Category Archives: parenting

tehila and meir engaged

Celebrating Chanuka, a birthday….and another engagement!!!

Dd22 celebrated her 23rd birthday on the first night of Chanuka in a very special way – by getting engaged!

We are delighted to announce the engagement of Tehila to Meir Samberg of Memphis, TN!

tehila and meir engaged

The l’chaim was at our house last night (the first night of Chanuka).

For Michal’s lechaim exactly two weeks ago, I shared a picture of the expanded Werner ladies group.  Below is the expanded Werner guy group. :)

L - r: ds11 months, dh, ds24, Meir (dsil1);

L – r: ds11 months, dh, ds24, Meir (dsil1);ds15, ds11, ds18, Amitai (dsil2), ds10; front: ds8 and ds5

Dh and I with our three couples!

Dh and I with our three couples! L- r: dh, ds24, dsil2, Meir (dsil1), Tehila (dd23), dd21, ddil1, Avivah

I can’t tell you what a beautiful feeling it is to watch one’s children find their soulmate! Each and every one has chosen such a special person who is uniquely suited to him/her. Really, it’s remarkable. And so exciting!

The engagement party will be this Monday evening from 8 – 10 pm in RBS at the Bais Mordechai shul. If you’re reading this and are local, please consider this an invitation!

Avivah

Family picture 2017:
Back row, l-r:  Front row:

Engagement party and staying calm behind the scenes

Saturday night was the official engagement party, and we feel so blessed to have been able to share our simcha with friends and family!

There wasn’t a lot of time to prepare but we wanted to have the engagement party while Amitai’s parents were here; they flew in from the US and are here for just a week.

My primary goal was to stay calm and keep our home environment relaxed. Too many times, when people are preparing for events, the spirit of the event gets totally lost in the stress and strain behind the scenes. I didn’t want to be that person yelling at my family to hurry up and do more – and then smooth a smile onto my face as if everything was wonderful all along when the guests arrived.

We made all the food ourselves; the older kids weren’t around much so there was a lot that I needed to do. When I finally had someone around to stay home with the younger kids so I could go out to do some needed party shopping, it was already Friday morning. This isn’t the kind of thing I would have usually pushed off until this point but you can only do what you can do!

Then with my loaded cart paid for and ready to get home, there were no taxis in the entire city available – and the dispatcher told me there would be no taxis anytime before Shabbos! It was a very unusual situation, one I’ve never experienced before, and I was kind of smiling to myself at the Heavenly opportunity I was being given to practice staying calm. My husband called a friend who came to my rescue and I got home after a 40 minute delay. By then it was 1 pm, with less than three hours to do the final party preparations as well as finish cooking for Shabbos.

My personal experience is that my thoughts are what create pressure, not the external events. For a long time I thought it was the other way around – I was pressured because I had so much to do – and I’ve been working on shifting in this area for quite a while.  It’s a good thing I’ve made this a conscious effort because otherwise there’s no way it would have been calm and pleasant for anyone behind the scenes!

I have to admit that for about 30 minutes after I got home, I felt a lot of pressure because there were so many things vying for my attention. I didn’t act on that feeling but the feeling was there. My mother and her husband arrived during that time (they came from the north to be here for the engagement party and spent Shabbos with us), the groceries needed to be unpacked and everyone needed to be directed to get involved and help, while I needed time to just figure out what to do next. And some others in the family who understood how much there was to do and how little time there was to do it were stressed.

The party was on Saturday night; everyone in our family who was able to pitched in and it all got done! Most importantly, I was able to enjoy the preparations and enjoy the party itself.

m engagement food 1

 

Dd22 baked this cake for her sister

The heart cake (along with a number of other baked goods) was made by dd22

Here’s an updated family photo with our wonderful new couple!

Family picture 2017: Back row, l-r: Front row:

Family picture 2017: back row, l-r: ds18, Amitai, dh, ds15, Michal, ds24, ddil1, dd22, me
Front row, l-r: ds10, ds11, ds8, ds5, ds11 months, dd17

(For those who are wondering what my abbreviations are, here you go! Dd stands for dear daughter, ds is dear son, and the number that follows is the age. Dh is dear husband. Ddil1 is dear daughter-in-law/love 1 – married to our first son.)

