Q and A

How Would You Answer That?

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? What is the meaning of life? “Why do fools fall in love?” These are great questions that have no answers, or at best debatable ones. It reminds me of the kinds of questions that would silence a room full of adults, because nobody knew what to say, and it would ultimately result in someone blurting out, “You better go ask your mother.” The only problem was, that in those days, even your mom didn’t talk about that stuff.

In today’s world, we are much freer with the flow of information to our children. We’ve learned that ignorance may be bliss but it is also irresponsible. Consequently, I never had a problem answering the question, “where do babies come from?” I usually countered with a question, to see what my son or daughter really wanted to know. It often led to interesting conversations that skirted the specifics, thankfully.

In fact, the only question ever posed to us by either of our kids was when our son asked “What’s a chemical?” Now try to explain that in terms a three year old would understand… He heard the word on a television commercial. We couldn’t come up with a good way to explain it. Nobody could.

I think I’m just glad there were no commercials for Viagra twenty five years ago. Imagine his questions then~

Express an Opinion… Send Advice by Freight train

When I first got pregnant, I got the best “advice” ever given to me… it was from my cousin, the mother of three boys and a girl.  She actually gave me two pieces of great advice.  She told me, first, “Never take anyone’s advice.  Listen to your heart and to your doctor.” 

 
There was a whole long story behind this.  When she was attempting to nurse her first born, she was encountering some difficulty.  Her mother suggested that perhaps her milk was too thin and the baby wasn’t getting enough nourishment.  Her mother-in-law, on the other hand, felt that her milk was too rich, and the baby was having trouble digesting it.  This is when she learned to listen to the advice she so graciously gave me.  She went on to have three more healthy, well-nourished children, who, by the way, are all healthy, well-adjusted, thriving and successful adults!

 
 The second pearl of wisdom, was that when I was at a point of total frustration with the baby, on one of those colicky nights when I couldn't get him to stop crying, or when she was in the middle of a "terrible two" tantrum, it was suggested that I think of the "dumbest person I know who is a mom, and tell myself if she can do it, I can do it."

 

I am reminded of the time we asked a friend of ours, who was carrying her first child, if she knew the sex of the baby.  Her answer we found funny, or maybe placed her in that category of who we might call to mind when we needed a little hope, because she told us that “the baby won’t decided its sex until its four months old.”  With slight allowance for a language barrier (although Hispanic, she had been born and raised in the states), it was then my husband and I knew we could face parenthood.

 

My advice?  Listen to my cousin’s advice.  Don’t take any advice… Listen to your heart and your doctor!

You Tickle My Heart

From the moment you came into my life,

From the time I held you in my arms,

I’ve been raised to a different plain.

I’ve been lost to you love and your charms.

You see the world through a child’s eyes.

I’ve been watching you learn and grow.

You have a special way of questioning things.

What makes the sun shine?  What makes the wind blow?

But there is no question that right from the start,

You’ve made me so happy; you tickle my heart.

I can only give you my love, for now.

I can raise you and see to your needs.

I can teach you some of the lessons I’ve learned.

But, I can only plant the seeds.

What you give back is truly a gift.

With northing and time you unfold.

You remind me of what is important in life.

I hope your future is paved in gold.

And there is no question that right from the start,

You’ve made me so happy; you tickle my heart.

Is Silence Really Golden?

 Silence can be deafening.  When you’re used to the hubbub of six or eight teenagers of various ages and or gender stomping through the house, raiding the pantry and/or refrigerator, blaring the stereo or jamming with electric guitars, yes… the silence can be unbearable.

 Throughout high school, my son had a series of groups with whom he hung out, depending upon his age and interest at the time.  He was the oldest in his class, and therefore was the first to get his license.  This garnered him a great degree of temporary popularity.  He was, unfortunately, a little naïve about it.  In tenth grade, this first crew hung out, lifted weights and relied on Daniel to drive when they went on late night runs to Denny’s for a snack. 

 As the months passed, the group got smaller and smaller, as each one obtained their own licenses, until the only ones left were his true friends.  This group somehow morphed into a rather noisy bunch, as his junior and senior years devolved into a rowdy musical bunch. 

