Sunday, December 14, 2014


"Parenting (or child rearing) is the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood. Parenting refers to the aspects of raising a child aside from the biological relationship."

As difficult as it is, as much as it's changed the path of our lives, there is nothing I would give up about having the two precious souls entrusted to us on such a huge, part-time basis. We may be aunt & uncle, but having a little being's face light up because she's so happy to see you that she leaps up to throw her arms around you and shower you with kisses is an incredible blessing - and an enormous responsibility.

I can't help but think, nearly every time I am disciplining the kids, or reacting to something that I *know* is developmental, what would my sister be doing in this situation? My sister and I were very different people. We had different backgrounds (I was an Army brat until 13, she only until 7), different fathers (biologically the same, just military vs. civilian), different social stratas, even different levels of university (state school vs. ivy league). Would we raise our children the same? During the short period she had with her children, I think not. She was dedicated to Attachment Parenting. I don't think I would have been, if I had been blessed with children, although I supported her parenting decision.

I am so very much aware that I am the closest thing to a mother figure they have. Every thing I do or say is coloured by what I think my sister would do or say in the same situation. I make a very concentrated effort to respect what I think my sister's wishes would be in a given situation. Yet at the same time, I have to do what I think is right, recognizing that there might be a divergence.

Tonight, the kids were being little animals. They were wild (understandable, given they had to sit in a car for an hour at 5pm), insane, crazy, over the top, uncontrollable. Yet, they were giggling adorably, so happy and having so much fun, I couldn't bring myself to stop them.
Until I had to, and of course, there were tears and sulking. But within a few minutes, smiles and cuddles were back in play.

Out of the blue, one of the kids starts telling a story (he has SUCH an amazing imagination!), and a throw-away line in the story was that his Mommy died. It really didn't have anything to do with the story, but was important enough to him that he included it. And my heart stopped. As I put each of them to bed, with the kisses and the cuddles, and the love (she insists on holding my hand when I sing the Shema to her - tonight she demanded "No shema!" but I said, "Okay, I'll sing it for myself." I was one line in, when she turned over and grabbed my hand. *heart melted*), I felt my sister's influence stronger than ever before.

Some of her friends have mentioned having comforting dreams of her, dreams that they felt sent a message of peace, comfort and love. I haven't had anything like that. But I like to think she'd be happy with how I deal with her children. I'd like to think she'd be proud of the influence we've had. I truly hope my influence is strong enough that these two beautiful children grow into amazing adults who are everything she would hope for her children. I hope my love for my sister shows itself in two loving, caring, sensitive adults. Someday. For now, I'm okay with the wild children wreaking havoc. To a point. And as long as I've had coffee. Caffeinated, because my decaf days went the way of the do-do bird because, Children.

Parenting. It's not biological.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Tisha B'Av is Hard

Well, it's supposed to be. But for me, it's especially hard because from the very first Tisha B'Av I spent in Israel, I spent it with Pamela. She and I, until she had children, would go together to Darche Noam. Then she got sick, and I spent Tisha B'Av that year taking care of her children while she was in the hospital. I went to hear Eicha at the Tayelet in Jerusalem, her stomping ground.

The next year, I was too engrossed in my mourning to do anything other than fast for Tisha B'Av.

This year, I am once again taking care of my sister's children when Tisha B'Av occurs. I have no sense of the Jewish history of this day this year. I have no feeling more than usual for the suffering of our ancestors this year. As a people, we have been living Tisha B'Av for 27 days. We are in mourning. We are living in fear. We are on edge. We fear for ourselves as Jews, not just as individuals. We have been trying to be strong, to protect our children, to protect ourselves, to put on a brave face for our soldiers - our sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, cousins, friends, fathers and mothers, aunts and uncles.

Today, we get to put that brave face away and show our true face. We get to cry. We can tell ourselves that it's for the day, for the kinnot that we read, for the history. We can let others think that it's the emotion of the prayers. We can release everything we've been holding in, without embarrassment or shame.

I have been been living Tisha B'Av for two years. Every morning when my sister's children wake up and run to give me hugs, it is with mixed emotions that I squeeze them back. I love that they love me. I love that they want to hug me. I adore that they want to greet me every morning. But it shouldn't be me that they are running to. I should be listening to their mother tell me how much she loves the morning hugs she gets.

