After we took care of Ezra's many ailments – including obtaining antibiotics for his growing and infected callous or wart or god-forbid-Lyme-disease (our obliging pharmacist allowed a text from my pediatrician father-in-law to act as a prescription) – we all settled comfortably into Florence, and Florence obliged like a bean bag chair.
My husband Michael is leaving today. Last night I was crying on his shoulder saying,
"Don't leave me alone with these mean people!"
Now, that was after I was almost arrested in the Paris Metro, because I couldn't produce my used ticket. Or rather, I gave the ticket in my back pocket to the Metro Policeman, he said something I didn’t understand and pulled me aside, asking me to pay 35 Euros for not having a ticket.
Within just a few hours of being in Paris, everything changed – and I don't mean just the language and the landscape. Once off the train, a surprisingly relaxing six and a half hour TGV to Gare de Lyon, we all went from being peaceful to on edge almost instantly.
In the taxi, where the unfriendly driver didn't warm to me despite my grammatically correct statements about the weather and the traffic, the boys were making up jokes and laughing. They suddenly sounded very loud. When I told them to keep it down, I noticed that it was the first time I had hushed them in days.
We walked home tonight after schlepping through the city in search of a kids official Barcelona team travel jersey in a medium (sold out everywhere), and I saw a band setting up at the mouth of the Passeig del Born near our apartment. We heard the familiar baseline to Rock Lobster as the band warmed up, and Maxon got excited to hear one of his favorite songs.
And while I prepared dinner, the band started playing. Heavy Metal. Why, Barcelona Committee of Block Parties, did you choose a metal band? And why, Barcelona Metal Band, are you playing a set longer than Springsteen's?
I know a few things: The boys don't really love camp – especially Maxon, who requested a camp-free summer. Neither want overnight camp, and we're in no hurry to send them (yes I'm sure we're Jewish). Ezra enjoys a sports-specialized week here and there, but they don't dig on the general day camp, which makes paying for it especially painful. For the past few years I've scheduled, coordinated and chauffeured week-long camps for each kid during the months of June and July, and found that there isn't enough Xanax in the tri-state area to make that tolerable.
Since the weather broke, we've been allowing Maxon, who is 11, and Ezra, who is 8, to ride their bikes and scooters around our neighborhood just south of Center City. I set boundaries, which includes the playground up the street. In the afternoons I can see them see them whiz past the kitchen windows as I'm cooking dinner, a blur of hoodies and hair, and I remember what it was like to speed through my mother's suburban neighborhood unsupervised, as I often did because helicopter parents didn't yet exist.
Last night, Ezra stood on the sofa, arms outstretched for what he calls his Carry. He asked me which one was my bad shoulder, and he settled into my arms for his nightly ride up the stairs. Every night I carry his 62-pound, giraffe-limbed body up the one flight of stairs to his bedroom.
One of these nights – maybe even tonight – will be the last time we do The Carry.
When my husband asked me to do the Whole 30 with him, I was totally on board. I thought the plan, which calls for eliminating alcohol, sugar, grains, soy, legumes and dairy for 30 days, would purify my body.
Maxon came home from school one day with a tale of a fight between some kids in his class. He told me what he heard happened, who was injured and how badly, who was punished and how severely.
The next day, Maxon learned the truth from the teachers, and it wasn't a surprise to me that the two stories didn't match up.
"It didn't happen the way everyone said it did, huh?" I asked Maxon.
"That is gossip," I said (sadly not in an Irish accent like Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Doubt"). "In Hebrew we call it lashon hara."
Lashon hara, the evil tongue, is considered a weighty sin in Judaism – bad enough for God to saddle you with a nasty skin disease and banish you for a week, which is what happened to Miriam when she dissed her brother for marrying a Cushite.
For the third night of Chanukah, I took Maxon to see one of his favorite comedians, John Mulaney. I would say that Mulaney is rated PG-13 for mild language and mature situations. But the comedian who opened for him, Seaton Smith, was definitely rated R.
Now, just like I don't expect to see Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and Dracula Untold movie trailers before Guardians of the Galaxy (I'd like to have a word with you, Walt Disney Studios), I don't expect the opener for a PG-13 comedian to tell jokes about tuchus schtupping.
The recent article in Rolling Stone magazine about sexual assault at UVA made me think about my experiences in college. I remember my first fraternity party, when I was a freshman at George Washington University. I am not a big drinker, and I wasn't drunk when a fraternity brother invited me up to his room. I can't say exactly what ruse he used to get me up there, but I have a faint memory of him wanting to show me his pet lizard.
When Maxon was about 2 or 3 years old, he started making a gritty noise that sounded like he was chewing rocks. I quickly recognized it as tooth grinding. He would work his jaw intermittently throughout the day – a sound which both worried me and turned my skin inside out. I was reassured by the pediatrician and Google that this was a temporary thing, and after several weeks, he did stop.
I didn't think anything of it and enjoyed the absence of Grindy.
Halloween (aka Shabbatoween) was delightful. Ezra put his tiny body into a muscled-up Iron Man suit, then asked me to spray his hair black and give him an eyeliner goatee so he could be Tony Stark. I straightened and geled Maxon's hair and bought him an Ed Hardy shirt and costume rings so he could be Stefon, the flamboyant New York City correspondent fromSaturday Night Live's "Weekend Update."
Oh, evening grownup time. Kids-are-in-bed time. Clock-out-of-parenting time. It is a precious decompression period – a chorus line of hours once able to accommodate a meal, a drink and a three-episode binge of The Wire.
But older kids stay up later, eroding our grownup time to an hour, sometimes two.
You break the rules, you get punished. That's how it works, right?
Well, it's not working.
When it comes to our younger son especially, while he vociferously protests the punishment as the punishment is happening, the memory of that punishment rarely prevents a repeat performance of the unwanted behavior. He's 8 years old and still throwing the same tantrums he was throwing when he was 2. He's still lying about brushing his teeth. He's still sneaking the iPad into his bed.
When it comes to sugar consumption in my house, I feel like I am running a methadone clinic. I make meals for the kids every day, doling out what I think is an acceptable sugar ration, then spend the rest of the day being hustled for early access to the Halloween stash and Gatorades and Lucky Charms and cereal bars that might as well be candy bars and crackers that might as well be cookies.
You know that time in your parenting when you and your child keep doing the same dance of an argument over and over again, and your punishments aren't working and his behavior isn't changing, and there is a huge pile of his stuff in your office because you keep removing his favorite things from his bedroom that he never earns back, and every time he takes slow motion steps when you ask him to hurry you realize he is actually flipping you the middle finger?
Well, that's been happening a lot to me. If you have been following my blog over the last few weeks, you have read about my 8-year-old son, Ezra, and his anger management issues. It's my go-to topic in conversations with my girlfriends, and Monday afternoon during Ezra's soccer practice I was at it again, unloading on a friend who wasn't familiar with the troubles I've seen. As a child therapist, she had some insight that I put to the test on our way home from soccer.
During the Days of Awe this year, I have been thinking a lot about a conversation I had last Sunday with my 8-year-old son, Ezra, after he angered me with his defiant back-talk. I have been asking myself – do I continue to forgive him for the same infractions over and over again?
Ezra is very good at apologizing for talking back and not listening. He is sincere, contrite and adorable. Until I ask him to do something he is morally against, such as teeth brushing or bed making. Then there is no justice, no peace.