Do you remember when parenting seemed so scary? That panic when your baby slept on his stomach and you were sure he couldn’t breathe? So you shook him (but not too hard because then you would have to panic about shaking him, which could also possibly lead to panic about panic) and then he woke up and stayed up for the rest of the night?
As parents we will always find something to worry about. Especially as Jews we have the guilty gene making us feel like we have already screwed them up. I put the diaper on backwards, does this lead to a confused identity? I just cursed out the cell phone “customer” service representative, did my six-month-old understand, oh crap. But nowadays educational toys and how much TV is too much, doesn’t really cross my mind as much as how will I raise my children in a time of war?
I have become something of a War Whisperer. It appears that without knowing it I have given my child the gift of joy in the form of sirens, running and shelters…oh my. Or to be more accurate, Hamas has really given him this gift. My 3-year-old son, told me about his practice drills in daycare and continually begs me to go to the shelter. I actually used the shelter as a threat for him to finish dinner tonight. “If you don’t finish your matzah pizza, (what you’re not still eating matzah leftovers?) then we are not going to the shelter. You should have seen that kid bite into that matzah, it was gone before I could even appear slightly angry.
Am I doing this right? We talk about bad rockets and danger, and I am so careful about how I say it: my choice of words, the tone and even my pauses. We are in Jerusalem, so the rockets are far and in between (at least for now) and maybe that has something to do with it. But whatever it is, parenting in war is a war against parenting. For now learning revolves around counting rockets, staying inside instead of playing in the parks like we normally do, and after I finally put the kids to sleep, there is always the chance of dragging them back out to the shelter and another round of “Just go to sleep”.
As the War Whisperer my advice is to figure out what works best for your children during this difficult time. Clearly my son is excited about the party-side of war: loud noise, lots of action, and opportunities to hang out with lots of people in a cramped space. But this may not work for your child. And like all the crap experts say, don’t trust me either.
My cousin in Colorado, Rabbi Jamie Korngold, compared our lives raising our children in very different places on a recent Facebook post:
Jamie: My day: Grab lunches, get kids to camp, me to work, then O to violin, S to gymnastics.
My cousin Molly’s day: Grab kids, get them to bomb shelter as five rockets hit Jerusalem. So strange.
Yes, parents in Israel have come along way from the bestselling parenting guides. There are no books on What to Expect When Expecting to be at War or The Happiest Baby in the Shelter. We are writing the book: put shoes by the bed, get them dressed for the next day the night before, and learn how to stay calm on the outside (when on the inside you are panicking…not like the ‘he is on his stomach panicking’, but more like ‘what kind of life is this for my child panicking’).
As parents we are always looking for those moments of quiet in between screams, crying, fighting over toys, demanding more chocolate, accidents, something breaking, and the sound of bodily fluid landing somewhere on you. But today the quiet is more appreciated. The time is savored. And the moments in between are our lessons to be learned.