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A few times a year my mother would clear off the dining room table and cover it with dozens of blank greeting cards. Then she took out her water colors and got to work, painting beautiful abstract designs on each card. Just a few flicks of her brush, two or three colors on each card, but the results were dazzling, deceptively simple designs. When the cards dried she gave them in packs of eight or 10 to our teachers, friends, or anyone celebrating something big or small. I was always disappointed when we received one of the cards in the mail, used as a thank you note for the gift. These are special, and you should save them for something amazing, I thought. Don’t waste them on thank you notes!


My mother had a full time job as a social worker and three children, but she also had her artwork. She labored over water-colors, sketched us all as babies, and eventually she focused on papercutting, studying with other artists to hone her craft, which she used to make delicate painted papercuts, often around a Jewish theme. She gave her artwork away to friends, and long before Etsy she had a booth at art fairs, selling ketubot (Jewish wedding contracts) that she painted, calligraphed, and cut herself. She had other passions. She loved storytelling, and went to storytelling festivals and events.

This was mortifying to me—there was something deeply uncool about telling stories,I thought, seeing no irony in my reaction, when what I wanted to be was a writer. She became obsessed with Rachel Bella Calof, a Jewish mail-order bride who became a homesteader in North Dakota. She wrote a middle-grade novel based on Calof ’s life, The Homesteader’s Bride. While she was writing the book she joined a writer’s group, and she spent hours reading and giving feedback to other people in the group. She also had a weekly Torah and Mishnah study group with a handful of other women, and I loved to watch (and sometimes join) them as they gossiped over coffee and then dove into text study. In her fifties, my mom became close with a Jewish community in a Russian town called Kineshma, gathering supplies for them, and befriending a woman there named Lucy. Eventually she travelled to Russia to meet Lucy, and spent time training Jewish educators in Russia.

Most of my memories of my mother are of her doing things that had nothing to do with me. Her artwork, her stories, her Torah study, and travel. She has been dead for eight years now, and when I think of her, it’s rare that I think of her time with me. Instead, I think of all the things that kept her busy, the times I saw her consumed by her own passions.

My whole childhood, and into adulthood (she died when I was 24), my mother was there, but on the periphery. She was out doing the things she loved. I was one of the things she loved. She planned special days to spend with me, kept a journal with me, taught me cooking and sewing and algebra. But she was not always around. She was often off, busy, pursuing one of her many passions. I think of it now as low-touch parenting. She worked full time, and at night she was busy with the other things she loved. She ate dinner with us, and read to us and put us to bed, but we were not the focus of her days. She assumed that we would have our own passions, and gave us space and time to pursue them, largely because she wanted her own space and time for her own passions.

My mother was not a saint. She was sometimes too hands-off. In high school I pushed her away, and she became fully immersed in her job, to the extent that, when depression began to swallow me up, it was too long before she and my father noticed and found me help. And she was sometimes too present, giving feedback on choices I did not much want to hear her opinion on. But mostly, I walked around knowing she loved me, was invested in me, and was busy. She expected me to be busy, too.

I’ve been a parent now for four years, and I’m still startled by the expectations others have of parenting, of mothering mostly. In playgrounds and synagogues and at friends’ houses it seems I’m supposed to follow my child around, giving constant feedback and encouragement. My friends and I often talk about feeling pressure to be home when their child gets home, to supervise each moment of homework, attend each game, give our full attention to each child at all times.

There is nothing wrong with this. It is what some women want. But it’s not what I want. I want to be out in the world, making art, telling stories, being part of movements for social justice, organizing my community, and learning. And I want my stepdaughter and foster daughter to see that I’m sometimes distracted by my art, my friends, and the news. I want them to see that sometimes I leave the house to attend a meeting, go to a Crossfit class, or have a writing date with a friend. When they look out at the world, I want them to know that I’m in it, that they can be in it, too. That I love them, carry them with me wherever I go, and also that I have my own story, a story that is not about them.

As parenthood consumes more of my time, I’ve tried to think back on what worked with my mom, and codify my mother’s parenting style to guide me. She’s not here to tell me what she thinks of my own choices—and I am 100% sure she would have many many opinions on them—but I’ve tried to extrapolate from my memories and conversations with my sisters and my father.

Here are the 4 ideas that seemed to be at the core of my mother’s low-touch parenting style.

1. Consistency

We ate dinner together every night, to the sounds of whatever world music my father was in the mood for that day. Dinner was not fancy (we ate a lot of pasta) but conversation was lively and it was half an hour we spent together before we each scattered to our own projects and passions. (There is nothing sacred about dinner, it just happened to be what we did in my family. For other families it could be breakfast, or all walking the dog together in the evening, or something else.)

