?

Disclaimer: I don’t intend for this to be a rant, but I have a feeling that despite my best intentions it just might be a rant, because there’s a lot to rant about on this sensitive topic!

I breastfed my first 10 children; what a blessing it was that it came easy. It was smooth and simple. I dealt with thrush here  and there, D-MER by a few, but nothing that was unmanageable.

I breastfed because it worked. It was convenient. And I knew it was good for my babies too. 

Along came baby 11 and boy did things change. While my labor and delivery went smoothly, post delivery did not. 

While I was severely ill with a life threatening condition in the Trauma ICU, my newborn baby daughter was nourished by formula. She was cuddled and fed by my husband, with support from hospital staff and family. And my baby was content.

As I recovered, I learned something new. When your body is losing tremendous amounts of blood and in severe distress – your body shifts all its attention to saving the heart and brain – “the essentials” – and the “not as important” parts of the body begin to shut down. I suffered from multiple organ failure and my body fought to save my brain and heart. And what I also learned was that even within the brain itself, all the blood is focused on the vital parts; and the part of the brain that is responsible for milk production; that’s in the luxury department, and it therefore loses its production.

With an abundance of miracles, I survived, my organs recovered and my heart and brain are fully intact.

And my body never produced any milk. Period. 

My body was too busy saving me.

My wonderful nurses tried pumping and doing what they could to help, hoping to stimulate the production, even before I was aware of what was going on. But it was not possible.

Eight days after birth, I finally understood what was going on. I was terribly weak, unable to walk, sit or stand yet; I had weeks of recuperation ahead of me, my milk was nowhere to be seen, and my baby was contently drinking down her bottle and gaining weight.

And in that moment I knew; my baby didn’t need my breast milk. My baby needed me.

And we are so blessed to live in a time when not only is there formula available, but there’s an abundance of options too.

And I look back at the paper in my hand.

What are you trying to do?!

I can smell the propaganda a mile away.

Why are you trying to scare vulnerable moms?

Why are you inducing guilt upon innocent women who want the best for their babies and make choices uniquely for them?

What is the point of this?

Formula is SAVING LIVES.

It saves the mother and it saves the baby.

Absolutely no one other than the mother herself can decide what works for her.

The most important thing is: the baby is being fed! Yes, that IS the most important thing!

Is the document trying to say the benefits of breastfeeding? Go right ahead, do that and educate – but without making formula into the evil enemy. Nursing can be good and formula can be good. They can coexist.

You might say that my situation was extreme – the paper certainly wasn’t referring to my situation. Of course formula is ok in my circumstances! It’s not like I had another option.

But no, it doesn’t need to be a life threatening situation for formula to be the right choice.

For me, reading that paper – when I had no choice – was infuriating.

For any postpartum mother, in the most vulnerable and sensitive time when making a personal decision to formula feed – reading this pamphlet could be the piece to throw her over the edge.

This is not helpful. This passive aggressive tormenting of mothers who formula feed has got to stop. 

There is no replacement for a healthy mother. Thankfully, there is a replacement for breastmilk. We are so blessed.

Life in General

Are you a new person?

“You probably feel like a new person!”

“I’m sure you have a new appreciation for everything!’’

“I bet you wake up in the morning and say Modeh Ani with a whole new meaning!”

These are typical things we say when talking to someone who went through a traumatic life-threatening experience; these are the questions I’ve been asked many times over the past few months.

And the answer is..

Um, well…

The truth?

No.

Am I a new person? 

No.

I am the same person.

Do I sing in the rain and never get upset about trivial matters?

As much as I’d like to say yes, the answer is no.

I’m still human.

I’m still me. The same me.

On the contrary, not only am I not a new person, what is different now is that I’m even more of me.

It’s clearer to me what my strengths and capabilities are and I’m more aware of whether I’m using them well or not.

When I get upset or annoyed, it’s clearer for me to see my path out.

When I’m frustrated, I have more clarity on how to push through it. I have more awareness of what’s most important and what’s not worth stressing over.

Going through such an experience doesn’t eliminate your human side; on the contrary, you become even more human. In a good way.

On the last day of school in June, my kids begged me to pick them up from school.