 Electric guitars and amps started showing up, and eventually started spilling out of his bedroom into my living room.  I didn’t mind at all, as they actually included me, allowing me to participate on keyboard (I knew that baby grand piano which served as the centerpiece of my living room all those years would eventually come in handy).  My husband, on the other hand, would retreat into the family room on the other side of the house.  He did not relate to music in any way.  There is not one song that evokes an emotional memory for him, and that’s sad, but he’s fine with it.

 To this day, I can’t get the song “Stairway to Heaven” out of my head, for the four hours Daniel spent in front of his computer, with a guitar on his lap and the music on the monitor, attempting to learn the intro to the song.  There are times, in the deafening quiet, when the only sound I hear is the soft drone of the television in the family room (almost always college basketball) and the sound of the dog softly snoring, when I would give ANYTHING to hear that beautiful music.

Ode to Milton and his Many Personalities

A preamble:  Five years ago, I tore up my foot playing racketball…  Saying thank you to my husband didn’t seem enough for all he had been doing for me, so… 

 Your illness kicked in when I suffered a tear.

You took on personas, from I don’t know where.

Caring for me with a hot and cold pail,

And tending to me like Florence Nightengale.

Hazel the maid worked for ‘ole “Mr. B.”

Her value to him was no mystery.

She cleaned and shopped, and mopped the floor,

But when YOU wear her apron, you do so much more.

 Josephine herself would have been quite proud,

As you rid the bathroom of a drip that was loud.

With gadgets and wrenches, Roto-rooter said,

“You’ll have to pay extra, if you’re going to “help” Fred.”

I’m Captain Kangaroo – and you “Green Jeans.”

I’m surprised that you haven’t planted lima beans…

Finding time to do gardening and pull up some weeds,

While seeing to Maddy and Sophie’s needs.

 You’re cooking is improving,

And very seldom do you botch…

And much more than Emeril,

You’ve kicked it up a notch!

 Twenty-six athletes, one night you did feed.

Hi-Carb repast is the thing that they need.

Matching school colors, and served with aplomb,

Even you can make Martha Stewart look dumb.

 Betty Crocker could take a few lessons from you.

Chocolate mousse in a new blender, because the old one blew.

Sean Haley would be drooling, for heaven’s sake,

If only I’d share with him your banana cake.

So rearrange my kitchen, do what ever you need.

As I am not healing with any great speed.

This injury seems like a gift from above….

Thank you, dear Beulah… My husband…. My love!

“A Son is a Son…”

Nobody knew the gender of the child I was carrying.  They only knew our joy in the fact that after two miscarriages, a long trial of fertility testing, and an impossibly difficult time conceiving, I was actually carrying a baby to term.  I had spent four months in bed, with everyone jumping through hoops to help see this thing through.  My brother would pick me up in the mornings and drive to my parent’s home, which doubled as the home base for my father’s business.  I worked for him for eleven years.  They set me up in bed, where I did paperwork and telephone work.  My brother worked there too, at the time, and at days end, he would take me home, where I would get back into bed.

 My doctor finally allowed me back to a normal existence when I had safely gotten halfway through the second trimester.  It was then the fun began.  A sonogram clearly showed the sex of the baby.  My husband didn’t want to know.  He wanted to be surprised.  It was then I learned two things about my husband.  He has no ear for music, and he’s rather dense when it comes to hinting around.  By the way, after thirty years of marriage, neither of those two things has changed. 

 We had already decided on names.  In fact, we had decided on names several times.  This time, thankfully, we would get to use them.  If it was a boy, it was going to be Daniel Mason.  If it was a girl, we would call her Dana Michelle.  I would rub my belly and sing “Oh Danny Boy,” or Elton John’s “Daniel.”  I still can’t get over the fact that he never caught on.

 Daniel had me at the hospital with false labor only once, which is surprising, because first, I was extremely anxious to have the baby… I had gotten to the point where I couldn’t turn over in bed without holding on to the headboard, and second, I’m a bit of a kvetch.  For those who don’t understand Jewish?  …a complainer, a whiner.

 Prime rib, roasted potatoes, fresh steamed green beans and chocolate éclairs for dessert.  That was the menu.  The guests were our closest friends (my maid of honor and her husband).  It was my due date.  They left at around 10:30.  We finished in the kitchen at 11:00, and I promptly had my first contraction!  Within an hour, they were five minutes apart so we headed to the hospital. 