The feedback from my children was that the party was really nice – and both the older girls told me how relaxed it was. I heard one telling her friend on the phone, “It was so relaxed and that doesn’t even make any sense because there was so much to do!”

Very grateful to be busy for such a good reason!

Avivah

Dd21 is engaged!

I am so happy to share with you that our daughter Michal (referred to here as dd21) is now engaged to Amitai Zaroom from Brooklyn, NY!

Michal engagementAmitai’s parents flew in today from the US.  They met Michal and right afterward both sets of parents met.  Really lovely people – no surprise, since their son is such a wonderful guy!  The l’chaim took place soon afterward at our home!

We are so filled with gratitude to experience this continued expansion of our family!

The four Werner girls - (l to r): dd17, dil1, dd22, dd21

Our expanded Werner sister group at the l’chaim- (l to r): dd17, dil1, dd22, dd21

The engagement party will take place in RBS-A this Saturday night at the Bais Mordechai shul on Nachal Luz from 8 – 10 pm.  If you’re local, please consider yourself invited! I’d love to see you there!

Avivah

loss of family

A sobering guided imagery exercise demonstrates the power of family

At the end of last week, my husband and I spent two very intense days at the mandatory foster care workshop that we were supposed to attend before bringing a child home. Obviously since Rafael has been with us nine months, that requirement was deferred but we made a commitment to complete the seminar before a year went by.

The room was filled with eleven couples who had passed the rest of the foster care screening process; attendance at this seminar was the final requirement before receiving approval to foster. Two of us already had children with us, nine didn’t. My husband and I were both impressed with the caliber of the couples there – really solid parents with good communication, stable families and a strong desire to give. In almost every couple, one spouse worked in the education or psychology fields.

The last seminar that was held took place the day before my son’s wedding, so attending that one wasn’t an option. I went to this because I had to, but I didn’t expect to learn much. Since this intended to prepare parents for fostering before bringing a child home, I thought it would be two very long and boring days of lectures about a topic that wasn’t really relevant to me anymore.

I was wrong. Although a lot of the content didn’t directly apply to our situation, I found the presentations very interesting and thought-provoking. Of course I love hearing about anything having to do with any aspect of child development! I made notes on a number of the activities they did but as much as I want to go through each one and share my thoughts with you on how it applies to parenting in general, I know I’m not going to have time so I’ll share just one!

This is the activity that I found the most powerful and it really deeply affected me. It was a guided imagery exercise. Sounds relaxing, right? It wasn’t.

As you read this, I suggest you imagine being in a deeply relaxed state and pause at each point that I say there was a pause, and consider the question being asked.

It went something like this:

“Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a place in your home that you love and feel relaxed.” I don’t remember if she said to imagine those you love around you or not, but I pictured myself in my garden, watching one of my children swinging. I felt very relaxed and peaceful.

(Abrupt sharp knocks on the door.) “I’m here because we’ve determined you can’t stay here anymore. There’s another family that very much wants a mother just like you and can’t wait until you come. They’re so excited that you’ll be coming! You need to get ready to leave now.”

She randomly called on people to answer, with their eyes still closed – I was the lucky first one to be called on – and asked: “How do you feel right now?”

You know how I felt? A huge pit in my stomach.

She continued. “You have thirty minutes to get your things packed up in this bag we’re going to give you. You can’t take anything big with you; it all has to fit in this bag. I don’t know when you’ll be able to come back here.” Pause.

Question to participants: “What would you take with you?”

Responses from every single person: “Photo albums, momentos to remember those I love.”

“You’re now in a car driving to your new family. As you drive, you notice the neighborhood you’re in is nicer and the homes are larger than your home.

Question: What are you thinking about right now?

Some answers: “How long it will be until I can go back to my family?” “What will the new family think of me/expect of me?”

“You get to your new home and the new family is so excited and happy to see you. Your home is beautiful and filled with many things you never had in your old home.”

Question: “How long do you think it will take you to adjust?”

Some answers: “I don’t want to adjust – I want to go back to my family.” “I’m never going to adjust.”

There were a couple more parts to the guided imagery, and then after a pause, everyone was brought back to their relaxing state, before being opening our eyes and ‘coming back’ to the room where we were.