2. Benign encouragement

My parents encouraged us to try new things, take classes, and generally experiment, but they never seemed particularly invested in whatever we were interested in that month. If we decided we wanted to take kung fu, that was cool, and if we decided we didn’t have time for kung fu anymore, that was fine, too. They did not attend lessons unless there was some pressing reason (an end-of-season show or recital.) We were only ever encouraged to take classes that were a 15-minute drive or closer from our house. Mostly we walked. Looking back, I’m fairly sure that anything we were signed up for was seen by my mom as time she then had free to work on her own art.

3. Trust and freedom

We three Fox girls were goody- two-shoes. We were known to be sarcastic, but not prone to getting into big trouble. My mother saw that, and trusted us to do our own thing, spend time alone, go out to try to round up some friends if we wanted. We did not have curfews as teens.

4. Television

Screen time is a dirty word now, I know, but it was a fact of life when I was a child. Starting when I was eight and my older sister was 11, we were latchkey kids, coming home for at least an hour of TV before my mom got home from work. We sat in front of reruns of “Full House” or “Saved by the Bell,” doing our homework and making jewelry.

After dinner, we often watched another show. While we watched TV, my parents were busy with their projects. Television (and books—we all read a lot) allowed them time to do what they wanted. And when they did what they wanted, we learned that their passions had value.

Your passion can be reading fiction borrowed from the library, pen drawing, baking, or basketball. All it requires that you carve some time out of family time, and use it for yourself. Extra points for doing it in full view of your children.

This feels wrong to many of us, as if we must spend every possible moment with our kids, up close, directing them, making eye contact, parenting with every fiber of our being. But that has not been a requirement of parenting until recently, and it’s destroying all of us.

Free-range parenting is what was just called parenting when I was a kid—allowing a child independence and space to be herself without a parent’s or teacher’s constant feedback and supervision. But the free-range parenting philosophy is still centered around the child, insisting that we must orient ourselves at all times in relationship to our children.

Mothers, let us imagine a few hours a week when we can orient ourselves around the things we care about most that do not require diaper changes or lunchboxes. And let us trust that having a life that is not caring for children is okay, is even good for our kids.

Some days, the most important thing I do is have a serious, thoughtful conversation with my step-daughter about Black Lives Matter, climate change, or what’s bothering her at school. There is something sacred about giving your full attention to someone else. But other days, the most important thing I do is cook a meal for a friend, register voters, write a few pages of the novel I’m working on, or spend some time outside. I want my daughters to see how important they are to me, and that they are part of a bigger scheme of things that I love and care about and think about.

I am feeling squeamish as I write this, anticipating comments and takedowns, the sneering claims that I don’t really care about my family, that I’m checked out and selfish. That’s what we’ve come to—parenting is a full contact sport, from birth through high school, a three-legged race you run with your children to keep them safe and protected, and to prove to the world that you care, that you would do anything for your child. But I can’t do that, I don’t want to do that, I won’t. I wasn’t taught that way.

At the end of my mother’s life, she slipped away from us bit by bit. She lost her hair, and then 50, 60, 70 pounds. Her rings slipped off her fingers. Her voice drifted away just when I wanted to hear it more than any other sound in the world. Her eyes were glassy, vacant.

In those last months, it was not low-touch parenting anymore. In the morning, I lifted her delicate body out of bed, bathed her, fed her cream of wheat, and held her hand in doctors’ offices and pharmacies as we waited for more bad news, more pills, less time. I rubbed cream into her skin turned raw from radiation, and massaged her feet when her muscles suddenly tensed in pain and her face contorted as she tried not to cry out.

Her skin was papery and cold on the morning she died. I held her hand one last time as she took ragged, painful breaths and then stopped.

I’m glad I had those months with all of that touch.

But what I loved about my mother—what I still love, what still makes me ache for her when I allow myself a few private moments of grief—were the moments of watching her do something that had nothing to do with me.


This article was originally published on Lilith.


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Three was not enough for Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. Mom and dad to North, Saint and Chicago are expecting again.

The story broke earlier this month, but this week Kim appeared on "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen" and confirmed everything People and E! have been attributing to inside Kardashian sources.

Host Andy Cohen, a father-to-be himself, asked Kim to confirm if the leaked sex of the baby was also accurate.

    "It's a boy," Kim told him, revealing that she's the accidental source of the leak. "It's out there. I got drunk at our Christmas Eve party, and I told some people, but I can't remember who I told."

    Like Chicago, this baby will be born via surrogate, and Kim says he's due quite soon.

    Kim has previously talked about how the decision to grow her family through gestational surrogacy was a hard one, but the only one that made sense for her after two difficult pregnancies.

    "Anyone that says or thinks it is just the easy way out is just completely wrong. I think it is so much harder to go through it this way, because you are not really in control," she told Entertainment Tonight when expecting Chicago.