 After laboring through the night, being bounced around on the table because the baby’s heart beat was irregular, at 5:30 my water broke.  At 6:30 my doctor arrived to do an emergency C-section.  The epidural didn’t take, and I felt either the cutting or the pulling.  They knocked me out.  Within minutes, I awoke to hear the doctor say, “It’s a boy.”  My first reaction was that we need to call Corky’s for the Bris.  The second thing I said was, “Oh God, thank you for bringing him into our lives.”  It was then that the doctor said, “Put her out again!” 

 I didn’t see him again for two days… Not because I slept that long, but because he was incubated with all kinds of tubes and wires.  He had a little bit of a rough start.  To this day, my mother gloats that she touched him (“his tiny little toes”) before I did.  We took him home on day four and on day ten we were at Children’s Hospital for a kidney scan, as he was born with only one umbilical artery.  There was a fear that he only had one kidney.  My husband wasn’t the least bit worried.  He KNEW there were at LEAST two kidneys, having changed his diaper enough that first week, and learned the cardinal rule:  NEVER LEAVE THE DIAPER OFF WHILE STANDING OVER THE BABY BOY, ESPECIALLY IF YOU HAVE YOUR MOUTH OPEN!

 Daniel was quick out of the gate.  He walked early and he talked early.  And we learned early on that he had a mind like a sponge.  Toddling through a mall in Louisville Kentucky at 15 months, a young man in a card shop gave him a balloon and asked him, “How ya doin?”  Daniel looked straight up at him and said, “Fine, you?”

 Being from Kentucky, my husband is a big college basketball fan.  You can’t be from Kentucky and NOT be somehow affected.  He may have been watching a little too much basketball in Daniel’s first year.  We are not racists nor do we have prejudice… the reality is that a large percentage of ball players are African Americans.  When my husband took my son to buy something at Home Depot, they happened to come upon a tall African American man, at which point my one-year-old son declared, “Batta ball.”  Like I said… he made logical connections early.  He was a smart kid.

 When I said he had a mind like a sponge I meant it.  We subscribed to the Zoobook series, and we literally forced into reading an entire volume each night to our son.  When we took him to the zoo, we were standing with a crowd and my husband asked him “what kind of giraffe is that?”  He stunned the crowd when, at age four, answered, “a reticulated giraffe, dad.”  Or when he was eight, Daniel got into a disagreement with my husband’s partner about the paw of a member of the large cat family.  I don’t even remember the species to accurately tell the story, but I bet Daniel does.  And my husband actually had to take the Zoobook in as proof to his partner that Daniel was, indreed, correct.

 The one thing about Daniel that he has finally overcome was that he wasn’t very willing to try something unless he knew he would be good at it.  (He was unlike his sister who would dive into anything if she thought it was interesting).  At the very first T-ball practice, the coach asked all the kids to run around the bases.  Not Daniel.  Nope.  His dad and the coach agreed that he wasn’t ready.

 One year later, they tried again, with little league.  He was ready.  Boy, was he ready.  Baseball became his passion.  He played spring ball.  He played fall ball.  He played shortstop!  Boy, did he play shortstop.  One of his coaches, in his last year of eligibility for little league, drafted him first, saying that, “the kid beat us almost single handedly last year.”

 Unfortunately, there can be bad teachers and bad coaches along the way, and Daniels love for the game was destroyed by a Junior Varsity High School Coach (among others), and he stopped playing in favor of bowling and water polo.  His first day of practice for polo was an experience.  When he got home, he stood on the doorstep, his hair still wet, with a huge grin on his face, and he said, “Mom, I puked.”  He then proceeded to eat everything in sight, and then fall asleep in his plate.  His Water Polo coach wanted to strangle him for not coming out for the team as a freshman.  The passion was back. 

 Daniel took to driving easily.  That didn’t mean I was comfortable… It’s just that his Dad let him drive part way home after getting his learner’s permit, and despite a few swerves and wide turns, he took right to it.  (When his sister got her permit and Dad offered her the same opportunity to drive home, she didn’t want to, mainly because she didn’t even know the difference between the gas and brake).  Today, Daniel is a great driver,  and he always offers to be helpful, by saying “I’ll drive… we’ll get there faster.” 

