Tuesday, September 13, 2005

All My Children

The internet is not working at work, so I’m trying to keep myself busy by doing things that don’t require a connection.

One of the things that I’d wanted to do all week was to post on this blog. No time, and when there was time, I lacked patience to sit and type.

But now….no options, other than sitting here and trying to figure out my Shabbat menu. Even that wouldn’t keep me busy for long, because we were invited out for Shabbat lunch, and I just need to make something for dinner.

Anyway, earlier in the week, I was looking at some of the other blogs that I like to look at, and saw a new posting on the blog “Moving On” – the journal of a young father whose 11-year-old daughter died recently from cancer.

The father noted that most of his entries have been about the death – the dying, what it was like in the hospital, waiting, accepting, and “moving on” with life while remembering his beloved child.

But this time, he decided to write ABOUT the child – what she was like, what she liked, what amused her, her friends…

I thought about that, about writing about my children. Not waiting until something, God forbid, happens, and I need to recoup memories. But simply describing my children, who I love more and more as each day passes. So, for anyone who wants to read a love poem, here’s mine, dedicated to Avishai, Ariella, Yochi, Hagai and Margalit.

Avishai Shimson – I think that having Avishai as my first child was the kindest thing that God has done for me as a mother. Avishai is an incredibly easy-going guy, fun to be with, bright, interested in everything (we used to joke that, as a 2-year-old, we could read him anything, even the table of contents, and he’d be happy) and introspective.

Avishai always had lots of friends, both boys and girls. He’s very athletic, and good in sports and physical activities, which he enjoys. Since he was a toddler, he has loved books, and would sit for hours being read to. When he was little, I had to institute a rule that we would read the same book only once a day, because he loved to hear the same books over and over. Throughout elementary school, he was “a reader”, and though he picked out his own books at the library, he would also read anything that I picked out for him too, including the great classics. He was a Jules Verne fan (as is his younger brother).

Avishai is someone that I would characterize as a leader, though he leads by just being “one of the crowd”. But his personality is such that people like to follow him, sometimes to silliness. He also tends to do things just because that’s what everyone else is doing and if I could change something in his character, I would like to keep him from being so easily influenced by the nonsense that he gets drawn into simply by being with people who are doing something.

Avishai is very family-connected, and is a very loving son and older brother. The younger kids adore him and look up to him, and when he gives me a hug, I feel his love and strength.

Ariella Chaya
Well. They say that when parents name their children they have a prophecy so that the name, which in Jewish tradition is a very important component of a person’s personality, will fit the individual.

An “Ari” is a lion, and THAT name sure fits my eldest daughter! She’s tough as nails, intense, wary, but full of life, and determined to stretch all bounds to try and experience everything.

I worry a lot about Ariella, because she is so vulnerable. Even as a baby, she was incredibly high-strung, and only being held or being nursed would calm her. She’s as prickly as they come, and it’s never been easy to explain things to her, work with her, do a project with her, etc as she has a limited amount of patience for anyone telling her what to do. None, actually.

Even as a baby, she never needed a lot of sleep, and now, as an older teenager, she barely needs any – when she recently returned from the States, after not having slept on the plane for the whole journey, she stayed up all night with her friend and then headed to Tel Aviv the next day…when I saw her the next night, I could see no signs of tiredness or jet lag!

I now know that much of her behavior that has, in the past, seemed to me to be rude or chutzpa, is really a mask for her incredible sense of insecurity. I don’t know where it comes from (she has never found study to be easy because of her learning disabilities, which could account for a lot of this) but it’s a factor in so much of her life and in her interactions with others that I suspect that her abrasiveness to authority that stems from her insecurity in herself will cause her a lot of difficulties in her life.

Ariella has been a vegetarian for the past few years, slowly increasing her commitment. A lot of that stems from her strong sense of sympathy and empathy that she has towards others. I always assumed that I, as her mother and the butt of much blame for things that go wrong, was not considered worthy of her consideration, but yesterday I found out how wrong I was.

Ariella seems to have inherited her father’s family’s artistic talents. She likes art, and is good at it, though the discipline will come with time. Together with her good feel for working with children, I believe that she’d be an excellent art therapist.

Yocheved Tovah
Another example of a child whose personality matches her name. In the Torah, Yocheved was the mother of Moshe, whose diligence and responsibility as one of the midwives for the Jewish women probably saved the Jews in Egypt. Diligent and Responsible are two verbs which perfectly describe Yochi….a “Yekke” (nickname for the German Jews who are punctual, fastidious, and exacting) is a third.