My sister didn't die because she was Jewish, despite the statistic that breast cancer affects the Jewish population in much higher numbers, but nonetheless, my Tisha B'Av has been forever affected and forever changed. I don't need kinnot to make me "feel" this day. I have enough feeling to last me a lifetime. But this year, so many families are joining me in this new reality.

I'd really rather this club not grow any more.

May those who are fasting have a meaningful fast, and may next year see Tisha B'Av be a day of rejoicing.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Cost

We have lost 27 souls, last I read. 27 boys and men who should be planning their future, or in the case of a few them, men who should be going to work at a "normal" job and coming home to their wives and kids. People are starting to ask if we're paying too high a price.

Ask the soldiers. I think - and I don't know for sure - they would say they belong right where they are. In six years, we're on our third incursion into Gaza. Each time, we lose precious lives. Each time, there is a high toll in Gaza, as well.

Meanwhile, for the last nearly 10 years, rockets have fallen regularly on Israeli communities in the south. An entire generation is growing up with PTSD. An entire generation from multiple communities will be suffering the lasting effects of trauma for their entire lives.

What price is too high? A soldier who is trained, prepared for battle, properly (we hope!) equipped - is his life more valuable than the young adult who can't function, who can't concentrate, who starts at every noise? Or do we say, at least they're alive? Having three separate people in my life who suffered from PTSD who chose to end their lives at the end of gun, I wonder. They chose death over living with such severe trauma.

Any life lost - ours or theirs - is too much. But sometimes the price we have to pay in order to have a future is so high, we can't even comprehend it. We can't wrap our heads around it.

Avraham was willing to sacrifice his son for what he believed in. It is too great a thing to ask, and yet the question came anyway.

Are we willing to sacrifice our sons for what we believe in - the safety of our people, the security of our nation? I think we would not be like Avraham and we would say no, but the question is not ours to answer, it is our sons' and daughters'. And from what I've seen, I suspect their answer would be the same is Yitzchak's - lead me to the altar and pray Hashem stays the hand that wields the blade.

I am heartbroken with every report I hear, with every grieving parent, spouse, child, sibling, friend, I hear about. And I am forever grateful to be protected by those who go to battle for me.

And please God, may this time be the last time we have to ask our children to sacrifice for us.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


The most heartbreaking experience I have ever had was not the death of my sister. That was number two on the list. An enormous number two, but two nonetheless. Number one was my 2 year-old nephew wailing desperately for "Mommy" while my sister was in the hospital in the weeks before her death.

Every night of his very short life, he had fallen asleep cuddling with Mommy, until she was inexplicably gone. I cuddled with him, his Nana cuddled with him until he would eventually quiet down, calmed, but not consoled. Because there is no consolation for that. Not as an adult, and certainly not as a toddler who has no concept of illness or death, no way to comprehend what is happening.

When Pamela, z"l, died, I was gutted beyond belief, but I knew what was going on. I might not have understood the why, but I knew the what. I knew she wasn't coming back. I had no way of helping this tiny little being soothe his pain and terror. There are no words to explain. His suffering was solitary. I can at least talk to others who have lost a sibling, and know that they understand. A 2 year-old has no one to feel his fear, and his is the only pain that exists in the whole universe.

Today I had a doctor's appointment. While waiting, a little girl, maybe all of 3, was wailing her heart out. She was terrified, sobbing with everything she had, "Ima, Ima" while her father tried to calm her and console her (he was brilliant, by the way). Every time she cried "Ima" I felt it right in my heart. Because I heard "Mommy" with every cry. I heard a little 2 year-old boy in my arms, howling into my chest. This little girl may have only been crying over getting a shot, but her pain and fear were the same. She wanted the one and only person who was her core support. The one person she trusted most to protect her and keep her from harm. And that one person wasn't there at that moment. And for a child, that moment is the only one that exists. Thank God that little girl was going to be able to go home and be soothed by Ima.

And I was able to hold it together long enough to fall apart in the car, instead of in front of a hall full of strangers in the doctor's waiting room.