I wrote the letter that follows today’s entry, to Juliette, exactly five years ago, one day before her 11th birthday. It’s interesting to look back to see what’s changed, what hasn’t and what will likely never change.
There’s so much in the past five years, no one could have ever predicted, but we walk through and not around. This is something I so love about you and our little family.
You are without question, one of the smartest, most empathetic and beautiful human beings I know. I’m not even being biased about it because I’m your Mom.
Tomorrow, you turn 16. This is an age I’ve been warned about from many sources. I don’t know, but I am really enjoying this time with you and witnessing all of the many ways you’re blossoming into an extraordinary young woman. (Okay, but you still live under my roof and follow the rules!)
While you’ll always be my baby and the one who made me a mother, I respect the very mature young person you’ve shown yourself to be.
And I won’t even get started on your singing. Your vocal gifts blow my head off of my neck. When others compliment you, believe them.
I love you endlessly and this is something I know you know. I’m so grateful that no matter what doubts we may have, we never doubt that one essential fact.
Happy Sweet 16! I hope our homemade Ramen and purple cake will bring you joy. You know that experiences are everything and stuff is just, well… stuff.
The past several weeks have been rough. Without going into detail on what’s happening in my little family, I’d rather focus on what this time period has evoked:
Are we safe?
My daughters and I have openly discussed safety, identifying safe and unsafe scenarios and spaces, not compromising our safety, so that someone will like or accept us, and finally, how we practice self-soothing when we are afraid. Like any parent, my daughters’ safety and empowering them to know how to get/stay safe, are of the utmost importance.
While in the midst of walking through private issues over the past several weeks, epic mass shootings, scores of hate crimes and the disastrous fires in California, also plagued our country.
After the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, PA, like so many of us, I was shocked. No matter how many times I hear about or experience anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc, the shock value never, ever lessens.
My daughter and I discussed the Pittsburgh tragedy after a few days had passed. I couldn’t believe how matter of fact she was about it.
I fervently exclaimed,
I absolutely refuse to let this be the new normal!
She responded to me very calmly,
Mom, we’ve been having lockdown drills for as long as I can remember. At first, when I was little, they were really scary, but now, this IS our normal.
My mouth was agape. I felt like I couldn’t breathe…
I had the “aha” moment I have never wanted to have.
I went on to validate what she’d said to me. I told her that her response made me sad and then, she said,
It is sad, but it just is. Mom, we have to live with what is.
A part of me wanted to argue against what she was saying, but I didn’t. The truth is, I was in awe of my daughter’s composure and graceful example of how to live life on life’s terms.
Just this past week, I came home from work and as I prepped dinner, I shared with my daughters that ORT’sKfar Silver Youth Village had to be evacuated because there weren’t enough (or close enough) shelters, for the kids to be safe.
At dinner, my daughters were wide-eyed and glued to everything about Kfar Silver. They wanted to learn more about the “really cool” place the Kfar Silver Youth Village is.
My daughters asked so many questions:
How can these kids ever feel safe with rockets being launched nearby? How can they not have enough shelters? Do adults help them feel safe? Who helps the adults feel safe? How can the world be this scary?
And then, the same daughter who told me about needing to “live with what is” said,
This article was originally published on June 23, 2016 on LinkedIn and was inspired by a public speaking/volunteer workshop I created and facilitated for the stellar advancement staff at University of Chicago.
Because I am going to be speaking publicly this evening, already feel like puking and have already mulled over the 868 total bullshit reasons I could give for bowing out at the last minute, it seemed appropriate to post again with a few updates.
This post is not going to focus 100% on what EVERYONE is talking about almost 100% of the time these days. Sure, I have my thoughts, opinions and feelings on the subject, but I have been and continue to be relatively quiet and very focused on what is right in front of me in the here and now.
For many years, I worked in Jewish social justice and I loved it. This was a life-changing experience where I learned the real strength that comes from praying with my feet. While I was there, I worked shoulder to shoulder with some of the most talented, passionate and effective community organizers in Chicago and beyond. I will forever consider these individuals role models and heroes of mine.