 The old expression goes, “A daughter is a daughter all of her life, but a son is a son till he takes a wife.”  Daniel has, I believe, met the love of his life.  This young lady has truly turned his head.  Of all things, she found him on FACEBOOK.  She definitely has good taste in men.  They met over the internet the spring before they started college, and have been together ever since.  That’s seven years or more.  I do believe there has been discussion of marriage.  This makes me happy only if that expression does not hold true.  I have a feeling that with Natalie, it won’t.  She will be, I HOPE, a wonderful addition to the family, and Daniel will forever be my son.

Thank Heaven for Little Girls

 Every time my daughter celebrates a birthday, memories of her birth, her childhood and her growing up come rushing back to me.  Yesterday was one of those days.  She turned twenty-four.  My husband and I were meeting her and a friend at a restaurant for a birthday dinner.  On the way, it started…

 She was to be my second live birth.  I had an emergency C-section to deliver my son just 26 months earlier.  The pregnancy had been more intense, though, because I finally experienced morning sickness for the first time (having been pregnant three times before).  There was exhaustion.  There were cravings.   And there were fears.  I had two miscarriages before I had my son, and at an early point in the pregnancy, I was threatening to miscarry again.  It passed, and I went on to have a normal full term pregnancy. 

 I also wondered what kind of parent I would be to a little girl.  You see, I’m not enamored with things that most women like.  I prefer spending my weekends watching football, for example.  And I hate shopping.  On the morning of her birth, I arrived at the hospital with regular contractions; however my doctors determined that it was safer to do the C-section.  Epidural in, they wheeled me into the delivery room. 

It was holiday time, so during the delivery, my doctors, who were planning a ski trip to the France, were practicing their French.  I thought they had given me some other kind of drugs.  When the music that was being piped in started playing “Alvin and the Chipmunks” singing Christmas songs, I was sure of it.

A few minutes later, they laid her on my chest.  My first thought was how beautiful she was.  Isn’t that true of most new mothers?  My second thought was what will I do if she wants to go shopping during the super bowl?

My daughter eased into our lives.  It was as if she belonged there all along.  My son adored her, since she brought him a present when she got home from the hospital.  She breast-fed easily, though willfully; she slept a lot the first two weeks.  She was so sweet.

Then, as my husband and I like to put it, “All hell broke loose.”

While she was a late bloomer with walking and talking, once she got started, she never stopped.  And that is true today.  She seems to know everyone, everywhere.  Why?  Because she is an outgoing, erudite, educated, clever, and funny young lady.  She is graced with altruism, poise and humility.

She was very girlish from the start.  She loved pink and laces and princesses.  She loved dresses and purses.  She even put her Little Mermaid Dress on the dog.  One of our fondest memories was when she got her Poppop to sit on the floor and play a game called “Pretty, Pretty Princess.”  The image of him sitting cross-legged (despite his bad back) wearing a tiara and earrings is one for the history books.

Our daughter also is very tenacious.  In her pre-teen and teenage years, she would delve into anything that sparked her interest.  It started in fifth grade with a music class in the bells.  We bought her the bells.  They have been sitting in the corner of the living room for the past fourteen years, except occasionally when I try to fool the dog by playing a doorbell sound.

In sixth grade there was an interest in Goth.  A very dark stage in her life, we didn’t allow her to go fully into this!  There were no piercings or tats.  There wasn’t even any hair dying.  Thankfully this was a short stage.

Had it not been for a track coach she started talking to in the stands at one of my son’s baseball games, the next stage may not have occurred.  Coach T. changed her life.  He convinced her to join the Cross-country team in middle school, and then she became the expert on running.  She pursued this vigorously, and joined the track team in the spring.  When she ran her first 2-mile with her friend Francesca, and barely finished, we thought it was over.  Instead, she became more immersed.

Added to that was the Yoga and the Chakras, on which she became the consummate authority.  She drove us crazy explaining our behaviors in relation to the seven Chakras.  She started attending an Ashram where Yogi Hari, became the guru, the expert, the pundit.  She studied Eastern philosophies and knew it all. 

One Sunday, I splurged on a standing rib roast because it had become a rare occasion for my entire family to be home for dinner at the same time, since my son was in college and my daughter was enrapt with so many extra-curricular activities.  On this day, my daughter announced that she had become a vegetarian.   Our concern was her nutrition.  No worries.  She read and studied all about it and learned about complete proteins and how many grams she can get from this or that… Again, she became the expert.