My husband fell asleep in the middle, and as we opened our eyes, smiled at me and said, “Wow, that was great – I got a good rest!” I look at him with a pained expression and responded, “Oh, my gosh. That was a nightmare.” Feeling the loss of family, the dread, fear, loneliness, uncertainty, more fear..it was really intense.

During the discussion afterwards, we were reminded that however powerful what we experienced was, we are mature adults with a healthy self image and have had a lifetime to develop our emotional coping strategies. Young children don’t have that.

This exercise brought home to me in a deep way how much connection a child feels to his home, however imperfect and even painful it may be for him to live there.  As adults, we look at a new foster home and think how lucky the child from the troubled home is to now have a loving and stable family, a room of their own filled with toys, regular meals and clean clothes. The foster parent can understandably look at himself as saving this child, being a hero of a sort.  But for the child, it’s all frightening and unfamiliar, and often unwanted.

Even in the most unstable homes, there is emotional attachment to parents or siblings, and the familiarity of what to expect.  What this two day workshop brought home to me was the depths of loss that a child experiences, and how extraordinarily difficult it is to fill that hole.

I spoke to a number of the parents during the seminar, and every person but one told me they are reconsidering if this is something that want to do or can do. They were all discouraged and hesitant about continuing the process. The illusion of being a savior was definitely smashed and the difficulties were made very clear.

At some point during the second day, it was feeling very heavy and discouraging.  I spoke up in the middle of a session and shared my belief that the point in understanding the loss is to not to get stuck in it, but to ask how the loss can be mediated, how the hole can be filled. Yes, holes can be filled.

It doesn’t mean that the loss didn’t happen and you may not be able to completely ever fill that hole, but there’s a lot that a parent can do to create a positive and supportive environment for the child experiencing loss. Later a number of parents told us that they were very encouraged by that.

Another thing this seminar brought home to me is how extraordinarily difficult it is for anyone else to do what you do as a parent every day for your child – even these very wonderful parents who are the cream of the crop.  The power of the attachment you and your child feel for one another is so deeply significant and can’t be understated. Especially in a field in which children are constantly losing their attachment figures, the importance of those figures is so clear.

I’ve been asked a number of questions about foster care in Israel by parents considering beginning the process; if you ask your questions in the comments below, I’ll try to respond to them!

Avivah

 

Pictures from our oldest son’s wedding!

Can you believe it’s been five months since my oldest son got married?!?

I hope it’s not too late for you to enjoy these wedding photos!

I expected to have some official photos to share with you quite a while ago, but there was a delay in the discs getting to us. We got them a couple of days ago, and as I promised right after the wedding, here are some of the pictures!

Our beautiful daughter in love!

Our wonderful daugher-in-law

Our oldest son on his wedding day

Our oldest son on his wedding day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family photo (Rafael wasn't feeling well)

Family photo

All of our children (except Rafael, who wasn't feeling well)

All of our children (except Rafael, who wasn’t feeling well)

The oldest seven boys

The oldest seven boys

Ds23 with ds18 at chassan tish before wedding ceremony

Ds23 with ds18 at chassan tish before wedding ceremony

Dh and ds23

Ds23 with the best father in the world at chassan tish :)

Ds15 helping ds23 put on kittel before bedeken

Ds15 helping ds23 put on kittel before bedeken

Bedeken ceremony

Bedeken ceremony

Bedeken ceremony

Bedeken ceremony

Dh and I walking ds to chupa

Dh and I preparing to walk ds to chupa

Dh and I with ds at chupa waiting for bride to arrive

At chupa waiting for the bride

Sharing a smile under the chupa

Sharing a smile under the chupa

Immediately after wedding ceremony - my son, the married man - so emotional

Immediately after wedding ceremony – my son, the married man – so emotional

Dh and I with our lovely new couple!

Dh and I with our lovely new couple!

Our full family photo with our newest addition!

Our full family photo with our newest addition!

It’s so nice to share these family milestone events with my blog readers, who after so many years together here are almost like extended family!

Avivah

clarity

How To Get Clarity About What You Really Want

I think much of the inability to teach others how to respect you stems from a confusion as to what our needs really are or where boundaries should be. How can one achieve that kind of clarity? How does one teach others when one often cannot articulate one’s needs to oneself?

