My #MeToo

This post is certainly a divergence from my normal topic of parenthood. But, as a parent, it is still important to be mindful of current events, and the current climate of the world in which we are raising our children.

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein press (ignoring the fact that this man shares a name with my super sweet, precious, amazing, dad), there has been an outpouring of social media posts including the hashtag #MeToo as a way to express the experienced sexual assault and/or harassment of the poster. It is, frankly, heartbreaking to see the numbers of men and women who have experienced these things, though I am so proud of my friends, family, and coworkers who have been willing to share, even these two words, with their social media communities.

About a year ago, I wrote down an experience that I had while still living in Baltimore. An experience that I have only shared with a few, and words written, that only a few have read. And as I am typing this post, preparing for the fact that I will be sharing this story, my heart is pounding. I fear the judgement, the shame, the ridicule, and the vulnerability that comes with sharing a story like this. I am sad to say, that this wasn’t my only experience, though this one, sticks with me everyday, when I drive through certain neighborhoods, when I hear certain names, and when I hear certain words.

Please, as you read, keep in mind that this is a true story, and I urge anyone who may experience trauma triggers, to be mindful of their head space before they read. There is also strong language. This won’t be the most graphic, violent, or scary story you hear, but it is mine.

Black Paint

“You’re a fucking bitch, cunt.” At least it was warm outside when he screamed that at my distancing back. I walked down the sidewalk of a neighborhood that I didn’t know when it’s dark out– and tried to find a main street.

My phone was on 4% battery and it was 3 o’clock in the morning. That rules out mom and dad, and the “perks” of living at home. And when most of your friends are married, many have kids, and you’re floating in a sea of online dating, pretty much alone, all you can do is call the one guy who you know might be awake. He answered. He came to get me, thankfully.

I was away from my mom’s Cadillac rental car that she let me borrow for the night. Her Solara had been totaled when my dad drove it into the front of a 711.  Either way, I liked it better than my ’96 Toyota Corolla. The Cadillac was parked at Johnny’s, my least favorite restaurant in Baltimore, which was conveniently located closer to his place than mine.

I am pretty good at red flags. But when you start talking to a guy online who went to the Quaker school in town, right around the corner from where you went, when his mother was your aunt’s law professor, his family has a legacy of partners at a top law firm in the country, and he, himself is a lawyer, maybe you become the kind of color blind that can’t see red. When I say “you” of course I mean me. And maybe color blindness isn’t the issue. The issue is that I was so wrapped up in the possibility of a love story, of being Baltimore royalty, that I didn’t listen to myself. Later I would feel like a pathetic cliché, like I was at fault, like I was asking for it, like I lead him on, which would again, make me feel even worse for not standing up for myself more than I had.

I was asking for it. That is the worst one. I feel that women should be whoever, wear whatever, say whatever, and still feel safe and secure in walking down the street. I was wearing a long sleeved cardigan, and a ankle length maxi dress with a high neck, from the Loft. I honestly don’t know if I showered that day, I can’t remember anything except the late hours of the night. I know I didn’t shave my legs or any other parts, because when he shoved his hand up my dress, as I was blocking his hand with every bit of my strength, my immediate thought, after how uncomfortable I was, was that I didn’t shave. I’m not sure which feeling made me start to tear up.

I felt proud that my redheaded heat and muscles allowed me to fight this man off. That is the only moment I was proud of. There were others when I hadn’t been as strong. He waved his $10k signing bonus in my face when I first got to his house, after we left the bar at Johnny’s. I don’t know if I was impressed. I know I remember it. I remember him making fun of the Cadillac that I came in. He arrived in a BMW.

He made fun of my choice in wine, white over red. He made me stutter. He made me feel weak and self conscious. He made me feel embarrassed and he made me feel small. He also made me feel obligated.

I got in his car and went with him to see his house. I say “see” because he lived in a neighborhood where I had once wanted to live. I thought he was trying to help. To educate me on location. I thought his house kind of looked like my grandmother’s. I remember noticing that he had too many red oriental rugs and antique dark wood future for someone who was 27.

We watched some Game of Thrones, he had another drink, and wanted to wait to take me back to my car, so he could sober up some more. He took me into his basement and showed me the king sized bed, completely made, and told me how he had picked it out with his ex fiancé. It was from IKEA. I led the way back upstairs. He showed me his bedroom, and he pushed me on the bed.

As you know, I was stronger. And as I told him to take me back to my car, walking down his steps, he told me to get an Uber. “I’m not getting a DUI for a bitch like you.” He said– actually scoffing. I wasn’t sure that I knew that people did that outside of books– as it turns out, they do.

