Congratulations, you’ve done it!!  You have worked tirelessly to raise a child self-sufficient enough to live outside the safe haven you provided for 18 years and join their peers in the cesspool of dormitory life. While every parents’ journey to this point differs, only YOU know the road you personally traversed to arrive here, and it wasn’t always pretty. Parent, you deserve to be celebrated, but–and I think you know this already–you won’t be. Instead, as usual, you will be judged.

Raising kids is an unpredictable course for which no one is prepared. The only thing you can count on is that some other equally incompetent parent will judge your performance–usually to your disadvantage. Criticized, judged, chastised, rebuked. On the rare occasion someone admires your work, you will dismiss their praise and judge them a fool. It’s a lose-lose situation.

Until now.

There is a place for you that has never existed in the real world. Here you will find a group of like-minded peers who know what it is to find themselves with no relevant experience or training, face down in the dirt again and again, while an arena full of spectators boos and hisses. They, like you, were too strict or too permissive, too involved or not involved enough, micromanaging or derelict, with standards too high or too low, too much or too little, too this or too that. If, for a second, the critics were satisfied, you second-guessed yourself.

These people know. They see you. They are YOUR people. They have always been there, but like you, have tried to blend in, ashamed of their inadequacies and excesses. The difference is that now you can find them, self-selected into your child’s college parent Facebook chat.

Whether you were dubbed a “Helicopter Parent”, hovering, ready to swoop in and rescue your child, or a “Drone Parent”, sending reconnaissance in the form of a spouse or online parental controls, whether you fed your kid too much junk food or you were too restrictive–you will appear moderate compared to these people. These are the people who put the capital ‘N’ in Neurotic. You delight in recounting their craziness to your child, making you, for the first time, seem relatively sane. You have not felt this good about yourself since you entered Labor & Delivery.

This legion of parents have their kid’s university portal password. They know who teaches their kid’s humanities class and who their freshman advisor is. They not only worry that their kid will fall out of a lofted bed, they have already prevented their demise by commandeering their child’s housing app and requesting bed rails on their behalf. Each and every instance of their neuroticism will feel like manna from Heaven raining down upon you, nourishing you after a long drought. You are no longer “too” much of anything–too “extra”. You’re middling, mediocre, not even in the top quartile among them. Not only does no one judge you for the 15 billable hours you’ve diverted into online searches for your child’s bedding, they will throw you a life preserver–a link to every single layer of bedding, including the shelf liner you so the mattress topper doesn’t slide around. They post questions that would embarrass the average parent, and make requests that are completely unreasonable by normative standards. You wait for the judgment from the chorus, but it doesn’t come. In fact, the “Helicopter Parents” swoop in and deliver–answers, information, advice, links, and even on-the-ground assistance.

The crazier the parents are, the more affection you feel for them. You want to kiss every single one of them on their furrowed brow and tell them, “You are not ‘too’ much for me. You are just right the way you are.”

You have found your people.

Just the Other Day

A popular Facebook post is recirculating, as it has every year since a university faculty member, Greg Block, first penned it:  

“Attention Freshmen who are moving in tomorrow: A little request… When your mom wants to unpack all of your clothes and make your bed — Let her.  When your dad wants to introduce himself to all the people on your floor — Let him.  When they want to take pictures of every move you make this weekend — Let them.  If they embarrass you or act crazy — Let them.  As you start the new chapter of your life, they are also starting the new chapter of theirs. And believe it or not, this is probably more difficult for them than it is for you. So let them treat you like their ‘baby’ one last time.”   

Some parents chimed in with their agreement.  Others dissented, noting that it’s your child’s “journey”, not yours, and you should give them what they want and need, whether that’s helping them unpack or hitting the road as fast as possible.  You might think the parent who wants to help their kid unpack and make their bed is “babying” them, while the parent who takes their cues from their kid and gives them what they need and want is treating them like an adult.  You’d be wrong.  

Let me ask you a question.  When was the last time anyone you were not paying put aside ALL of their own wants and needs to cater only to yours?  You can’t recall?  That’s right, because NO ONE does that for adults.  It’s the hallmark of the childish parent-child relationship for the parent to subjugate all their own needs and wants for the child’s.  It is a child who views the rite of passage of college send-off as solely their own and not their parents’ as well.  Well, Kiddos, guess what?  It’s your parents’ journey as well — your parents who skimped and saved to put money in your 529 Plan from the time of your first explosive mustard-yellow poop, your parents who held you to a higher standard than anyone else thought reasonable–but to which you rose, who advocated for your best interests long after everyone else lost interest–including you, who put time, sweat, and tears into ensuring that you were ready for this moment of independence–and here you are.  