What an insightful comment on my last post!  Yes, this is completely true – so often we don’t know what we want and therefore we can’t communicate it to another person.

The six foundational principles of my Leadership Parenting approach are:

Connection, Compassion, Clarity, Courage, Calm and Correction

Every one of these are critical in parenting effectively.

Let’s talk a bit about clarity. Very, very often when parents ask me questions about how to handle different situations, I’ll ask them what they want.  “What is your goal in the situation?  How would you like this to play out?  What do you really want?”

That might seem simple, but knowing what you want often isn’t simple at all.

I recently had my first Supernanny stint, when I went into the home of clients to watch their family dynamics and see firsthand what was happening.   During our session that followed, I told the mother that she wasn’t clearly communicating to her child what she wanted of him.  In the privacy of my office, I was able to ask, “What do you want?”

She explained and explained and explained, and I finally told her: “I’m a mature adult sitting here listening to everything you’re saying, and I still don’t know what you want!  We can’t expect a child to be able to figure it out – we have to make it easy for him!”

You know why it wasn’t clear to her child or to me?  Because it wasn’t clear to her!

It’s okay not to have clarity. It’s not a moral failing. It’s understandable to feel ambivalent and have conflicting feelings about what you want. But lack of clarity can lead to unnecessary pain and frustration in our lives. To get the most out of life, you need to be able to clearly articulate to yourself what you really want.

Why is it so hard to get clarity?

  1. Sometimes we’re afraid to admit to ourselves what we want. It feels too big, too unreasonable, too hard to attain. So we readjust what we want to what we think we can have, and then we tell ourselves that’s what we want. However, there’s often a residual niggling discomfort that remains of the subordinated original desire that will keep poking at you.
  2. Sometimes the lack of clarity is because you’re living life based on what others expect of you and doing what everyone else does.
  3.  Another reason for the lack of clarity comes from having competing agendas – for example, someone who wants to be a stay at home mom and also wants career success. I recently experienced a conflict of competing agendas, which I shared at a seminar with the person leading the sessions. His feedback was that I have to be honest with myself.  That was not the answer I wanted to hear.  I felt like screaming in frustration when he gave me that answer, because (I thought) I was being honest with myself and that’s why I felt conflicted!

But when I thought it over afterwards and didn’t feel so defensive, I realized he was right. There was something I was saying that I wanted because I felt I should want that – and part of me really did want it and felt excited at the thought of taking on that role – but there was something else that I wanted more which I was giving my available life energy to.

Don’t be afraid to ask yourself, “What do I really want?”

To tune into the answer, choose a quiet place when you can be alone with your thoughts. It can be helpful to lie down with some beautiful relaxing music playing in the background, or to sit outside in nature. I like sitting in my garden – you don’t have to go far from home! The main thing is that it feels peaceful to you.

Take some deep breaths and try to quiet your mind.

When I start this process, I initially get mental noise, like the static when you’re not tuned into an official radio station. “I don’t know what I want! I want this and this and this and I can’t have it and it’s to much and I’m completely overwhelmed!!!!”  While I consciously may say I want clarity, there’s part of me that likes being able to be ambivalent because then I don’t have to change anything I’m doing.  But if I keep sitting with myself and giving myself space for the response to come, the answer gets more and more clear.

Your inner self really does have all the answers.  However, sometimes you’ve gotten so used to habituated responses that aren’t in tune with that inner self that you can’t distinguish what is the healthy voice of truth and what is the voice of fear or habit.  It can be helpful to get feedback from someone you trust who is outside the situation; those people can often see things more clearly than you can.

Being a parent is such an amazing opportunity because it opens us up to incredible possibilities for growth and awareness that we wouldn’t have had otherwise!  Seriously.

Having to be clear with your child forces you to think more about what you say you want and why you want it. Let’s say you’re battling a child to take a bath every night or eat dinner. What do you really want? Do care that much about the bath? Is there something else that you care more about that you’d rather be investing your time in?

Often parents admit that they don’t really care that much about the things they’re fighting with their children about, but they feel these are rituals or activities that everyone should do so their child should also do it.

Well.

Doing what you think you should do because everyone else does it doesn’t align well with being happy!