    "Obviously you pick someone that you completely trust and that you have a good bond and relationship with, but it is still … knowing that I was able to carry my first two babies and not my baby now, it's hard for me," she explained at the time.

    One of six kids herself, it's not surprising that Kim wants a large family (considering how close she is with her siblings) and, according to Kim, Kanye's been campaigning for more children for a while.

    "Kanye wants to have more, though. He's been harassing me," Kardashian said on a 2018 episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. "He wants like seven. He's like stuck on seven."

    Four is still pretty far from seven, but maybe Kanye and Kim will compromise a bit on family size. Kim has previously said four children would be her limit.

    [Update: This post was originally published on January 2, 2019. It was updated when Kardashian confirmed the news.]

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    Toxic masculinity is having a cultural moment. Or rather, the idea that masculinity doesn't have to be toxic is having one.

    For parents who are trying to raise kind boys who will grow into compassionate men, the American Psychological Association's recent assertion that "traditional masculinity ideology" is bad for boys' well-being is concerning because our kids are exposed to that ideology every day when they walk out of then house or turn on the TV or the iPad.

    That's why a new viral ad campaign from Gillette is so inspiring—it proves society already recognizes the problems the APA pointed out, and change is possible.

    We Believe: The Best Men Can Be | Gillette (Short Film) youtu.be

    Gillette's new ad campaign references the "Me Too" movement as a narrator explains that "something finally changed, and there will be no going back."

    If may seem like something as commercial as a marketing campaign for toiletries can't make a difference in changing the way society pressures influence kids, but it's been more than a decade since Dove first launched its Campaign for Real Beauty, and while the campaign isn't without criticism, it was successful in elevating some of the body-image pressure on girls but ushering in an era of body-positive, inclusive marketing.

    Dove's campaign captured a mainstream audience at a time when the APA's "Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Girls and Women" were warning psychologists about how "unrealistic media images of girls and women" were negatively impacting the self-esteem of the next generation.

    Similarly, the Gillette campaign addresses some of the issues the APA raises in its newly released "Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men."

    According to the APA, "Traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males' psychological development, constrain their behavior, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict and negatively influence mental health and physical health."

    The report's authors define that ideology as "a particular constellation of standards that have held sway over large segments of the population, including: anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence."

    The APA worries that society is rewarding men who adhere to "sexist ideologies designed to maintain male power that also restrict men's ability to function adaptively."

    That basically sounds like the recipe for Me Too, which is of course its own cultural movement.

    Savvy marketers at Gillette may be trying to harness the power of that movement, but that's not entirely a bad thing. On its website, Gillette states that it created the campaign (called "The Best a Man Can Be," a play on the old Gillette tagline "The Best a Man Can Get") because it "acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture."

    Gillette's not wrong. We know that advertising has a huge impact on our kids. The average kid in America sees anywhere from 13,000 to 30,000 commercials on TV each year, according to the American Academy of Paediatrics, and that's not even counting YouTube ads, the posters at the bus stop and everything else.

    That's why Gillette's take makes sense from a marketing perspective and a social one. "As a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man," the company states.

    What does that mean?

    It means taking a stance against homophobia, bullying and sexual harassment and that harmful, catch-all-phrase that gives too many young men a pass to engage in behavior that hurts others and themselves: "Boys will be boys."

    Gillette states that "by holding each other accountable, eliminating excuses for bad behavior, and supporting a new generation working toward their personal 'best,' we can help create positive change that will matter for years to come."

    Of course, it's not enough for razor marketers to do this. Boys need support from parents, teachers, coaches and peers to be resilient to the pressures of toxic masculinity.

    When this happens, when boys are taught that strength doesn't mean overpowering others and that they can be successful while still being compassionate, the APA says we will "reduce the high rates of problems boys and men face and act out in their lives such as aggression, violence, substance abuse, and suicide."

    This is a conversation worth having and 2019 is the year to do it.

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    Teaching a young child good behavior seems like it should be easy and intuitive when, in reality, it can be a major challenge. When put to the test, it's not as easy as you might think to dole out effective discipline, especially if you have a strong-willed child.

    As young children develop independence and learn more about themselves in relation to others and their environment, they can easily grow frustrated when they don't always know how to communicate their feelings or how to think and act rationally.

    It's crucial that parents recognize these limitations and also set up rules to protect your child and those they encounter. These rules, including a parent's or caregiver's follow-up actions, allow your child to learn and develop a better understanding of what is (and what is not) appropriate behavior.

    Here are a few key ways to correct negative behavior in an efficient way:

    1. Use positive reinforcement.

    Whenever possible, look to deliver specific and positive praise when a child engages in good behavior or if you catch them in an act of kindness. Always focus on the positive things they are doing so that they are more apt to recreate those behaviors. This will help them start to learn the difference between good and poor behavior.