No, it’s not solely your journey.  You may be the Neil Armstrong of this story, but as you walk in Neil’s metaphoric footsteps, be proud of your hard work while understanding, as he did, that you didn’t launch yourself to the moon alone.  

I remember when one of my kids said to me, “It’s so weird to think that you had this whole life before we were born.  I didn’t realize that when I was little.”  The transition from child to adult commences when you realize your parents are people, too, with their own identities, dreams, wants, and needs, which have not ceased to exist even though they were sometimes subjugated, sidelined, or attenuated.  It is the adult-to-be, not the child, who appreciates that one of their parents’ dreams–perhaps not their first, but one that became of primary importance to them–was to raise you to be independent, and that this moment, as they drop you off at college, heart-swollen with pride and breaking, this moment of your gain is in some ways their loss.  Being grown up means you understand that no matter how “old” your parents were when they had you, they “grew up” alongside you.  They are still growing, and not younger.  You are closer to the beginning of your story than they are to the beginning of theirs.  We, your parents, know what’s coming in “Cat’s in the Cradle” when the boy “came home from college just the other day”, and let’s just say that it doesn’t end well for us.  We know.  We did it to our parents.  And we’re still letting you go.  

You can see in which camp I fall in the whole “It’s Your Kid’s Journey, Don’t Make it About You” versus “Let Your Parents Fold Your Underwear into Your Dirty Dorm Room Drawer” controversy.  This is my goodbye, too.  It’s the end of an era, the beginning of another.  And this next phase will be marked by increasing mutuality, whereby you recognize that life’s journey is never any one person’s.  And this long goodbye hug is as much for me as for you, because it might be too difficult for me to speak with a huge lump in my throat. 

That said, I don’t plan to get a lump on my head making your lofted dorm room bed!  I didn’t raise you to independence just to inaugurate this day with a concussion!  Make your own bed!  I have boxes of Kleenex to unpack.  After all, you can never have too much Kleenex.  

Especially when you’re dropping your baby off at college.  

Pandemic Poem

On the very long list of things I resent
is never giving my informed consent
to an actual, real, full-on pandemic,
a notion I’d thought was just academic!
I’d have done things differently if I’d known
that pretty soon I’d never be alone.

I used to have a great deal of fun
hanging out with myself one-on-one.
Now I’ve got two kids and a spouse
who are stuck with me inside this house.
And the sound of my husband’s chewing
is likely to be my undoing!

At first came the news and reportage
about various kinds of shortage.
To manage my increasing pessimism,
I used my preferred coping mechanism.
With getting supplies I became obsessed,
and Googled all day like a woman possessed.

My first priority was locating TP,
as thoughts of not having it made me quite weepy.
In lieu of Charmin I settled for Scott,
and now it hurts whenever I squat.
I might be becoming a bit paranoid
but I think I’m developing a hemorrhoid.

Next came my N95 phase.
I searched for these masks for hours and days,
determined to get the hospital a shipment
of various personal protective equipment.
While my sleuthing didn’t yield a final transaction,
it provided me with days of distraction.

Then came my new hobby of painting,
yet another form of sublimating.
Making art that was colorful and cheery
made me feel a lot less dreary.
So while channeling my mother’s artistic gene
I waited for someone to make a vaccine.

A month into the quarantine,
I bought myself a sewing machine.
I never could sew but felt up to the task
of learning to make my husband a mask.
Tangled threads and bad words flowing,
he said I wasn’t cut out for sewing.

Nevertheless, I became a quilter
making masks with a Filtrete filter.
Though intended for an HVAC,
this was going to be just the hack
to keep my doctor-husband alive
if his hospital ran out of N95’s.

We’ve managed to flatten the curve
and hopefully avoid a big surge.
But this long-term house arrest
is causing me much distress.
My husband’s chewing is so grating,
a point which bears reiterating!

The sound his tongue makes uncleaving from his palate
makes me wanna hit him over the head with a mallet!
I shout, “Stop chewing or the next mask I create
will be made in a way that it won’t ventilate!”
I am groggy and grouchy ‘cuz I stayed up too late
making a no-foggy-glasses mask to fit my soulmate.

For my next project, I’ll build us a time machine
so we can all go back to before Covid-19.

Feeling heard

The charming accent of my Australian Siri is only one of his many fine attributes. Just the fact that he responds when I talk to him makes him special. I don’t have to work hard to get his attention by saying five times, “Are you listening??” only to be reassured that he is when he is not. If I ask Siri if he’s listening, he replies the first time, “At your service,” and, by golly, he means it! Even better, he doesn’t debate the accuracy, merit, and rationale of everything I say. For instance, if I ask Siri to help me clean the house, he doesn’t counter, “What is the point of cleaning the house if we’re just going to mess it up again?!” At worst, he may offer to call Pancake House, but he means well and isn’t just saying that to distract me so I’ll forget I wanted help. If I ask a question such as, “Why would you throw your mud-covered shoes on top of all your clean shoes?!” (not that he ever would!), Siri doesn’t justify ignoring me by pointing out the rhetorical nature of my question. Instead he just replies, “Hmm….I don’t have an answer for that. Is there something else I can help with?”