Sometimes it becomes clear that yes, the bath or meal or whatever else really is the priority. In that case, it shouldn’t be set aside but there might be some more effective ways to go about achieving your goal.

There’s no one right way to parent and there’s no one right way to deal with a given situation. It depends so much on what you really want – you can have two very happy and healthy families who have chosen completely different ways of living their lives.

When you get clarity you can create healthy boundaries and teach others how to treat you, as you align what you say with the actions you take.  That’s a very empowering place to be!

Avivah

treat others how to treat you

You Teach People How to Treat You

I was wondering if you could share with the blog readers more about the idea that we teach people how to treat us.Can you explain how that works, and how we can change the way they treat us?

Yes, I’m happy to explain that a bit more!  Before I begin, I want to clarify one very important distinction: we do not have any direct control over the actions of others, and can not directly change how they treat us.  What we do have control over is our own thoughts, speech and actions.  That’s where our power lies and that is always where our focus has to be.

I was speaking recently to someone who was complaining about all the people in her life who don’t treat her kindly. People are mean to her, kids are mean to her children, and everyone who passes her yard is mean to her pet!  And then a five minute walk away just a day earlier, I met someone who told me that the people living in that area are just wonderful, everyone is so kind and helpful. Are these two people living on different planets?

In a way, they are. Their inner worlds and the way they view themselves is constantly playing out with those around them.

**This is not about shaming oneself or feeling at fault for being treated badly by others. Not at all. There’s no blame here at all. It’s about recognizing where you have power to make your life better.

——————————

My eight and ten year old sons came home upset one afternoon after playing with a friend. This is a boy who they’ve been extremely nice to, a nice kid who has strong reactions to what seem to others like very small triggers. In this case, he got upset and began throwing bricks at them, then ran after my eight year old and punched him.

When they got home, they asked for my feedback on how they could have handled the situation.  One said he’s not going to play with this boy anymore and he doesn’t have to keep being nice to someone who isn’t nice to him. The other said he sees it’s very hard for this boy to control himself and he doesn’t want to be treated like this, but he doesn’t think it’s nice to tell him he’s not going to be his friend.

This is a classic example of “we teach people how to treat us”! Substitute coworker, spouse or neighbor and you have the same kind of situations that we adults are dealing with all the time!

I told them they get to decide what kind of friendships they want to have.  How do they want to be treated by their friends? There is never a reason to tolerate someone mistreating you in the name of ‘kindness’ to them. You have a right to be treated respectfully and it’s your responsibility to teach people to treat you with respect.

So what would that look like in this case?

treat others how to treat youFirst of all, I told them in the future if it happens to leave the situation and come home immediately.  If he comes to play at another time, he can be told, “I don’t like what you did (yelling and throwing things at me).” They can then choose if they want to give him another chance or not.  If they give him another chance they can let him know, “If you get angry and hit me, I’m going to stop playing with you”.

The boy now knows clearly what their expectations of the relationship are. Can they control if he becomes explosive?  No, absolutely not.  But if he acts in an unkind way again, they will honor their own boundaries by leaving the interaction or even by leaving the relationship- and he will have learned that they mean what they say and will not interact with him if he can’t treat them nicely.

Now let’s look at another possibility.  What if they continue to play with him time after time regardless of how they are treated?  Then have them taught him that they will tolerate being abused from a ‘friend’, that it’s okay for him to explode when something bothers him.

Their response to his action teaches him how to treat them.

—————————–

If a young child playfully bats you in the face or calls you a name, how do you respond?  Do you smile and let her know you think she’s so cute?  Do you ignore it and tell yourself it’s not a big deal? Or do you hold her hand in yours and soberly tell her, “No hitting Mommy”? You are teaching your child how to treat you.

A couple of days ago I asked a child of mine to do a task and the child agreed, but with an edgy manner of speaking. I looked at that child for about a minute without saying anything.  The somewhat abashed response to me after a pause was, “Okay, that was obnoxious – I’m sorry. Yes, I can do what you asked me to do.”

What was my nonverbal message when I looked intently at this child? That although I was choosing not to respond verbally, I wasn’t oblivious to the inappropriate tone that had just been used. Yes, it’s definitely a more subtle response!  If the child was younger and might not have realized on his own that his response was out of line, I could have let him know: “You know, that sounded disrespectful. Can you say what you want in a more respectful way?”