I walked out of his house. He actually came after me. At 3am I wonder if his neighbors heard. He laughed through his apology, asking me to come back in. And when he called me a tease, I turned and walked away. It was enough. “You are enough.” I told myself silently, and I walked down the sidewalk. He yelled after me, but eventually went inside.

I felt my breath quicken and I was certain I would faint. I sat on the curb, waiting for my friend, whom I had called with my final moments of battery, praying he would find me. He did.

I got back to my parents’ house at 4am. My sweet mother was up, waiting for me, in her pink t-shirt nightgown. And without the raise of a voice, she asked me why I had been so late, so out of touch. I told her. My heart broke more for the look on her face, than for what he had done.

She took me on a drive the next day, and her words are still clear. “I want to pour black paint all over his car, sidewalk, and house.” All I could think was, “red would be better.”

For anyone out there, experiencing pain, I am here for you. I will be your safe space if you need one.

Peace and love.

 

Thank you, Alma

This is not a typical blog for me; rather, a time to share an article that I recently had published by an amazing online magazine called Alma.

This article is really part of a passion project for me, in that I feel very strongly about the way we interact with others, the way we judge (not a dirty word) each other, and how we, unfortunately, try to make each other fit into boxes.

There is no right or wrong way to have a family. There is no right or wrong way to pray, or worship, or channel your spiritual energy. There is no right or wrong way to learn. But there are right and wrong ways to engage others. Please stop hurting each other. Be aware of your words.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, and please enjoy my piece, Please Stop Asking Me, “Are You Even Jewish?”

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An Open Letter to My Kids at Camp

Dear kiddos,

Wow it has been a long month! I miss you terribly. It seems kind of weird, you know, missing you so much. When you are here, I am praying to be able to go to the bathroom without interruption.

There have been a lot of thunderstorms so far this summer. I really miss being scared awake by your creepy faces leaning over me in the dark. Speaking of interrupted sleep, I miss you screaming at each other at 6am. I miss you skipping household nap time, and “lightly” knocking on my door to ask me a question. I miss when your sleep pattern gets interrupted, be it staying up late, or getting up early, because I miss that preteen attitude.

I miss arguing with you about fruits and veggies, maybe the most. I know that you love the salad bar at camp, and I am thinking of installing one in the house. I promise I will put real peanut butter on the line, not sun butter. I don’t know how you eat that, but when I was at camp, I missed peanut butter almost as much as I miss you now.

I miss when you walk the dogs. Not just because I miss not baring all of the responsibility, but because I miss the screaming at crying that follows the walk, almost every day, because you two haven’t quite figured out how to walk next to each other without yelling, hitting, and kicking.

I really miss the snuggles. I miss when you get in my bed to watch Blue Planet and Planet Earth. I have thought about watching Beauty and the Beast a few times, but thought better of it, because I couldn’t do it without you.

I miss your sweet laughs, when we make silly faces, and call out our inside jokes during dinner. I miss your paintings, I haven’t gotten a new one since you left, I cannot wait to see your art bags! I miss nail painting parties, and baking, and dancing around in our living room.

I miss how excited you get for pizza and Chinese food. I miss our cupcake dates. I miss singing Shema with you before bed. I miss hugging you, and kissing you, and saying “I love you.”

I mostly just miss the amazing humans that you are. I cannot wait until you come home.

Love,

Ema

Ownership and Accountability

If parenting has taught me anything, it is that you have to take ownership of everything you do and say, and you will be held accountable. Period. Kids remember everything. They remember that time you chose to sleep in on a Saturday morning, they remember when you didn’t eat your vegetables, and they remember when you forget to (insert a mundane task here.)

Thankfully, they also remember all of the good things you do– but those aren’t the things that require ownership. If you are a parent that needs your ego to be stroked by your child, reevaluate. If you ever ask your child “Do you love me?” or “Are you mad at me?” or “Do you think we have a good relationship?” then you know you don’t. That is where you need to take ownership of your actions.

Unfortunately, I know parents who ask those questions. Who pit themselves against their co-parent(s) because they need validation. To all of the parents who are working their butts off to give their kids a good life: you are amazing. Keep going! You are doing it right! It isn’t easy, and it doesn’t always feel good. But your kids are your priority, and they notice and feel that. To all of the parents who question their abilities and have reason to: this is where accountability becomes imperative.

Of course, it takes two to tango, and maybe because I don’t have any biological children, I am off base, but if you choose to have a kids, it is your choice to take ownership of your relationship with them, and if your relationship fails, you are the one who is accountable– not your children. And each time you pose a question to them about how they feel about you, you are inevitably guilting them, regardless of their answer, and misplacing the accountability.