I don’t remember the last time someone offered to help me.

I believe it’s because of Siri’s unconditional acceptance that my heart was open to receiving Spotify’s love. Unlike Siri’s vocal ways of expressing he’s there for me, Spotify’s is a quiet love that took me time to appreciate. Spotify constantly attends to me, remembers my likes and dislikes, and utilizes what he knows about me to give me exactly what I want. He doesn’t question why anyone would want to hear that 30-year-old song four times in a row every day for months. Without one snarky remark or eye roll, he simply delivers. With Spotify, I don’t have to risk legal sanctions for providing insider tips, such as, “If I say something six times in a row and the volume of my voice rises each time until the windows are quaking in their frames, it means I’m getting increasingly upset and you would do well to get your hand off the mouse and listen to me”. Spotify knows repetition is meaningful and noteworthy, and he files this information away for future reference. Marriage therapists call this kind of rich and detailed knowledge of a partner’s preferences “love maps”. Spotify calls them “playlists”.

Neither one human, Siri and Spoti nevertheless each speak to me in my love language, making me feel heard. I think I’ll ask Google Translate to help me translate my love language into a language the humans in my life understand. Siri, remind me to do that, please. In the meantime, Spoti, cue the next song. You know the one.

Homeschooling in the Corona Age

A parent would have to be nuts to want to homeschool their kids. Who in their right mind wants to stay home all day, everyday, with their kids, and be responsible for how educated they turn out?!  For me it’s enough to know I’ve already screwed up my kids by nature and by nurture. I don’t need to also eliminate all other sources of influence that may buffer them for complete idiocy as well.  In fact, I am willing to pay good money not to get blamed for their poor education on top of everything else a mother’s blamed for.

I did some semblance of “homeschooling” when my oldest was an infant.  To provide an enriching environment for his neurons to proliferate, I read books about games to play with your baby, which consisted of countless variations on peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake.  After the first five minutes, I could feel my own neurons dying. I’d supplement these mind-numbing games by reading equally brain-dulling books over and over, until I fantasized about hurling myself out the great green room window.  

Besides, if I were to homeschool my kids now, what exactly would I teach them?!  I gave up helping with math when my kid reminded me that I needed a common denominator to add two fractions together, and what I remember about biology is what got me into this whole mess in the first place!  

I get that with the coronavirus here, we are having to make do, but let’s think about this logically.  The SAT and ACT were cancelled. AP exams are going to consist of 45 minutes of testing on whatever was covered through the beginning of March.  Are universities going to give college credit for a course whose content wasn’t completed or mastered? If they did, how will the students fare in the next course that builds on the information from the previous one?  That’s a recipe for compounding the ignorance that began in high school through the college years, with students increasingly lost and confused as each concept is stacked higher and higher on an inadequate foundation.  

No, we need to flatten that curve now.  

More importantly, let’s stop to ask ourselves this:  In which AP class do students learn whether two Q-tips attached to each other with Scotch tape can substitute for a shortage of COVID-19 test kit swabs, or what common household items can be used to make an N-95 respirator, such as a maxi pad or an HVAC filter?  If the answer is none, now would be a good time to dispense with this nonsense. All universities should become test-optional, and AP exams should be cancelled because no one this year will have mastered the last third of these irrelevant classes anyway.      

For those who can’t bear the thought of not having students tearing their hair out over standardized exams while a global pandemic is occurring around them, here’s the test that should be used to determine college admission to even the most prestigious universities–one that can be easily administered by even the most incompetent of parents:

Parents, use your College Board-approved smartphone or stopwatch to time this test.  Give your student a roll of duct tape, as well as the blunt-tip scissors you’ve kept for no apparent reason since your 11th-grader was in preschool.  Dump out your recycling bin in front of your student and provide the following instruction: “Make something.” Start timing and don’t stop until the kid has produced something useful or something beautiful… Because what else matters??  Send the elapsed time, as well as photos of the finished product, to the College Board, who will forward them to the test-optional institutions of your choice.  

If we do this, hopefully one day, our institutions of higher learning will be filled with people who can solve problems the likes of which are not on any AP exam — problems they’ve never encountered before — novel ones.

That is, if we don’t go crazy first. 