This is just as true with people who aren’t related to us. If someone initiates a conversation topic that we would rather not participate in, we can direct the conversation to a different subject rather than feel forced to participate because we want to be ‘nice’. If someone speaks to us disrespectfully, we do not have to stay in that interaction to be ‘nice’. We teach others how to treat us.

One of my kids once opened the door for a neighbor since I was in the middle of reading to a younger child. I had never spoken to this neighbor before and he wasn’t a warm and friendly kind of person. Before I even had a chance to get up from the couch and without waiting for an invitation, he walked right into the center of my living room.  I felt my space had been invaded, and I told him to please wait next to the door and I would speak to him there. He got angry and threatened not to talk to me or help with the issue that he had come to speak about (the damage a leak from his home was causing to us) but I didn’t back down.  My home is my space and no stranger is welcome to come marching in as if he owns the place. My home, my terms.

treat others how to treat y

You can set the terms of the interactions that you participate in.  We worry too much about being nice to others, while not considering that it’s extremely not nice to ignore your own needs and subjugate them to the needs of others.

maya[1]Every day we have choices: what to respond to, when to respond, how to respond – and it really all begins with, how do we feel worthy of being treated? Do we honor our own needs, our own time, our own preferences?  We communicate this in so many ways and we’re not even aware that we’re communicating that! But our kids are watching us and have a very good sense of what we we really care about.

Avivah

A Story of Hope and Love

Someone shared this wonderful story with me of an adoptive father of 12 children, most of whom have Trisomy 21.  What in the world compelled this couple to travel across the world and adopt these abandoned children from various countries?

If I had read this story before I had a child with Trisomy 21 I simply couldn’t have related to it at all.  I had no part of me that could understand people who did things like that, and could only assume they were on a completely different elevated plane from myself.  I mean, why make your life harder?

 

Rafael, 9 months

Rafael, 9 months

I have a really different perspective now that we have our two treasures with T21.  Since we brought Rafael home I know that people sometimes put me on that elevated plane that I used to put others on, but from where I’m standing, it looks completely different.  It isn’t about picking up a heavy burden and suffering; the reality is so, so much love and blessing and gratitude and faith for all of our beautiful children.

Here’s the story I’m referring to – take a couple of minutes now to go and read it!  A Story of Hope and Love

I can’t even try to guess about seemingly negative things like why the author’s sister suffered as she did, but everyone can clearly see that it led to something very beautiful all these years later – his huge family of children with special needs – as a result of her being in his life.

img_1219

Ds8 told me a few days ago, “I’m glad that Rafael has Down syndrome.  Because if he didn’t, he wouldn’t be part of our family.”  I’ve never articulated it in that way to our children, but he’s right – for us Down syndrome was the positive ‘hook’ that brought Rafael into our family!

Avivah

sadness

Making room for a child’s sadness

At our dinner table, we have a family tradition in which each person shares three things that he is grateful and appreciative for that happened in his day. This began because I wanted to teach my children to look for the good in their lives on a regular basis, and also to help all of us to share daily the things of import that happened for us that day.

It also leads to opportunities for meaningful discussion of topics.

Recently ds11 shared that he was grateful that he was able to bury a dead bird that he found on the sidewalk. I told him that even though that bird was no longer alive, it was a kindness for the bird and perhaps there’s some part of the bird that recognizes what was done for it.

I shared a short reading from the book The Light Between Us, in which the author describes doing an intuitive reading for a couple who had rescued many animals. She described the outpouring of gratitude ‘on the other side’ that was directed toward them.
I explained to my children that even animals have energetic prints that continue to exist after they die. Every act of kindness, even to the smallest creature, creates a positive energy in the world even though we can’t see it.

It’s an important message for us all – that our acts of kindness leave an effect even after the situation seemingly is in the past. As I was reading to them, I thought that it was particularly of value to ds9 to hear this.

Three weeks earlier he was given a tiny newborn chick in a shoe box by a neighbor who found it on the street. I cautioned him that it’s very, very hard to save a bird that small. But he poured himself into it, feeding it with a dropper throughout the day. By the end of the next day, the little bird was peeping and walking around. He had literally resuscitated this tiny bird and it was so exciting and moving for him.

