Monday, 3 June 2013

Parenting Teens

Okay, I'm back. And yes, I was away long enough that I had forgotten my username and password and of course I hadn't written them down (because that would be so un-security conscious, right?) so I had to figure out which account I had attached them to, and re-set my passwords and that took most of my time right there.

Yeah, like you never do that. Hmmm, maybe you don't. Maybe it's just me. Maybe the rest of you have a system?

I'm digressing. It was a busy week in my Jewish life and I'm not sure I'm ever going to get to all of it, but maybe I'll start with the most recent and work backwards.

I went to the lecture series last Thursday night offered by NCSY on parenting teens.

It was really good. The speakers were Dr. Simon Davidson, the chief of psychiatry at CHEO, Dr. Jacob Kaiserman who is an adolescent psychologist and Bram Bregman, the NCSY Executive Director. Each of them focused on different aspects of teen growth, and then there was discussion and then dessert and a more informal discussion.

Each spoke briefly and then there was time for questions and discussion afterwards. There was tons of discussion. I'm sure they'd call it "lively discussion". I recognized many of the people in the audience as we all have kids about the same age.

I did take notes, but I'm paraphrasing and summarizing what they said, and I clearly don't have exactly what they said. But I welcome your comments on their talks that night. And if you get the chance to go and hear them, I would encourage it.

Dr. Davidson started and talked about adolescents striving for maturity, and parents, striving to deal with that. And then he had some specific parenting pointers he wanted to make: I think the pointers were fairly simple, keep communication lines open, eat dinner together, don't try to catch your kids doing the wrong things, but rather the right things, and picking your battles.

Dr. Kaiserman talked about relationships, attachment and how our goal for our children is for them to become good people. We want strong relationships with our children. He talked about emotional intelligence and empathy, and setting limits, and that we don't have to be right all the time.

And then Bram Bregman talked about identity and growing up Jewish and developing a positive sense of Jewish identity. He had three main points, the importance of personally meaningful Judaism, that a positive Jewish identity is rooted in positive Jewish experiences and he even said that if the end result of dragging your teens to Yom Kippur made them angry it was better not to take them (yeah, I know, shocking). And he talked about the importance of Jewish friends and peer groups and he talked about getting the kids to engage in Judaism, including family and community rituals and activities.

I suspect that there aren't many people who know more about engaging Jewish teens in a positive way than Bram Bregman, and I was very interested in what he had to say. I think we should get him to come talk to us Trippies, what do you think?

I found all of them made a lot of sense, but I don't think I've done any of them much justice here.

I think most people had questions, but of course we are somewhat reluctant to "out" our kids by asking questions that might come back to haunt them. The questions dealt with social media, recognizing red flags, giving kids responsibility among other things.

The discussion was lively, and I think everyone was glad they had come.


Thursday, 9 May 2013


Can I just say how much I like listening to my son practicing his Parasha for his Bar Mitzvah?

I like his voice, I like the togetherness of it, and I like what it says about his Jewishness. Okay maybe I love all those things.

It just makes me happy.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Loshon Hora

We have weekly classes with different trips that discuss Jewish issues, stories, laws, traditions, etc. 

Tonight's meeting was about Loshon Hora. Last week's was too. And it's such a fascinating subject to me that I don't really know where to start to talk about it.

It's Hebrew and it means derogatory speech about someone else.

I don't know if I had ever really heard about it until we went to Israel and Lori Palatnik talked about it. It was certainly the first time the idea really made an impression on me.  I forget exactly what she said, but I did walk out of that room, out of that lecture, wondering what I could say, who I could say it to, and thinking maybe I should just be quiet for a while, as I was at risk of breaking the rules.

There are tons of rules about it, and nuances, maybe as many nuances as there are different situations where you might speak ill of someone. And really the guiding principle seems to be that you shouldn't speak ill of anyone, and that your intention should be good.

The basic rule  is that one should never portray a derogatory image of someone even if that image is accurate.

So if someone said that somebody was having an affair (or stealing or greedy or bossy), even if the news was true, that would be loshon hora.

Now there could occasionally be exceptions for saying something, like when a person needs to be warned about potential harm or that a situation really needs to be addressed. In my example, if the person who had an affair was planning to marry a friend, maybe someone would need to warn the friend. Or if a person who was stealing asked a friend to go into business, someone should warn the friend.

My notes caution that one should weigh one's motivation in speaking out, and perhaps consult with a Rabbi before telling.

Why does it speak so strongly to me? I think because it's so easy to be hurt by words or to use words to hurt someone else.

