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.

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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?