I am usually the sole driver who takes them to school and picks them up; I am the main driver of our 15 passenger van. It had been 10 weeks of many different friends and relatives driving them and I knew they craved the security of normalcy and routine; to have me pick them up from school.

10 weeks into my recovery, feeling stronger each day, having finally started driving again and feeling more and more like a functioning human being – I swung my Wound VAC bag over my shoulder and pushed myself to do it. I climbed into the van, found a place for my VAC and drove off, grateful that I was feeling well enough to do it – and really, I wanted to feel the normalcy too!

The kids were thrilled to see me and came bouncing out of school and piled into the van. I was feeling so pleased with myself and so accomplished. I relished in their overjoyed greetings and babbling about their day, everyone talking at the same time. It was music to my ears; my heart was singing with joy. How I dreamed of this day!

Barely two minutes into the ride, the bickering started. And the pushing and kvetching that always accompanied our rides was back. 

I couldn’t believe my ears. I opened my mouth, about to let them know just how shocked I was that even though Mommy had been so sick and made such a huge effort to come and pick them up and here they were fighting, didn’t they realize what a big deal it was that I came?! 

And I closed my mouth just in time, before any of that tumbled out. Because really, what exactly did I think it would accomplish.

I did some deep breathing, something I got really good at over my recovery and many bandage changings.

It’s ok, I told myself. It’s more than ok. This is actually great. They feel normal because you are in the van. We are back in the normal. Don’t say anything you’ll regret. Listen to the sound of their voices, not to what they’re saying. Look out the window, see where you are. Feel the van moving – notice you’re finally driving again!

I slowly calmed down and put on music and we continued with the regular routine of everyone arguing over which music to play. 

It was an eye opening experience.

At first I was so annoyed that I had even gotten annoyed, because after all hadn’t I been dreaming of being back to normal for so many weeks now?!

And then I realized this was truly my “welcome back to normal” moment;

I’m the same person, I’m still human. I still will get annoyed and frustrated about trivial things. And the kids missed me and even so, they still will fight in the van. But I can use my experience to lead me through those moments, instead of getting stuck in them. I can focus on the blessings and beauty that’s always there, but gets overlooked.

And here’s the reality;

You don’t have to experience a life threatening experience to do that!

Everyone has the ability. We just get blinded by life in general and forget to tap into it; forget to stay focused.

Just pause for a moment; use your five senses to notice where you are and what’s around you and you’ll see that you can do it too.

So I haven’t changed and I think it’s a good thing.

We are not supposed to change into someone else; that’s not a life goal.

Rather, put all your energy into being as much of yourself as you can be.

Life in General

I see his watch!

“I see his watch!” I yell to no one in particular.

“Whose watch?” my husband asks. “Who left their watch here?”

“No, not here! In the picture!”

“Huh?”

“I see his watch! I know it’s his watch, I can tell! I can’t see his arm or any other part of him. I can make out his forehead , just where his hairline ends. Yup, it’s him.”

Finally a picture of my son at camp. I can relax now. I mean, I knew he had to have gotten there because he got on the bus. But it was a relief to see he was actually there.

My husband leans in closer, trying to get a view of the picture on my phone.

“Tell me again how you know it’s him? I don’t see him in the picture.”

I proudly point out the speck of a watch in back of the room, where he’s blocked by the kids in front of him.

“Wow, I think you’re right!” My husband is duly impressed with my picture hunting skills. I’m impressed with how much I’ve improved at this activity over the years too. It takes years of picture searching for multiple children to really hone the skill.

“So, do you think he’s having a good time?” my husband asks, half joking.

“I’m not sure, it’s hard to tell…” I answer quite seriously.

I squint and bring the phone as close to my eyes as possible. Still can’t tell.

How am I supposed to figure this out?!

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that seeing my kids in camp pictures leaves me with more questions than answers. Because really, how is it possible to figure out if your kid is doing ok in camp just from a picture?! Is he really smiling or just for the picture? Do I really expect my kid to be walking around 24/7 with a smile? Do I do that? Does anyone do that?

I would like to think he is having good time, because if he isn’t there’s really nothing I can do about it other than worry. And that really doesn’t help anything either. And truthfully, can you actually tell from a picture? But still we scour for pictures and stress ourselves out.

Because mothers are just like that.