When she left for college, we had all kind of wonders and worries about what the next stage would be.  She joined no clubs.  She joined no sororities.  She sampled a wealth of things but after a Birthright trip, she did develop a burgeoning love for Israel.  She managed through her own ingenuity, to get back there for a three week trip, two years later.

During her senior year, our daughter was tested by a cancer diagnosis.  As parents, there is nothing more painful.  She, however, rose to the challenge.  One day, on the way back to her apartment after a surgery follow-up, she told me that she was grateful for the cancer.  I was stunned.  My response was that I was grateful that it was caught early; I was grateful that she had wonderful doctors; I was grateful that there were no complications during surgery; I was grateful for her friend Mike, who played gatekeeper for us; and I was grateful that she had a wonderful prognosis.  I was not, however, grateful for the cancer.

Graduated Magna Cum Laude, accepted into a graduate program, and having requested a deferment, our daughter informed us that she was going to be keeping kosher and that she was going to Israel for eight months to attend a seminary in Jerusalem for secular Jewish women who want to learn more and become Orthodox.  Off she went.

We didn’t really know what to think.  It wasn’t a bad thing.  It just wasn’t the way she was brought up, nor was it the way we live our lives.  A good friend and former supervisor of mine helped me understand much better by telling me to “reframe” how I look at it.  She’s not becoming something different… she is going deeper into what was instilled in her in the first place.

Upon her return, once again, she had immersed herself in yet another endeavor.  This one, however, is sticking.  She had studied, she had learned and she was, for all intents and purposes, the family expert on Judaism.  We had to laugh when she sheepishly admitted to us that she was eating meat again… because she loves cholent.

So the birthday dinner was lovely.  The friend she had invited was Mike (the gatekeeper), who we love as a son, but will never be one because he isn’t religious enough for our daughter.  And, the fact that he already has a girlfriend might have something to do with it.

On the way home, my husband and I reminisced some more.  We laughed.  We cried.  We love our daughter… our Orthodox, outspoken, political, funny, clever, distance running, meat-eating beautiful daughter, who came into this world and will, most likely, have a great impact on it… maybe even before her next birthday.

Parents, What Constitutes an Emergency?

As a parent, we go through stages.  For me, an emergency is all about perspective.   From the time I was a little girl, I didn’t have aspirations to be anything when I grew up (besides a movie star), other than a mom.  It was at something I seemed to know I would be good.

 Unfortunately for me, and for everyone around me, I wasn’t successful immediately, as I suffered two miscarriages first.   My doctor, who, by the way, knew me well, decided not to wait to do the obligatory testing, saying that he usually would wait for a third miscarriage, but “knowing me…”

 All tests were normal except for one errant lab artifact.  There seemed to be no reason for this other than the fact that every time I conceived, I quit smoking and drinking!!  After nine months of trying again, we finally conceived.  I have the only physician in modern times who recommended that I smoke a few cigarettes a day, and drink four oz. of white wine before bed every night.

 I did this, and nine months later, my son was born with a little butt.  (Forgive me… that has always been my husband’s joke).  We fell into parenthood very easily, until… 10 days into his life, our son had to have a kidney scan to see if had both, due to a single umbilical artery.

 Colic set in at six weeks on the nose.  Was that an emergency?  To us, yes.  To the doctor, no.  For four hours at the same time every evening, our son regaled us from the depths of his lungs.  We called the doctor every other night.

 At four months, we were playing with him on the floor, when he toppled over and bumped his head ever so slightly on the leg of the crib.  His screams reminded us of those colicky days, and yes, we called the doctor.  It was an emergency because there was a pink spot on his forehead.

 When he was two, our son fell off of his tricycle.  I had him under one arm and the bike under the other and ran home.  Was this an emergency?  There was no blood.  There weren’t even any tears.  But he fell…

 Okay, so we overreacted.   When he was two and a half, he finally gave us a real emergency.  He mustered the strength to slide a nineteen inch television out of the wall unit, and had I not caught it and flipped it over it would have landed on his head.  Instead, it landed on his hand, crushing two of his fingers.  Into the ice and down the street to our neighbor the doctor, who sent us immediately to the “emergency” room.  He’ll never be a brain surgeon, but he survived.