Yochi was the easiest of the children as a baby. She liked to sleep, which was a blessing, after a baby like Ariella who viewed sleep as a punishment. She was happy, cheerful, friendly child, and every teacher’s dream – she is a good student, and school work comes easily to her. She’s certainly the only one of my children who has every put any effort into homework and tests!

Yochi is not as much of an “outdoorswoman” as Ariella is – she likes her comfort. She likes nice new clothes, and has a good sense of style. She’s begun to wear her hair down more, letting the curls blow out in a sort-of wind-swept look.

Yochi is another avid reader, and has lately begun to read a lot of murder mysteries and other adult-type books. But she still likes the teenager-girl books, though I think that she prefers that I take those out for her, and she’ll read them at home, when no one is looking. When Hagai returned recently from the States with the new Harry Potter, Yochi sat down with it and read it through cover to cover, struggling with the English until, by the end, she was reading easily. That’s Yochi – she’ll tackle a task, no matter how hard it is, if she wants to achieve the reward at the end.

Yochi also has a nice way with children, but I don’t know if she would like to work with children full-time. She’s popular with her classmates, but doesn’t seek them out, and is content to stay at home much of the time, unless someone calls her to come out. She seems quieter lately, and more withdrawn than she used to be, and can become quite angry over little meaningless incidents. I think that the adjective that I’m looking for is “deep”, though she doesn’t share her innermost thoughts, even, I believe, with her closest friends.

Hagai Yisrael
I always used to tell Hagai that he’s the stubbornest person that I know, and that it started at birth, when he wouldn’t allow himself to be pushed out, and had to be delivered by ceasarean.

Hagai has been known among his classmates for a number of years as the “gaon”, genius. He’s extremely bright, interested in everything and anything, and soaks up information and knowledge like a sponge. But only when he wants to. At some point, his teachers, bless their souls, have all come around to realizing that fighting with him is useless, and when he’s left alone, he’ll either soar or do nothing, but he won’t bother anyone else either way, so it’s best to leave him alone, because arguing with him is like banging your head against a brick wall.

He’s one of those geniuses that you have no idea that he’s a genius until you start talking about something that he has no business knowing anything about, and then you discover that he knows everything, just through his reading. If I could homeschool him, I would, because that’s how he learns best….on his own, at his own pace, through his own channels. But he does like school, likes his teachers, likes his classmates, and is liked by them, so I don’t feel guilty that I send him to school.

As noted, Hagai’s reading is amazing – he reads everything, about everything, whenever its available After discovering the Lord of the Rings movies, he became enamored with the Tolkien books, and from there, all sorts of fantasy and science fiction reading. In recent months, he’s joined up with a group of local boys to start a chapter of Dungeons and Dragons – which I know NOTHING about, but they’re nice boys, and they have a nice time playing, so I support it.

Hagai is not demanding about food – he eats so few items that there’s little to demand. If one is going to host Hagai, a good supply of corn flakes and yellow cheese will pretty much cover him for any number of days. If pressed, some olives too.

Margalit Chen
Margalit is the child that I’ve had the most opportunity to develop a relationship with, since as the youngest, I’ve been able to spend more time with her. Also, by nature, Margalit is talkative and informative, and tells me everything about everything and everyone.

For Margalit, the adjective that most springs to mind when I think of her (aside from ADHD – is that an adjective) is vivacious. She’s energetic, full of personality, and basically full of herself. No problems with self-image there! Very little depresses her spirits, and being around her is like being around a whirlwind.

Living in our house, one must appreciate pets – at present, we have 3 cats and 2 dogs, along with 2 birds, 2 garden tortoises, and a guina pig. All of the kids like the animals and are kind to them. But Margalit adores animals, and we own 3 cats now instead of one because she brought home the other two, finding them as kittens down the street, and bringing them home to cuddle and kiss. Feeding and care is MY problem, of course.

We live on a street where the ratio of little girls to little boys is about 7-1 – girls rule. Margalit travels with a pack of other 8 and 9-year-olds, and luckily, when I can’t find her, I always have a list of phone numbers to call. Margalit is well-liked by her friends and classmates, and they don’t seem to mind that her stories are usually not true, since she tells them with such energy and fun that their veracity doesn’t seem to be a problem.

It’s a good thing that Margalit is the youngest, since raising her is taking the most effort of all. Not only am I doing it solo, but her hyperactivity means that I can’t take for granted that anything that I say will be remembered or followed up on unless I’m there to make sure that it happens. She’s a complete “balaganist” (disorganized) which drives Yochi, who shares a room with her, to distraction.

Yet Margalit is an amazingly good-tempered and happy little girl who doesn’t hold grudges and is almost always in a good mood. THAT’s nice to be around!

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