Life in General

Is it video time yet?

The kids woke up early on Tuesday.

They looked at their mommy and said, “Is it video time yet?”

“Not yet,” said mommy, sipping her coffee while holding the baby and serving breakfast. “We didn’t even eat breakfast yet!”

So all the kids eat breakfast and spill breakfast and make a mess of breakfast and finally finish eating breakfast.

“Is it video time yet?” ask the kids.

“Of course not!” says mommy as she cleans up the kitchen table. “We need to daven!”

Everyone goes to daven; some finish in one minute, some in 10 and some haven’t started.

“Let’s go outside!” says mommy.

“It’s boring!” answer the kids.

“Is it video time yet?”

“Not yet,” says mommy, proud of herself for sticking to her guns. “We need outdoor time.”

So mommy and the kids go outside in the backyard and everyone gets busy with a game of cops and robbers. It seems every cop needs many branches-turned-to-guns. Mommy pretends not to see.

“Is it video time yet?” ask the kids.

“Not yet,” says mommy. “We are ready for lunch!”

After a noisy and hectic lunch, mommy just wants to plop on the couch and zone out for a while.

“Is it video time yet?” ask the kids

Mommy takes a deep breath. She remembers all the articles she’s read and podcasts she’s listened to about the big bad SCREENTIME. She will not be one of those mothers.

But the temptation is real.

“Not yet,” says mommy, with a little quiver in her voice.

“Let’s do a craft!”

Mommy is proud of herself for not giving in. Dinner is at 5:00; she will stick to her decision of video time not being before 3:00. She will not be one of those mothers.

Crafts, scissors, glue, mess and more mess follows.

In the end, there is no craft- just a heap of supplies and mess, because mommy really needed to just sit and catch her breath so she did not micro manage the activity.

Mommy hopes this will not impact her children’s future.

“Now is it video time?!” ask the kids.

Mommy falters. 

It’s 2:00. Just one hour early … how bad can it be…

But no. Mommy knows the dangers of SCREENTIME and will not make the same mistake that those mothers make.

“Not yet,” mommy says, a little less convincing and a little less cheerful than earlier. “Let’s have a snack!”

After snack mommy finds herself cleaning up once again and mommy is tired.

And the baby is crying and needs to be fed. 

And it’s still not 3:00, the designated video time.

Mommy falters for a moment; should we start video time early?

You can do it, mommy tells herself. Just wait until 3:00.

Everyone seems to be busy with Lego or clicks or magna tiles or something or other.

But still they ask, “Is it video time yet?”

Is it really ruining them? mommy wonders.

I will not ruin my kids with too much video time, mommy tells herself, but with less conviction and more doubt.

2:57. Mommy can do it. She will wait. She will wait!

“Is it video time yet?” ask the kids.

“Yes!“ says mommy, trying to hide just how excited she is. “It’s 3:00!”

Everyone squeals with delight and heads to the couch, and they set up the laptop.

Toveedo to the rescue. 

They’re all Jewish videos, mommy says to herself as she feels a wave of guilt wash over her. They’re full of meaning and lessons.

Mommy hears rising voices from the other room.

“No, not Agent Emes! It’s so stupid!”

“Bella bracha!”

“Nooooo!”

Mommy practices her deep breathing.

“Mitzvah Boulevard!”

“Skull of a Genius!”

And then mommy hears it.

“Mommy!”

“Mommy!”

“Moooooommmmmmy!!!!”

“Work it out!” Mommy calls from her place on the couch in the other room. “Figure out how to make everyone happy or we can’t watch anything!” And mommy silently hopes that she does not have to carry through on that one…

And then mommy hears the video playing.

And some chatting.

And mommy is thinking that despite what they say, screentime isn’t all that evil. There’s so much that kids can learn through screen time.

There’s sharpening all their conflict resolution skills.

There’s discussion.

There’s negotiating.

There’s persuasion.

There’s camaraderie as they giggle together while they watch.

And chit chat as they talk about what’s going on.

And they’re all sitting so tightly together on the couch, in close proximity of each other and enjoying themselves. Feeling safe and secure in the presence of each other.

As mommy allows herself to finally zone out and just relax, she can’t help but think that maybe she should even let them start video time before 3:00 tomorrow ….