He went to sleep happy that the chick had clearly turned a corner….and then he woke up in the morning to a dead baby bird.

He threw the bird in the garbage as if he didn’t care, but it was obvious it was a cover for how deeply upset he was.

Kids need to have a space to have their feelings, and so I opened up a conversation with him. The goal was NOT for me to tell him why it wasn’t so bad, he shouldn’t be sad, it’s just a bird, he’ll have another bird or another positive experience in the future. You know, all those things we parents say when faced with the pain of a child that we want to just wipe away. It’s hard to see a child in pain and let them feel their pain without minimizing it.

But they have to have the opportunity to feel the pain, deal with it and move through it. This is part of what matures a person emotionally.

As we spoke, he asked me with tears in his eyes why the bird died. I realized he wasn’t asking me for a physical explanation. He wanted to know a deeper reason. And I didn’t have an answer that made him feel cheerful and okay with it.  I told him that obviously this bird was meant to live only a short time and that he was part of making that bird’s path more pleasant. Then I sat with him quietly and gave him space to process that.

And even though that felt very inadequate to me – I still had that desire to say just the right thing that would wipe away his pain – it was enough.  So often, what our kids need is permission and space to feel their feelings.  And once they have that, they can move on.

Avivah

o and a with rafael, 8 months

A couple on a mission to convince parents to keep their newborns with Down syndrome

Our social worker called tonight to remind me about a request she had made of me at her last visit.  The social worker who did the placement for Rafael with our family is moving on to another position after many years doing this work.  We were asked to send a picture and note for the placement social worker; they will be making a book from as many children that she placed as possible.

It was late when I remembered about this but luckily dh hadn’t yet gone to sleep for the night.  Rafael was just waking up so even though the timing wasn’t ideal since he was drowsy, we managed to get a few quick pics.  Rafael (now 8 months old) is such a good sport – it doesn’t matter how tired he is or if he’s just opening his eyes from a nap – if someone he loves is giving him attention, he’s a happy baby!

o and a with rafael, 8 months

o and a with rafael, 8 months 2

o and a with rafael, 8 months 3

o and a with rafael, 8 months 4

o and a with rafael, 8 months 5

o and a with rafael, 8 months 6

Deliciousness!!

I haven’t really written much about our little treasure.  I don’t know if you could find many babies who get as much love and attention as this cutie – our kids don’t get tired of telling me how much cuter he’s gotten since the day before- and he returns their love in full with his heartfelt smiles and laughter.

Two blog readers sent me the following clip of a couple who adopted a baby girl with Trisomy 21 and have made it their mission to convince parents considering giving up babies with T21 to keep them.  I was in touch with the husband both with Baby M last September and with Rafael seven months ago. With Baby M, he was the direct liason with her birth parents; with Rafael, to access some of his connections to help cut through the legal paperwork that Rafael had been caught in.

The clip is in Hebrew, but for those of you who understand this, it’s very moving.  I watched it several times and felt choked up each time, especially when the woman describes going to the hospital for this abandoned baby they had heard about who was going to be having major surgery. With no legal standing, nothing but a desire to help this baby who had no one, she told the staff she was the mother, and then as soon as she held the baby told her, “Tamar, Tamar, Mommy is here, and and Mommy promises that she’s never going to leave you. ”

Unfortunately I couldn’t figure out how to link the video directly, so you’ll have to click this link and then click on the video.  Moving video of couple that adopted baby with T21

The reality remains that too many babies with Down syndrome are given up every year.  Not because the parents aren’t capable of raising them but because of advice or suggestions they are given, the fears they have, the stigmas they may feel…. Accurate information goes a long way in encouraging parents and dispelling the fears that lead to giving babies up.

After Yirmi was born five years ago, I anticipated that I would go to hospitals and speak to parents who had gotten the diagnosis of T21, particularly those who were considering giving up their babies. Despite my willingness and even signing up to be on the roster of parents called in this situation, I was never contacted.  Though I’ve spoken to parents of infants and children with T21 and supported them in different ways, reaching out to parents in the hospital obviously wasn’t meant to be my focus.  It’s touching to see the passion and commitment of this couple for whom this is their mission.

Avivah