 My mother always told us that boys are harder to raise physically and girls are harder to raise emotionally.  I think all parents learn to listen, finally, to their parents when they become parents.  My mother was right.

 My daughter crept into our world very quietly when our son was two, and until she could talk (she was a late bloomer) she didn’t create any emergency situations.  That is, until one night, she popped a double inguinal hernia!!!!  At four months, she had turned blue from the waist down, so we left our son in the bathtub (with his grandfather babysitting), and made another trip to the emergency room.  A month later, she had surgery to correct the problem.

 When she was two, our daughter slipped and chipped her tooth on the side of the bathtub.  That in itself wasn’t a real emergency.  It fit her personality… that is, until she developed an abscess and had to have the tooth pulled.  That was rather emergent.

 We were all outside playing one day, and our daughter went inside and locked the door.  This could have presented a plethora of problems.  But that was during my skinny period, and I was able to climb through the dining room window, grab my keys and my child, and go back outside.  Just as a point of reference, even today, I don’t go anywhere without my keys in my pocket.

 The truest test, I believe, as to whether something becomes an emergency is the level of panic it can create.  We had a neighbor who was pregnant, who was extremely panicked over the fact that she had eaten a bagel that had a little mold on it.  Having been through what I had with my pre-school aged children, I had become an old pro.  I was much more aware of what an emergency was and what wasn’t quite as important, so I was able to allay her fears.

 Later that summer, my husband was outside playing with the children when my daughter came running inside to use the phone.  She was all of four.  I said, “Who are you calling?”

 She said, “9-1-1.”

 “What’s the emergency?  What’s wrong?”

 “The kite is stuck in the tree.”

 It’s all about perspective.

Little Children Little Problems-Big Children Big Problems

I didn’t really have that many expectations about how my life would go.  I was pliable, and gullible, and did what I thought was expected of me in order to maintain a certain amount of peace, and to stay within my comfort zone.

 When I graduated from college, everyone wondered when I was going to marry.  I didn’t date much.  My parents set me up with several blind dates of nice Jewish boys, none of which intrigued me.   I finally found the one, at the late age of 24.  We married, and did the appropriate thing, started a family.  We spent the next 25 years instilling in them the same values and traditions we were taught.  The basic tenets and rituals of our religion, which we were taught; to live a righteous life and that the three most import aspects in life were family, charity and good deeds.  I’ll spare you the Hebrew words for same. 

 My husband was raised in an Orthodox environment, while I was raised in a very relaxed reformed temple, yet we presented a united front, placing emphasis on our heritage, our history, our rituals and our belief in one God.

 Both of our children were called to the Torah at the appropriate time, at age 13, to become a Bar and Bat Mitzvah (Daniel first, and then Maddy). We continued to celebrate the holidays, give charity and do Mitzvot both in the Jewish world and outside.  We established a lifestyle, our own family traditions (which followed generations of traditions that were passed down to us), and went merrily about our lives.  We thought we were doing everything right.

 When my son left for college, he fell in love with a Catholic girl.   A sweet, lovely, girl, who shares many of the same values as he, just comes from a different religious background.  He has designs on marrying this young lady.  We are happy for him because he is happy, although we would have preferred if he had fallen in love with a Jewish girl.  I once sat with the ritual director of our Conservative temple expressing my concerns about this at its onset, and his reaction was that “God doesn’t know from love.”

 My daughter went the exact opposite direction, and after spending eight months at a Jewish Seminary for Women in Jerusalem, is now extremely Orthodox in how she approaches her lifestyle.  She studies Torah, needs approval from the Rabbi before she does things, and she keeps strictly Kosher, observes the Shabbat to the letter of the Law, as she does all other holidays.  She is tolerant of the fact that nobody in her family does the same, and I believe is appreciative of the fact that we accept and support her decision.

 My heart aches for the fact that for 55 years I have lived my live a certain way, and because of the choices my two children have made, (and it was certainly their choice to make, after all, they only came through me, not from me), my family traditions will now die with my generation.  I know my daughter will not tolerate the way we celebrate Passover, and I know my daughter-in-law won’t understand it.  What saddens me more, is that my daughter expresses heartache that half her family is not Jewish.  That was something that didn’t matter to her before this transformation. 