Lauren asked our class tonight, "do you remember the worst thing someone ever said about you?" My answer was "yes", it was something so hurtful that I still remember it a lot of years later, and no, I'm not telling. 

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Israel Impressions

Do you remember being on the trip, being in the airport in Canada, and thinking, "I don't really know these women, I wonder how this is going to work."

Do you remember getting off the plane, tired, stiff, getting everyone out of the airport, and onto the bus and sorting out phones? Was Lori there to meet you with her sign that said "Welcome Home!"

Do you remember the bus ride north, to Tiberius or to the border? Sitting with someone, looking out the windows at fences and barbed wire, and the beautiful flowering trees?

And then Decks? Dinner, dancing, new friends?

Did you get to do the rafting? I did the first time. I think that was a major bonding moment. Laughing together, getting wet (some more than others) seeing the beauty of Israel.

What about Tsfat? Wasn't that cool? Some touring, some history, some shopping. Some bonding. Not enough time for shopping btw, there are still things I want from Tsfat. The glassblower, the synagogues, the hills. Did you stop and see the beauty and drink the pomegranate juice and see the Mikvah?

What about being in Jerusalem, how tired were you that first night? How overwhelmed? I couldn't wait to see it all in daylight. In this past visit we pulled open the balcony door in the King Solomon and discovered the balcony not as stable as I wanted it, but we were right across from the Windmill. Awesome. Beautifu. Amazing.

And the next day, walking to the Aish building and seeing the Kotel from the windows of the building? Did that make you cry? Was that amazing? Location, location, location. Right?

And the rush from there on in, the food, songs, prayers, shopping, stories, sightseeing. The new friends. The realizing that the similarities were more important than the differences.

What did you see? What did you buy? Clothing or jewelry or dates? Who was with you?

Did you love the tours or the sessions or the people?

Did you go for coffee or donuts or dinners? Did you buy wine in the corner stores? Do you know where the bomb shelters were?

What did you think of the soldiers? And Shabbat? And Havdallah? And the markets?

And somehow, at the end, we were a team, a group, a sisterhood. New friendships, new understandings of ourselves and each other.

Would you go again? What's your biggest take away impression? In one word?

Would you send a friend? Who would you send? Why?

What do you remember? What would you want Lauren and Lori and JET to know?

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

D'var Torah

We were at the cottage, 17 of us, and it was Shabbat, and we'd been told we each had to do a D'var Torah.

And as each woman took her turn (no, not all together at one time; they were spread throughout the day on Shabbat) it was amazing how so many of them were wise and insightful and made us think or comment. Most of the women had done a fair bit of work on them, some of us, just pulling it together at the last minute, but I think all of them came together to offer wisdom and reflection on the Torah or HafTorah portions or on the Omer or on other aspects that interested each of us as we thought about what to say.

There were a couple in particular that I really was impressed by. Though if it hadn't been Shabbat with JET I would have taken notes and been able to tell you what they were and what really spoke to me about them. Sigh. 

And we discovered, weird coincidence that two of the women had had Bar Mitzvah boys on that week in years gone by. One commented on it, and the other told us what her boy had said.

Several of the D'var Torahs (yes I do remember that's not the right plural, help me out here ladies?) tended to be about the festivals that were given to the Jewish people, back in the day, described in the Torah portion for Emor.

I have to confess that somehow I hadn't read the whole Torah portion before I went; somehow I'd only printed the first portion of it (there are 7) and I wasn't very inspired by what I read in the first, so I was a pretty good audience for what the others had to say.

I think it was kind of neat to have homework before the event, though I'm surprised at myself for saying that.  I certainly never used to think that, back in the day. And maybe it was more about having thought something out, having brought something to share, than about having the homework, but I think most people enjoyed the delivery and discussions that followed.

And maybe even the challenge of preparing ourselves to prepare and present it. Maybe. 

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Cottage Weekend

This past weekend was a bit of an eyeopener and a lot of fun.

I went away with a bunch of women, some of whom I had gone to Israel with and some of whom had gone with the same group, but different years from me. 

I was a little nervous about how well I would get along with everyone.

After all, I have a fantastic bond with the women I went with.

Some of these other women were women I had known for many years. And really, we didn't have much of a bond.

So I was nervous about what would happen. Would they like me? Would I like them? Would we have fun?

And it was amazing.

I think it's not the depth of the bond I have with the women I traveled with for 10 days. But it was awesome and better than it had ever been before.

We laughed together and cried together, ate and drank together, prayed and told stories and did D'var Torahs together. I wish I remember the plural for that.

We learned together and walked together and put out a fire together and almost sailed off on a raft together.

I'm SO glad I went.

And now I want to go again with everyone else.

Thanks for letting me go.