The Great Replacement

528034_10152046269445591_2094693728_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“No matter how hard you try,” a well-meaning person told me some time ago, with the air of delivering an eye-opening statement, “you will never be able to replace a kindergarten teacher for your children.”

I was rather short-tempered, but I wanted to be kind. I also knew that a long explanation would be futile, and would lead to yet another argument. What I said was simply, “it is the kindergarten teacher who will never be able to replace a mother.”

But going back to the original statement… two things are implied here:

1. Small children need preschool/kindergarten, and the preschool/kindergarten program is without doubt the absolute ministry-of-education-regulated best.

2. If you teach/keep your children at home, you must be trying to imitate the preschool/kindergarten/school setting, with yourself acting as the teacher.

Even people who are prepared – very cautiously – to admit that maybe learning at home isn’t a very crazy idea, are most reassured by the sight of children with workbooks, working with timetables and being graded for their work. Because of course, without daily drills and grading, there is no learning… right?

Once, a mother confided in me that she is going to put her 18-months-old child (her only child, so far) in daycare, even though she doesn’t work outside the home, because several family members insist that the boy needs more “stimulation” and “socialization”; since she looked so obviously dejected when she spoke of it, and since I was certain she knows my opinion already, I allowed myself to gently say that as far as I can see, a 6-hour-long daily period in a daycare center would be overstimulating, tiring, and overall pointless for her son.When we are talking of a baby who can’t even speak properly yet, all the needed “socialization” is covered by a daily walk to the playground where he can see and interact with other people.

Since women entered the work force en masse, the question of what to do with the young children became highly relevant in almost every family. A home can be left alone, but not a child – and so day care centers, preschools and kindergartens became a widespread solution. This is now so normal that a mother who is raising her children at home is allegedly “replacing” a preschool teacher. Let us not forget it is the other way around.

The period of having small children at home is very intense, physically and emotionally demanding; it is also finite. It may a few years if you have just one child, or a couple of decades if you have many, but either way it will come to an end some day. Some day, I will not have anyone barging into my room shouting, “Peepee!” – nor will I need to interrupt an adult conversation in order to say, “please get your finger out of your nose”. Life will be calmer, perhaps, and more rational – and a little duller as well.

So let us, mothers, savor this time with our children, and know that we are exactly where we are needed at the moment, and that no one – no one – can replace us.

The photo above is from our old home, taken when our two eldest were little. We lived in an isolated little corner with a beautiful view and raised goats, chickens and a dog. The demands of such a lifestyle were many, but there was much joy in the journey, and the memories are sweet.

Nursing: the perfect excuse to rest

Image may contain: one or more people, people sleeping and baby
These days, nursing my fourth baby, I can say that one of the best things about nursing is the simple brilliance of it – how convenient it is, and how it allows a tired young mother to rest.

Breastfeeding can have its stresses and challenges – we’ve had slow weight gain, tongue-tie, plugged ducts complete with high fever, D-MER, and others can probably chip in with stories of their own. But basically it’s supposed to be pretty much straightforward, or our species wouldn’t have survived. Throw in the facts that nutritionally speaking, breast milk is perfectly composed to meet the baby’s needs, it’s free, and you don’t have to prepare and wash bottles, not to mention worry about hygiene when you’re out and about – and there you have why I love it so much.

Most of the time, on many busy days, nursing is what allows me to put up my feet and rest, at least for a little while, without feeling guilty. We often try to do too much, and find it difficult to switch to a different mode once we have a baby – and nursing is just the thing to force us to slow down, for our own good. It’s healthy, it’s natural, it’s simple, it involves sitting down for regular periods every day and cuddling a sweet baby. It doesn’t get better than this

For those of us who are used to have it all under control, it can be tempting to say to the husband (or whoever there is to help us out), “here, just hold the baby – and I’ll do those dishes”… but no. Someone else can do the dishes, but no one else can nurse the baby. And while sitting down, it’s nice to have a cooling drink of water or a little snack as a refreshment on a hot busy day.

I guess this is what some would call “being tied down by babies”. It has taken me some time to embrace this, but I’ve realized that “being tied down” by nursing is the best thing that can happen to a frazzled mom looking over a messy house. Because let’s face it, we need to rest, we need to slow down, whether we acknowledge it or not. There will be those moments, of course. There will be days when you feel you have done nothing but nurse the baby – but these things slowly and imperceptibly change as the baby grows older. There will come a time when by-and-by, some of the baby’s nutritional needs will be met by solid food, then a bit more… there will come a time when you are able to leave your baby for an evening and go out.