Both my husband and I love them both dearly, no matter what their choices, and we love the people they’ve chosen to spend their live with.   So I am left with my original nuclear family, which is aging, and what’s worse, questioning of my children’s choices.  I certainly didn’t expect this, and it is certainly out of my comfort zone.

Two Peas in a Pod? I Think Not!

Nobody prepared me for the vast differences I would find in two offspring who were raised in the same household, with the same morals, values, ethics and religious background.   My kids are both in their mid-twenties now, and exhibit totally different personalities.  We had a simple philosophy of parenting.  First we ask; then we tell; then we yell.  Neither of them liked it when we yelled.

 

It started fairly early, I imagine.  My son was pliable and easy to reason with all along.  The first time we had any kind of discord with him was when we caught him trying to sneak out of the house with a miniature pocket knife, when he was told to leave it at home.  I think he was five.  He swore up and down that he had nothing on him.  After being told to empty his pockets, there it was.  He apologized for lying, and took his punishment for doing so like a champ.  My son accepted our parenting well, and when we said no, we meant no, from that day on.

 

I can’t say for sure, but I don’t think he ever lied again (other than the little white lies kids tell).  Even at fifteen when we caught him with a girl in a compromising situation, he told the truth.  His demeanor was that he respected us.

 

My daughter, however, was more mischievous and had a mind of her own from the very start.  We knew she was extremely willful from the very beginning, when she balked at breast-feeding.  This was not because she wasn’t conditioned to it.  It was because she preferred one side to the other. 

 

Not only was she willful, but she was persuasive.  When she was three, a few days before I was preparing for a dinner party, she spotted the after-dinner mints on the counter.  She asked for one.  I said no.  She said, “Please.”  I said, “They’re for the party.”  She said, “Just one?”  I said, “If I open them today for just one, they won’t be fresh for the party.”  She cocked her head to the side and came back with, “Just one pink one?”  I gave in.  Her demeanor was to see what she could get away with.

 

With regard to the dinner table, everyone was asked to taste everything that was served.  Just a taste.  It didn’t matter if they didn’t like it the last time; they still had to “taste” it again.  As a result, both of them grew up eating almost everything.  (My son still doesn’t care for ripe tomatoes and asparagus, and my daughter doesn’t have much of an affinity for Brussels sprouts.).  My daughter went through many different dietary changes in her life, the last of which I’ll discuss later.  My son, while he learned to eat everything, has also changed his diet for different reasons.  Again, though, my son did as he was told.  My daughter, we found out much later, (as she sat next to the kitchen garbage can) had figured out a way to dispose of anything and everything that she didn’t care for.  I imagine that if we had a garbage disposal or a powder (which is what I used when I was young) she wouldn’t have learned to be so devious.

 

Even the way they approached school was different.  Academics came relatively easy to my son.  He excelled without having to put in much effort; natural born scholar.  He sat on the couch watching television through ninth grade, until he actually had to open a book.  My daughter had to work very hard to maintain that elusive 4.0 GPA.  which would later garner her a multitude of scholarships.  He would start an assignment a day before it was due and get an A.  She would start it the assignment the day it was assigned, in order to achieve perfection, and earn the same letter grade.

 

Several years ago, my husband and I got a good dose of how different the kids really were, by how they think.  A stock broker by trade, he managed accounts for each one of the children, populated with funds they received at birth and other special occasions along the way.  After 911, when the markets took a severe tumble, he got two phone calls.  Our son called and asked, “Dad, should I be selling and getting out of the market?”  A few minutes later, our daughter called and asked, “Dad, are there any bargains I should be buying?”

 

I’ve written a lot about ethics and values.  Our family is Jewish.  My husband was raised in Louisville, Kentucky, in an Orthodox Shul.  I am from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where we belonged to a very relaxed Reform Congregation (which, by the way, my grandfather referred to as “the church.”  When we came together and started a family, we took a middle-of-the-road approach, and joined a conservative temple.  We raised our children with our Jewish values of family, charity and good deeds, and taught them to lead a righteous life.  In the end, my daughter chose to pursue an orthodox lifestyle, and my son will ultimately marry a girl who is not Jewish, but who shares similar values.  I wonder how much Kosher food gets tossed in the trash can?