    2. Be simple and direct.

    Though this seems like a no-brainer, focus your child using constructive feedback versus what not to do or where they went wrong. Give reasons and explanations for rules, as best as you can for their age group.

    For example, if you're teaching them to be gentle with your pet, demonstrate the correct motions and tell your child, "We're gentle when we pet the cat like this so that we don't hurt them," versus, "Don't pull on her tail!"

    3. Re-think the "time out."

    Many classrooms are starting to have cozy nooks where children are encouraged to have alone time when they may feel out of control. In lieu of punishment, sending a child to a "feel-good" area removes them from a situation that's causing distress. This provides much-needed comfort and allows for the problem-solving process to start on its own.

    4. Use 'no' sparingly.

    When a word is repeated over and over, it begins to lose meaning. There are better ways to discipline your child than saying "no." Think about replaying the message in a different way to increase the chances of your child taking note. Rather than shouting, "No, stop that!" when your toddler is flinging food at dinnertime, it's more productive to use encouraging words that prompt better behavior, such as, "Food is for eating, what are we supposed to do when we're sitting at the dinner table?" This encourages them to consider their behavior.

    The above methods help create teachable moments by providing opportunities for development while making sure the child feels safe and cared for. It is important to mirror these discipline techniques at home and communicate often with your child care providers so that you're always on the same page.

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    To the mamas awake in the middle of the night,

    If you are one of the many moms with a little darling who doesn't sleep through the night, I feel your pain. I really do.

    Having been blessed with two wonderful sleepers (aka my first and second babies), my third baby has been a shock to my system. He hasn't slept through the night since he was born and he's now 16 months. I do everything "right." I put him down sleepy but awake so he can settle himself to sleep. I keep the room dark and quiet.

    But one simple fact remains: When my son wakes up in the night, he wants me. And he'll scream the house down if he doesn't get me.

    Last night my 1-year-old woke at 3:30 am. He was stirring a bit at first, then started to really let it rip, so I got him up out of his crib and brought him into bed with me. We cuddled for a while. Then suddenly, he wanted to get off the bed and I said no. Then he started to scream and throw himself around on the bed before eventually being sick everywhere.

    It was now 4:30 am. I dutifully changed the sheets, changed my son, changed myself, and then we climbed back into bed, the smell of vomit still lingering.

    I tried to put him back in his crib around 5 am but he woke right up. I brought him back into bed with me, but quickly realized this wasn't what he wanted either. He was thrashing around again, trying to figure out a way off of the bed.

    Finally, close to 6 am he decided he wanted to go to sleep. After about 10 minutes of watching him sleep, I felt brave enough to try to put him back in his room. I gently lifted him up, placed him in his crib and quietly crept back into my bed.

    This left me with just enough time to fall back into a deep sleep, which meant I felt exhausted when my alarm went off just after 7 am.

    Sadly, last night wasn't a one-off. This is a fairly frequent occurrence for me (although dealing with vomit is luckily quite rare!). Which means that when I say I understand what it's like to have a baby who doesn't sleep, I really mean it.

    So here's what I want you to know, mama.

    If you are awake in the night because your baby needs you then you are not alone. Despite what you might read, it's common for babies to wake up through the night. So if you're sitting in bed feeling like you're the only mother in the world awake, trust me, you're far from it.

    There are mamas like us all over the world. Sitting there in the dark. Cuddling babies or soothing them to sleep again. Some, like me, might be changing sheets or abandoning any hope of getting sleep that night at all. Others might be up and down like a yo-yo every few hours. The rest might just be up once and then will be able to go back to sleep.

    There will, however, also be mamas who are sound asleep. Mamas who have older children who no longer wake in the night. And they would want you to know that it will be okay. It won't be forever. One day, you'll realize that your baby no longer needs or wants you in the night.

    And while you'll be so glad for your sleep you'll probably also be a little sad that there are no more night time cuddles.

    It's hard to cope with a baby who doesn't sleep well at night. Really hard sometimes. You may feel like you can't deal with it anymore or you may be wishing that this phase would just stop already so you can get some rest.

    Exhaustion often means that you struggle to get through the day. It can mean that you find it hard to drag yourself out of bed. Or if you're anything like me, you might be irritable and snap at the people you love. Or maybe it means relying on caffeine, sugar and Netflix to get you and your kiddos through the day.

    But here's the amazing thing about mothers—no matter what has gone down during the night, we get up as usual. We go about our day just like everyone else. We care for and love our children, without giving them a hard time for disrupting our sleep. We don't moan, we don't complain. We just get on with it.

    And when night comes, we go to bed knowing that there's every chance we'll be awake in the middle of the night again...

    We get up without fail when our babies need us and we do what we need to do for them. Because we are the nighttime warriors. We are mamas.

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