And there will come a time of a bittersweet goodbye, when, with a feeling of a job well done, you relinquish the bond of breastfeeding and continue to nurture your little one in countless other ways. So there’s no rush. Every minute of nursing and snuggling is precious time well spent.

On supporting local economy

farmer's market

I’m passionate about supporting one’s local economy, in particular local farmers and artisans, but sometimes prohibitive prices make it difficult. Read more in my latest Mother Earth News post:

“When it’s possible and our finances allow, I’m usually willing to pay more for a locally made or grown product of superior quality. How much more? I’d say about 20% above what I’d pay in a chain store for a similar product of comparable quality. This, when I see a justifiable reason for the higher price – such as extra input of time, care or cost of materials.”

I’d say it goes both ways: customers ought to be willing to pay a little more, and farmers/artisans charge a little less, for this to work. I really struggle with myself when I find myself forced to support a large chain store rather than a small local business due to financial constraints.

Finding family

Image result for adoption

I have shared this special adoption story some years back, and am inspired to re-visit it today.

Matanya (not a real name) was born with Treacher Collins syndrome, a rare genetic disorder which caused him to have severe facial deformities and feeding problems. His parents, who didn’t feel capable of raising such a child, made the decision to leave him in the hospital. It must be noted that despite multiple ultrasound scans during the pregnancy, his condition was somehow missed – praise the Lord for this miracle, for otherwise he would probably have been aborted.

Batsheva, who worked in aforementioned hospital as a midwife, was moved by the fate of the little baby who spent week after week in the hospital nursery. Despite the many efforts of the staff to make him as comfortable as possible, he seemed detached, didn’t make eye contact and didn’t smile. Batsheva started visiting the baby and felt terrible every time she went home, leaving him behind. She realized that for a child like this, the only chance to ever have a normal life is to be raised in a supportive and loving family.

Eventually, Batsheva and her husband Shlomo decided to adopt the baby. They had eight children at the time, ranging in ages from 15 to 3, and the older children were involved in the decision. They took Matanya into their home and gave him a family.

“We got eight wonderful gifts from the Lord, healthy and whole” says Batsheva (translation mine). “It was precisely out of that feeling of fulfillment and thankfulness that we felt the need to give back to our Creator by taking care of a soul that was not ours. We felt we can give this child a place in our family. And B”H, the Almighty guided us hand in hand throughout the way.”

“I will never forget how I slowly picked him up and held him for a long time, and he, a tiny four-month-old baby, put his head on my shoulder and fell asleep. It was like he said, ‘I finally found Mommy.’ We all cried from emotion.”

I cried from emotion too, as I read this article. Praise God for such kind and generous souls who gave hope and comfort when it seemed there was none to be had. Truly He sets the solitary in families.

“Just a few hours of being in a warm home made our Matanya smile and look us straight in the eye. It’s amazing how he immediately felt he belongs with us.”

Matanya since went through multiple surgeries which have improved his condition, and will have to go through more as he gets older. He will never look “normal” but otherwise his prospects are good and he is a happy and intelligent child.

Batsheva keeps in touch with Matanya’s biological parents, and tries to be as merciful as possible when relating to their decision of leaving him in the hospital. Matanya was told that he was adopted. “I told him how we walked into he nursery and immediately fell in love with him and chose him of all babies. I said to him he belongs with us for good.”

The trouble with “measuring up”

Image result for child in nature oil painting

A huge stumbling block in the path of people who wish to simplify and live a quiet, slow and purposeful life, is being part of a social circle who all have bigger houses, more possessions, fancier gadgets, who take trips abroad every year, etc, etc.

An important thing to remember when you say to yourself, “how come they are able to afford it?!” is that you don’t really know whether they can. You don’t really know what goes on behind the closed doors of people’s homes, or in their bank accounts. Perhaps these people are living way beyond their means. Perhaps they are in debt. Or perhaps they afford their super-fancy, extra-packed lifestyle by maintaining two careers which leave hardly any family time at all.

And if you are a mother who stays home with her children, some people might deliberately or accidentally make you feel inferior, or this feeling might come across on its own when you’re reading about someone who “successfully” combined a career and family. And again, the true price of what it all entailed is seldom brought up.

