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Kveller: A Jewish Twist on Parenting

raising kvell logoKvell is a Yiddish word meaning, according to Kveller.com, to burst with pride, as over one’s child. Kveller.com hosts two popular blogs at their website, including the personal blog of Mayim Bialik and the Jewish parenting blog, Raising Kvell.

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March 4, 2013

Why I Won’t Let My Kids Do the Laundry  Perhaps the most difficult thing about parenting teens is letting go–ceding control over their lives, or recognizing that you never really had any control–and preparing them to leave you. When my girls were toddlers, their wise grandparents told me this, … Continue reading →

January 29, 2013

The Anniversary of My Miscarriage  Every year, at the end of January, I feel a little sad. This began in 1997, when I was nearly 11 weeks into my second pregnancy and I miscarried. There were so many reasons not to be sad–to be hopeful–then … Continue reading →

January 17, 2013

My Daughter & Her Boyfriend’s Jeans I’m standing at the kitchen sink when my eldest walks past me to the table to pack her lunch. “What’s all over your pants?” “They’re distressed.” “Did you rip them?!” “No, they came like that. It’s a style.” She pauses for effect … Continue reading

January 7, 2013

Parenting Teens & Anxiety Dreams I have a recurring nightmare. It’s not a classic anxiety dream, like the ones where you find yourself standing naked at a podium with no notes or teleprompter. Mine is a maternal dream. In my dream, my teenage daughter, my mother-in-law, and I are standing on the Golden Gate Bridge… Continue reading→

January 2, 2013

My New Year’s Eve Glimpse of Life After Kids Do you and your spouse ever wonder what kind of couple you will be “after?” I mean, after the children are grown, after they’re out of the house? I can only vaguely remember what we were like in the early BC years of our marriage… Continue reading

December 27, 2012

My Son’s Imaginary Friend is a Criminal When my children were younger, and people would inevitably remark about how well they “entertained themselves,” I would reluctantly acknowledge that I encouraged them by ignoring them. I never neglected my children, and I was enchanted by them–I read them … Continue reading

December 17, 2012

My Parenting Mistake: I Didn’t Talk to My Son About Sandy Hook I have made many mistakes as a parent. But none as terrible as the one I made this weekend. I am struck by this realization as I drive my son to school this morning. Perhaps it is the act of … Continue reading →

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Assessments

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From third grade through graduation from Middle School, every report card was the same:
“Pamela is an excellent student, but she needs to participate more in class.”

I was a shy child, an introvert and a bookworm. I never raised my hand in class because I was never 100% certain that I had the right answer.  Today we call those students “low risk takers.” Back then I was an example of the extreme case: I was risk-averse.

Whenever I tell my children about my life as a student and about the assessments of my teachers, they contradict my story. Similarly, many people who meet me now believe me to be an extrovert.  They are mistaken.

Most people think that introverts and extroverts occupy two opposite ends of a spectrum, and they assume that all outgoing people are extroverts. This is a misunderstanding that emerged in popular culture. Psychologists do not define these terms based upon interpersonal relationships and behavior.  Nor do they view people as being one or the other; rather they define people as having dominant and recessive traits of both extraversion and introversion.  Introverts are not necessarily quiet and shy—like I was when I was younger—but tend to need quiet time to reflect, and they need to recharge after an extended period of social stimulation.

In high school, I made a concerted effort to “come out of my shell” and take risks in the classroom and in social settings.  It was not easy or comfortable to shift my behavior outward; I remember having to practice in front of a mirror, making eye contact and holding my hands steady.  It helped that my best friend, Lisa, drew me out of my interior world.

As an adult, I am quite sociable. That is a characteristic or personality trait. If you ask my spouse, he will confirm this fact and, most likely, complain about having to wait for me to leave the synagogue after services. But I find that I must recharge in solitude—I prefer to curl up with a book or take a walk alone—to recover from too much extraversion. And every time I take the Myers-Briggs test, which measures a person’s orientation toward internal reflection, my score falls squarely in the Introvert quadrant.  My results on that assessment are as predictable as my elementary and middle school report cards.

The realization that I can be a sociable, introverted person has helped me make better choices in the second half of my career and in my life, especially as a spouse and parent.

I think anyone can benefit from an affirmation of who she is.

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More Connectivity

My Cyber-Rabbi, Arnie Samlan, whose Twitter feed I follow religiously, tweets the following question weekly: “Hey, folks! It’s Friday. What have we learned this week?”

I’m not sure how he knows my inner thoughts: “I want to learn something new. I need to learn something new.” I’ve repeating these words in an undertone, like a prayer.

Perhaps Rabbi Samlan can read minds from 1,000 miles away, and his Twitter handle JewishConnectivity is actually a revelation of his rabbinic superpower.  Or, perhaps we simply share a common world-view, which he expressed to me in another tweet:

“When we stop learning and growing, we stop living.”

I read this tweet aloud and immediately respond, “Amen.”

So, in advance of your Friday question, Rabbi, here’s my reply:

“I learned the first of God’s 99 names in Arabic: Al-Malik.”

My hevruta (friend and study partner) is a patient teacher. She chose Al-Malik (the King) as the first name to teach me because it appears in the first chapter of the Quran, which Muslims recite during their daily prayers.  It struck me—as she wrote Al-Malik on her tabletop whiteboard—that Jews begin the morning liturgy on holidays by chanting this same name of God, HaMelekh.  During our study session we discovered many similarities in how we approach and address God.

With a steady hand on the whiteboard, she reassured me that I could learn the four ways to write each letter, despite that my memory is less nimble in middle age. After allowing me to mispronounce God’s name repeatedly, she encouraged me to write Al-Malik in my notebook and asked me to write the Hebrew equivalent for her alongside it.

We are meeting bi-weekly, which ought to allow me sufficient time to practice my Arabic script and to research the parallel Hebrew names of God. Between meetings I’m sure that we will email our thoughts to each other, connecting our souls across cyberspace sans whiteboard.

And as we learn and grow together we’ll also connect—God willing/Insha’allah—to Al-Malik/HaMelekh.

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