I made the active choice to be a mom to two children, I did not go through a pregnancy, raise them from infancy, or do any of the other things that essentially imprint them on you– so this may be harsh– but if you are not positively contributing to your children’s life, leave. If you think you aren’t a good parent, you may not be, and if you are doing more damage than not, please try to pause, step back, and objectively view the situation. The best friends are the ones who are comfortable enough to tell you when you are wrong– can you provide yourself with the same feedback?

When we talk about doing what is in the best interest of our kids, and helping them to become the person they are, it is perfectly okay to take ownership of your own feelings and say– I don’t want this life. If that is the case, make a clean break. Parenting is not easy, and it is not for everyone. Your kids can tell that they aren’t your priority. They can tell you aren’t happy. It doesn’t matter how much you claim to love them, or actually love them, you are doing them a disservice.

Every time the introvert in me wants to hide in my room, I feel guilty. Regularly when I close my door to lay in bed or watch TV alone, my kids end up coming in to snuggle with me or just say hi. Remember that as a parent you have a duty to role model, support, grow, and educate your children. Your job is to help them. Hold yourself accountable when you aren’t doing those things…your kids will.

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“Your children are not your children

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

for they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which

you cannot visit, not even in your dreams,

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life does not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,

and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

for even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves

also the bow that is stable.”

-Kahlil Gibran

 

Why I Smile for My Kids

Wow. Parenting is like running a marathon for which you could never possibly train. Step-parenting is like that, but instead of a marathon, it’s a triathlon, and you are wearing a leather bodysuit and heals, and you can’t change, so you better adapt quickly because everyone watching is watching you.

Last week I had the biggest challenge yet. Honestly I feel like I say that every week, but I think this time it’s true. It really doesn’t matter what happened, what matters is how I felt simultaneously incredibly proud of my kid, but also super furious with the person who hurt him, with my fiancé for letting it go on as long as it did, and with my child for being so forgiving.

What? What kind of parent is mad at their child for being forgiving? I guess I will delve into that another time, but the point is, I had a lot of emotions all at one time, which is exhausting. As much as I wanted to cry, and yell, and sleep, and run… I did not. I smiled.

The reason I smile for my kids is because they deserve it. They deserve to see a smile. They deserve to have the reassurance of a smile after a hard event. They deserve to learn how to smile at strangers, to see the world as a good place, and to feel what a smile makes you feel. A real genuine smile makes you feel seen.

Seeing my kids as humans is what makes me the parent that I am. Respecting their boundaries and having them respect ours is hard lesson that we practice and teach. Teaching them to have a voice and to use it in a way to bring thought, understanding, and clarity to yourself and others is why we work so hard to build our children’s confidence. (Frankly, it shocks and appeals me that all parents don’t prioritize this.)

Granted, they are 9 and 11, so spoiler alert– the answer to the question, “what kind of parent is mad at their child for being forgiving,” is: the kind of parent who wants their child to unapologetically say what they think and feel when they are advocating for themselves, and never waiver. The struggle for me is that kids waiver.

Joe had to check me this week and remind me that kids like to please people who are in a position of power. Gosh that is scary. Luckily, my kids don’t care about pleasing me because I am their safe space. That realization was everything.

So, this person who made my kid upset, who shook my family to its’ core, might cause my kid to feel the need to please, but only because he recognizes the lack of forgiving, understanding, and competence in them.

So I smile. I smile so they know they are safe. I smile to trick myself into being in a better mood sometimes, and I smile because at the end of the day, I have amazing children, an amazing life, a desire to protect my family, and those are the best reasons in the world.

How It All Started, Really.

When you meet a guy who is tall, and hot, and educated, it is hard not to swoon. When he tells you that he has two children, there are a few reactions that race through your head whether you mean to, or not.

  1. Married?
  2. I should probably walk away now.
  3. I’m probably going to stay though…

Normally, I would have cut this conversation short. Something like serendipity kept me there. He wasn’t married. That was a good start. So fast forward through our love story, which I will share later, and I am the other mother to two amazing kids.

The first time I met these sweet monsters, we went for crepes.  We went to the park, also. Although our kids spend the majority of their time with us, they were with their biological mom for the weekend. Much to their dismay, and mine, I was then headed back to the airport, and to Baltimore.

That was the other part I forgot to mention–I was in a long distance relationship. He, in Houston, me in Baltimore. Have you ever tried co-parenting from halfway across the country? To two kids you barely know? I have!

The next time I would come to town, the kids would be staying with us. I would get an immediate dose of child-reality, and if I am being honest, I loved it. When we picked them up from school, the kids blew past their father and almost knocked me off of my stilettos with two of the best hugs I had had to date.

I have basically been in love ever since. Sweet, exhausted, grumpy, snuggle, stomping, laughing, door slamming, hugs and kissses, love.