Or perhaps you just walk into someone’s house and lament how this lady has it all together while you don’t, and seemingly never will, and forget that no one has our unique set of strengths, weaknesses, experience and family situation. I’m not saying we shouldn’t learn from one another. But this learning should be a thing of strength and growth, not just useless comparison that leads us to feel debilitating inferiority.

Maybe, when you were growing up, there was a child of your parents’ friends, or perhaps a cousin who was so much more accomplished than you, who spoke German and French and played the violin, and could do all the things you could never even dream of doing. Perhaps your parents spent your entire childhood and adolescence unfavorably comparing you with that “role model”, until you felt about that unfortunate unsuspecting child the same way Emma Woodhouse felt about Jane Fairfax – an almost unconscious grudge that is as unjustified as it is difficult to overcome.

G-d made us unique. He wants and expects us to improve, but not by striving to become the image of somebody else. His boundaries are wide enough so that within them, we can freely be just what we are.

Image: lovely oil painting by Trent Gudmundsen 

Summer fun

The house is full of cardboard boxes, and all our stuff is nearly packed, except for a few last minute essentials. To celebrate this, we went away to spend a few days with my mom.

DSC_0794

A little boy on his first bike. It was a birthday present, and it’s blue – Israel’s favorite color.

DSC_0793

He was so happy and proud of himself. This was the first time he really experienced the freedom of having a pair of wheels, and he just wouldn’t get off. He rode like the wind!

DSC_0784

Dancing and splashing in the fountain.

DSC_0791

They had so much fun!

DSC_0771

Building a fort with blankets and pillows. The kids stayed in this cave for hours, and performed the most delightful puppet shows.

On the other side of the door

Image result for door
Have you ever had to climb into your house through a bathroom window? I had this unforgettable experience a few years back, when my two older girls were a toddler and a baby.

Around midday, the girls and I were returning home from a play-date visit in a friend’s house, tired out and ready for lunch, story time and a nap. I opened the door, let Shira in, and lingered outside with Tehilla to give the chickens some fresh water.

Just as I had my back turned to the door, I heard an ominous click of the door locking from inside.T ehilla and I were out and Shira was in the house on her own, and there was a locked door in between.

I tried to get Shira to unlock the door, but the lock was stuck. All the windows were locked from inside too (for safety reasons) and I couldn’t quite get her to understand how to open them. Once it dawned on us that we’re separated by a locked door, we both got quite panicky. I heard Shira crying inside and could do nothing – I felt so helpless, my husband had a key but he was at least an hour and a half away.

I called a friend who lived nearby, more for moral support than anything else, and she dashed right over to try and get us to calm down, and to coax Shira to give the key another try from inside. In the meantime, I made a last desperate check of all the windows and discovered – hurray! – that the shower window is unlocked.

Problem is, it’s a small window that opens only halfway, and it’s right near the ceiling. In a stroke of uncharacteristic technical brilliance, I managed to remove the glass panes, which left a square right below the ceiling, large enough for a rather thin person to climb through (I’m proud to say I was even able to replace the panes later, in correct order).

I found a ladder behind the garden shed, took one of the plastic garden chairs and slipped it through the window into the shower stall so that I would be able to step on it once I swing my feet through the window. I then realized there’s no way I’m going to be able to do this in my long denim skirt. Sincerely hoping no one can see this, I slipped out of my skirt, immensely thankful that at least I was wearing long pants underneath. I then climbed to the top of the ladder, swung one foot over the window, then another (in an acrobatic fit I had no idea I was capable of), then I climbed down to the plastic chair – and yes! I was in!

I hurried to my frightened child, comforted her while telling her never, never, never to mess about with the lock again, and swung open the front door, admitting my friend together with her little ones and Tehilla, who was sitting in her stroller all the while, enjoying all the attention and oblivious to anything exciting going on. With a deep sigh of worn-out travellers, my friend and I settled on the couch and sofa to nurse our babies. Finally, rest was at hand.

Later, when I was at leisure to think it all through, it occurred to me how this whole situation illustrates something bigger – the feeling of helplessness, the frustration, the fear; separation from our dearest ones; knowledge of being very close to something precious – so close, yet unable to reach it. And finally, the miraculous discovery of a way to get to it – doing things you didn’t think you could do, climbing up a steep ladder, a dangerous squeezing through a narrow gate, and finding yourself, finally, at the peaceful place your heart so desired – your home.