Make it Stop

violence 2


I first saw it on FB  (that won’t surprise anyone.  1. that it was on FB and 2. that is where I get  my news alerts).

A friend had posted that her husband, who works at the Navy Yard, was safe.  Confused, I turned on the television only to learn that yet another person had taken innocent lives with a gun.

My  first reaction was out and out anger. I was pissed!

After watching too much news coverage on the local news,  I returned to the ‘source’ and saw a friend’s FB post about “death to the Yankees” (clearly a die hard Red Sox fan).   I gently asked if he would  consider squashing or obliterating the Yankees in light of the recent news.  He had, of course, not heard about the tragedy at the Navy Yard and quickly deleted the unintentional faux pax (Yankees or no Yankees).

This most recent tragedy is really eating at me.  I am an emotional person and always experience the sadness and loss of these senseless acts; but the amount of anger that is upon me was unexpected.

Tonight a client  told me about his five year old misbehaving.   Apparently this adorable kindergartener had “decorated” his bathroom with his sister’s make-up. He did this not once or twice, but as of last night, FIVE times.  His dad and I discussed his consequences and how they escalated in severity with each new lavatory masterpiece. We questioned what might be driving his behavior: negative attention, resentment at sister or just a budding artist?

Five times? He took his sister’s make-up five times?  What can his parents do to help him learn from his mistakes? How can he convey whatever the message is that he is trying to communicate? There is clearly something amiss in the dynamics of this family system.

I return to the latest violence.  Five times? I wish it had only been five times that some mentally ill person had taken a gun and redecorated the lives of an innocent family.  What  is the dynamic of this system? How many consequences  need to occur before some parents somewhere get their act together and stop this misbehaving?

I can still be stunned when one of my kids looks at me as the “grown-up”, the one to make a decision, the one to make it right.  Is it me, my peers, we adults that have to curb the insanity of this misbehaving?

I feel powerless.

I can vote, I can lobby and I can work diligently on the issues of mental health, but I can’t stop this insanity.  An elementary school, a high school, a college, a movie theater, a marathon.  These are our places, these are our lives, these are our friends and families that are getting killed – when will the grown ups make it stop?


Culturally touched



The best social life I ever had was when I was thirteen.  Being Jewish and growing up in a largely Jewish area makes for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah celebration at least every weekend (sometimes multiple parties per weekend).   As a parent of a current twelve year old (and two older teens) living in a very non-Jewish area,  although not the rocking party scene that I had going on in 1978, I have attended many Bar Mitzvahs in the last several years.

I have written extensively about my  work with adopted kids in my therapy practice. I have had the privilege of not only working with adopted kids, but also enjoying wonderful relationships with many adopted adults and children adopted into families of my dearest friends.

At a recent Bar Mitzvah service of a close family friend, I  glanced  to my right during the singing of a Hebrew prayer.  My eyes fell upon three Jewish girls of Chinese descent belting out this beautiful song.  My gaze lingered on them as if  stuck in a trance and I found my eyes filling with joyful tears.

This scene hits me again and again.  I am blessed to be surrounded by many adopted  children of all ethnicities at our synagogue and am repeatedly touched in a very profound way.  At the Jewish summer camp where my children attend, the staff are excellent  at providing photographs to us eager parents on a daily basis.  I may or may not peruse many of the photos (not just those of my kids) to get a richer view of all that is camp.  During my hours few moments a day spent looking at the camp fun, I again see   children born from a multitude of  ethnicities who are being raised in Jewish homes  that are singing Hebrew songs, praying at Shabbat services and whooping it up at this Jewish camp.

I am trying to articulate what I find so emotional about witnessing these children of varied ethnicities (Asian, African, Columbian, Russian etc.) being raised Jewish.  I have friends who have adopted domestically and are raising their American and, most often Christian born children, Jewish as well.  I am similarly moved by their experience, yet the adoption issue is less obvious at a quick glance since the Caucasian kids adopted into Caucasian families more often resemble their parents (a common topic in therapy sessions with many of my internationally adopted clients).

