Can I get an Amen?
It’s officially Crembo season in Israel. Among school children, this is the most coveted of all special delights. What is a Crembo? It’s a cookie, topped with a large mound of some kind of marshmallowy fluff (but more airy and taller), covered in a super thin and majorly melty chocolate shell.
It’s an ADHD Mama’s nightmare. Serve this to your children and you will be guaranteed approximately five minutes of pure silent bliss. First the children are in complete shock that you actually were willing to buy this for them. Then, they carefully have to unwrap it so as not to damage the delicate structure of the dessert. Then they slowly devour it, enjoying each morsel of chemical-sugary-stuff. The ADHD mama sighs, relaxing.
And then… peeling off the ceiling is an understatement to say the least. It’s not just the sugar rush, no matter what you do or offer the sweet children in subsequent days, nothing will ever measure up to that glorious Crembo moment. I’m convinced that’s also why it’s only available for a certain season in Israel – no parent would allow Crembo moments available year round to our children.
Last night, I had dragged third daughter, age 4, along to an evening function at first and second daughter’s school, and she was generally quiet and good (just a few flops and melodramatic loud sighs.) My husband arrived as the evening ended, and offered to take the oldest two home in his car. So it was just me and the baby girl. ”Hey third daughter,” I said. “Wanna go out, just you and me, to the corner store?”
Third daughter was so excited at our secret mission, she could barely contain herself. She nodded quickly, I buckled her in the car, and we headed to the next village.
When we arrived, and walked in the door, the Crembo display was laid out at perfect height for a four-year-old’s grasp. The vanilla or the chocolate version? We brought home an 8-pack, and all three daughters sweetly munched away. This was yesterday. They are still a little cranky and upset with me. First daughter has had a bad case of the ADHD pop-ups: When you put them in bed, and they pop up with a unnecessary question. And you put them in bed, and they pop back up with an irrelevant story. Then you bellow from the depths of your lungs (without much effort, because the ADHD mamma has quite a capacity for projecting) “Begone! BANISH THEE TO BED! FOUL! UMPIRE, CALL A FOUL!” and anything else that pops out of your mouth in response. There really is no calming way of dealing with the ADHD pop-ups. These pop-ups are custom-designed by your extra-ordinary child specifically to get you as riled as they are. If you stay calm, they get madder. So I say, scream, have a glass of wine after the kids stop popping up, and then make up in the morning. That’s what your kid was planning on doing anyway – minus the wine part.
Therefore in this area, it’s perfectly natural that a Rabbi, with a long beard, even longer payot (side-curls), would be a head teacher at a school that instructs and licenses practitioners in Chinese medicine.
I sat down to listen to the Rabbi’s lecture. Actually, I planned to sit quietly and pretend to listen to the Rabbi’s lecture. It was in Hebrew for goodness sake, and I’m a busy parent. He’s probably just going to lecture us on something philosophic, and people here must not work for a living, or have maids at home, because really who has time for such things. The truth is actually that most mothers work, and don’t have maids at home, and most are probably far more busy than I am. The least I could do was politely pretend to listen.
My good friend sat down next to me, and asked if I would translate some of what the Rabbi was saying. This conflicted with my plan to pretend to listen, and required me actually to focus on each individual word. I did everything I could to pay attention, comprehend, and repeat the concepts in my own words. I wanted to be a good friend, so I was willing to do this.
And I started listening, mostly to every second word in each sentence. I understood that he started by talking about the power of potential, of possibilities. Interesting. Then I understood that he was speaking about how the Rambam teaches that the basis of all education, is faith. At least I hope it was the Rambam who he was quoting, but I could at least relay the concept. Then he began speaking about how you teach faith to your children, with the most powerful lesson of the evening for me: Faith isn’t security. Faith isn’t saying “Don’t worry G-d will provide,” or dumbing down G-d’s role simply to be the answer to any question asked. (Question: ”Are you going to look for a job today? Answer: “G-d will provide.” Question: Do you think that you will succeed? Answer: “G-d will get me through.”) The person who limits his faith in this respect often suffers a severe blow when expectations aren’t met.
I’m translating as much as I can, as quickly as I could. I kept choosing the wrong word in English, knowing I chose the wrong word, and had to back-track to remember what the original Hebrew word was, and re-translate the concept. This is a common experience for anyone bilingual, but most Americans find it very strange and hard to manage.
This is what my oldest daughter goes through on a regular basis, in both of her languages. At home, and at school. Why isn’t she more tired? This alone should nullify the pop-ups.
Then the Rabbi said the most important lesson of the evening (at least for me). Faith, as you should teach it to your children, is about the idea of possibilities. Not necessarily that outcomes are guaranteed, but that outcomes are possible. Faith is the recognition of the power of the gift of life, the idea that limitations can be transcended. Education isn’t possible without this kind of faith. Don’t just have kids memorize information – nourish them with the idea of what they can achieve, and how precious their role is in this world.
Major perk-up for me. He closed his lecture by telling a story of a child who was a horrible student. He could never remember any of the work, he could never concentrate on studying, he had no friends, and the teachers gave up on him. And then… I stopped being able to understand his words. Third daughter was loudly exhaling, plopping and muttering that the toys in my purse were boring. Husband walked into the multi-purpose room at that exact moment, and I started receiving a few work-related calls. “I’m listening to a Rabbi,” I whispered, can I get back to you?” “Yes, third daughter, my purse sucks. Go see what Abba’s got in his pockets.” Wave to the husband.
The lecture ended. Oh no – what happened to the boy who wasn’t a good student?!? Major first daughter moment – I turned away for a moment and Missed Everything. Not fair. The principal stood up, thanked everyone for coming, and announced that our school was ranked number one in the country: In mathematics (“AMEN!” shouted some of the mothers), in science (“Amen!” shouted some mothers), in Torah. I shouted “Amen” with the other mothers (hey, when in Rome… or Judea actually), and walked up to the Rabbi to ask what happened to the boy in the story. I chose my words carefully, as any immigrant would do. He answered me in perfect English. “The boy grew up to be a well-regarded Rabbi, one of the geniuses of our times.”
“Oh good,” I answered in English, “A happy ending.” We need those.
He explained a bit more to me that disabled really should be properly explained as differently-abled. That these children should never feel constrained by limitations. He mentioned he also personally had severe learning disabilities (different-abilities) as a child, and his mother always encouraged him. She warned him at times, that it may take him longer, but that he would eventually get to where he needs to be. He also explained, completely seriously, that differently-abled children are extremely intelligent, and are destined to bring many great things to our world. Our current school system isn’t good enough to support them, and they are going to struggle along the way, but that’s to be expected given how unique and special they are. No system of any sort would be good enough for them.
It’s a quiet night now on Hallelujah mountain. Children are in bed (the pop-ups have slowed down, and oldest daughter may have passed out now. I’m honestly a little frightened to check – what if I set off another round?) I will believe the children are in bed. I will start each morning by celebrating my children’s potential, letting them know how proud I am of them – of everything they do.
It might be easier just to sing a round of Snuggle Puppy. Of course, I still haven’t made the psychiatrist appointment. But hey, we’ve been spiritually fulfilled this week, and that’s saying a lot in our neck of the woods.