Monday, December 27, 2010

The Look of Shame

(Warning: Not a funny post, for those of you looking for that. This one is for me.)

I should have known better. Really, I should have. We'd been at The Grams' since Thursday, immersed ourselves in a weekend full of bacchanalia and then put him off his routine with the aide out on vacation this week. To think I could introduce this particular version of The Prince to new friends was asinine, really.

I was so glad to see an college friend and so eager to meet her three kids, that the thought of heading over to her house after all of the above sounded like a grand idea, rather than the pipe dream it was.

We encountered an accident, resulting in 25 minutes stationery time on I-70, and J fell asleep, snoring soundly. When I attempted to wake him, he was dazed. Better I should have let him sleep in the car while I visited.

I kid.


The melee that ensued was nothing short of one of the most fantastic meltdowns ever witnessed. There was slamming of doors, spitting, yelling, crying - and that was just me. When my friend's four-year-old daughter gasped when J slammed the front door, I knew ignoring him was no longer going to work. he followed that up by spitting at this little blue-eyed angel.

The piece de resisantce, however, is what gets me every time. He wound up and smacked me hard in the face. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught my friend's reaction and it was - maybe- worse than the blow.

Not being a naturally patient person, I know God gave me this particular boy because I have prayed many times for Him to help me be more patient. Keeping calm and not throttling my child when he sinks his teeth into my leg means I have come a long way in the patience department. But it makes me seriously wonder how far I have come in the parent department.

He continued to rage all the way home. I pulled over twice - both to re-buckle him back into the car seat. It bordered on ridiculous when he wouldn't stop kicking me so I took his shoes. After a while, there is something just funny about a boy sobbing "I want my shooooooeeeesssss." But calm I kept.

I vent here so that I can work through things and, more importantly, not kill him. I know I am not a great mom. I know I let him get away with things that other moms would have nipped in the bud. The worst part is knowing this and then having it confirmed just by a glance. I wonder, sometimes - on bad days in particular, how this child is ever going to become part of a class in a structured classroom.

Today was bad. Tomorrow will be better. I have to believe it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

This Things We Leave Behind... And Those We Gain

I am feeling a distinct Christmas-shaped hole in my aura this year.

The year before I converted, we nixed the tree (which was getting progressively smaller, anyway) to see how it felt. It was OK, although, as I reported then, I was caught off guard by some carolers and wept openly at a shopping center that first year.

Last year was all abut the joy of choosing Judaism - and Christmas and Chanukkah were close, so it all felt like a big love-fest. All was well.

This year, though, Chanukkah started on Dec. 1. By December 9, the menorah was aglow with all nine candles, all the gifts had been given, Ma'oz Tzur sung (and sung, and sung) and then darkness. Chanukkah was over.

Meanwhile, carols were on the radio, Christmas lights (yes, Melanie, they ARE "Christmas" lights) were being hung and the buy-buy-buy-frenzy was reaching its peak everywhere I turned.

I don't miss the pressure to out-do last Christmas every year. That's never what it was about for me, anyway. Christmas has always been a state of mind. An extra smile or an extra bit of patience, and remembering to treat each other like human beings (except, apparently, during black Friday sales. All bets are off then). It's just that all of that was wrapped up in the packages and the lights and the singing and - for what its worth - the smell of cinnamon pine cones.

In theory, I should be able to transfer all of those feel-good feelings right on over and celebrate with the Maccabees, no? I'm finding it not quite that easy in practice and I don't know why.

I guess I am mourning a little bit of my childhood: Singing in the choir at midnight mass, matching family PJs and the sweet anticipation of Christmas morning. I will not ever forget the Christmas that Santa brought facepaint and Dad painted my sister and I up like members of KISS. (Dad was cool even then.)

I know that on December 26 I will feel better. Not only because people tend to go back to being rotten to each other, but because I have gained so much more than I lost when I left Christmas.

Let's begin with a place and a service where I truly feel close to God. I like that Jews are taught to treat everyone the way they would treat God not for some promise of a glorious afterlife and rewards, but because we are obligated to - it is the right thing to do and that is why you should do it (vs. you should do it to get into heaven).

While the list of things I have gained from conversion is vast, I'll end it with the friends I have gained. I didn't gain them because I converted - in fact several spouses are still Christians. I gained them by being involved in Temple Israel.

This (I like to think) close group of friends are the ones you can call at midnight when a squirrel is squatting in your living room (Bucy is packing and I have him on speed dial) and the ones who will then show up with many squirrel-themed gifts to mock you and your fear of small, furry wildlife after the terror has passed.

They are the friends I want around me when we deal with things that seem too big - loss of family, financial ruin, serious illness. These are the women and men I want in my corner because some of them will hug me, most of them will make me laugh and many of them will then pick me up by my shoulders and give me a push to move forward (when progress is the last thing from my mind).

If I've lost Christmas, it was a small price to pay for getting a soft, warm and often funny place to land when the holiday spirit inevitably wears off.