Adoption is often so much about identity.  Who am I? Where did I come from? Who did I come from? Who am I now?  Why why why was I given away?  I am constantly aware of the beauty and complexity of the adoptive family; the joy of the parents who have brought their child into the family, the bonding that has occurred, the variety of cultures involved and the whispers of ghosts of the birth family.

And, for many, Judaism is very much about an identity; not just a religious identity, but one of huge cultural significance as well.  The food, the jokes, the sayings, the holidays, they are all part of the culture of being Jewish.

As one who studies and counsels children who are seeking an understanding of both their birth and adoptive identities, adding this rich Jewish identity, something very meaningful to me, is rather touching.  These little girls that I saw singing at the Bar Mitzvah lived in orphanages in China, they  are now being raised in loving families with  a strong Jewish heritage with which to embrace.  My hope is that when they are feeling those moments of loss or sadness that can be inherent in an adoptive child’s experience that there will be something loving and warm that they can grasp from their Jewish upbringing.

A family bris

A family bris

Summer Assignments

As I wrote a few weeks ago, I was fully aware that summer was petering out and we were about to be slammed into back-to-school chaos.  The sky is darkening, the winds are blowing and I see the storm school buses on the horizon.  Yes, lunches are packed, back packs are ready and MY SON IS STILL DOING HIS SUMMER ASSIGNMENTS.

He is a rising 10th grader who was assigned a math packet, a 550 page book to read and:

The Summer Assignment for AP World History & Geography has three parts:

Part I Read the following selections from World Civilizations:

The Global Experience (6th Edition) and summarize. Part I: The Rise of Agriculture and Agricultural Civilizations (pages 2-7) Part II: The Classical Period, 1000 BCE – 500 CE (pages 34-39) Part III: The Postclassical Era (pages 130-135) Part IV: The World Shrinks, 1450-1750 (pages 354-359) Part V: Industrialization and Western Global Hegemony, 1750-1914 (pages 520-525) Part VI: The 20th Century in World History (pages 650-657)

Part II Read Chapters 31, 32, 33 & 34 of World Civilizations: The Global Experience (6th edition), and using the HEADINGS AND SUBHEADINGS in each chapter, take notes/outline. PLEASE INCLUDE NOTES ON THE THINKING HISTORICALLY FOR EACH CHAPTER AS WELL.

Part III Define the following terms and include a sentence about their historical significance. DO NOT INCLUDE THE TERMS IN THE NOTES.

Then 51 terms are listed, I will spare you the details.

AP or Basic Studies, why do they have to do what looks like half of a semester’s worth of work during the summer?  I could rant on and on about all of these kids’ summer trips, camps, work schedules which don’t necessarily allow the time for cumbersome workloads, but that isn’t even the point.

What about SUMMER BREAK?

These kids work hard all year long.  They have  the added pressure to keep up with their studies throughout Winter and Spring Breaks.  I see many teenage clients on a regular basis due to anxiety and stress that they experience during the busy school year. I don’t understand why they can’t just get a rest during the summer.

Another rant I have which piggybacks on the Summer Assignment rant is that in May when SOL’s (Standard of Learning  Exams in the State of Virginia) are finished, the students spend many a class watching Finding Nemo and Shrek.  I wish I were kidding; last spring my oldest son complained that he had to watch the same movie in two different classes on the same day.  I wonder why the self-taught chapters that they are grinding through now can’t somehow be taught in lieu of Disney movie week during the academic day in high school.

I feel badly about writing this negativity (and posting it) as we jump into the new school year.  Facebook is covered with posts about new learning opportunities, excited kindergarteners and fresh beginnings.  But, these summer assignments are a reality that are troublesome; how can these high schoolers feel any sense of excitement or positive energy about starting a new school year after spending the past several weeks with their heads in the books?

The scene at my dining room table

The scene at my dining room table