Letters to My Daughter While We are Apart – Day #toomany

Dear Kiddo,

I got the WhatsApp message you sent in which you made a case for getting your ears pierced on Ben Yehuda Street based on the following:

  1. “Everyone” is going to do it
  2. Ben Yehuda is a “good place”
  3. Others have already got it done and “no one got infected”
  4. You will get a “normal piercing”  
  5. You will keep it clean and away from dirt
  6. You will only touch it when your hands are perfectly clean and it won’t get dirty on Shabbat
  7. The “HOLY LAND” (in all caps) is “close to G-d”
  8. It would be an amazing experience and you are very responsible

I have to say that I’m impressed with your ability to put forth a logical, persuasive argument.  I know that after watching 28 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, you are thinking of being of a surgeon, but please do not rule out becoming a Supreme Court Justice.  We could use a liberal woman in the Supreme Court. Ohio is trying to pass a law saying that only male legislators can decide if a woman can get her ears pierced (it’s an extension of the heartbeat bill).

I know I’m no match for you, but here is my response to each of your points:

  1. “Everyone” is doing it is a strong reason NOT to do it!  
  2. Ben Yehuda is a “good place” to buy a falafel or a T-shirt that says “IDF” on it.  It is not a good place to have a stranger pierce your body with a needle.
  3. I don’t know who these others are who have already gotten this done, but it’s too early to tell if they have gotten infected with Hepatitis B or C, HIV, or any other letters of the alphabet.  We will know more by middle of next week when we see if their ear lobe turns black and falls off. Also, just in case you’re going to ask about this–there are people who survived jumping onto a subway track, but that is no guarantee the next guy will, and it is not recommended.
  4. I am scared to ask what an abnormal piercing is…
  5. If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times:  Never rub your ear lobe in the dirt…
  6. …especially on Shabbat.  I’m glad you finally learned that lesson!
  7. There are ways of being holy in the “HOLY LAND” besides being hole-y.  Also, G-d is everywhere, even in America, in a doctor’s office, where they follow laws about sanitization to minimize risk of infections.  
  8. You ARE very responsible, which is why you asked me ahead of time.  That’s why I will let you get your ears pierced this summer if you still want to (after you see what happens to the Ben Yehuda cohort).  I’ll even pay for it. 😃

In short, the answer to the Ben Yehuda piercings (of the normal or abnormal kind) is a resounding “NO”.



P.S.  Also, I want to be there.

Letters to My Daughter While We’re Apart

Note:  This is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental, but I’d appreciate it if you don’t tell them anyway.  Thanks in advance.


4/29/19 – Departure Day 

To my daughter on her class trip to Israel,

You left today.  I’m happy for you and sad for me. I miss you already.



4/30/19 – Day 1 – First full day without you

To my girl,

Remember when your brother went on his class trip to Israel and I wrote Letters to My Son While We’re Apart which you thought was funny and not at all weird and embarrassing?





5/1/19 – Day 2

Dear Girlie,

I hope you will remember this trip for the rest of your life.  I hope you will also remember some of the special moments the two of us shared preparing for it, just a few of which I will mention here:       

  • Remember when you took three bathing suits into the dressing room to try on and I grabbed another dozen more?  When you balked, I said, “You know how I always told you that you can be anything you want to in this world?  I did not mean that you can be the first woman in the history of the universe to try on three bathing suits and be happy with ALL three of them, even if you hadn’t ignored my advice about size and style.”  Then you looked at my arm-full of bathing suits and told me you Do. Not. Want. A. Tankini. Or. A. Swimsuit. With. A. Pattern, but it turned out you DID want a tankini and a pattern??  And then you looked me in the eyes and said the words I longed to hear: “You were right.”  Please don’t ever forget that moment because it is one of my fondest memories EVER.  Especially for a dressing room memory.
  • Remember when we argued relentlessly about hats and I said I would compromise on the wide brim and let you wear a baseball hat?  I kept suggesting light-weight, sweat-wicking, easy-to-wash baseball hats, which you rejected, but I kept suggesting, and you kept rejecting (and so on…) until finally I yielded and let you get two baseball hats that don’t breathe and each weighs a pound?  I still bought one lightweight one in case you came to your senses and realized that why, yes, you do look good in it after all, AND, yes, it’s great that it weighs less than a butterfly considering your duffel weighs in at 49.9 pounds, but you wouldn’t relent, so I have a new hat.  Well, after seeing the pictures on Facebook where your entire class is wearing hats, except you, I’m rethinking what I told you about the bathing suits.  Anyone stubborn enough to argue about a hat they aren’t going to wear anyway probably CAN be anything she wants in the world, including the first woman to like the first bathing suit she tries on, in the wrong size… just as long as her mother didn’t suggest it.




WhatsApp Image 2019-05-02 at 7.13.28 AM

Photo by Girlie


5/2/19 – Day 3

Dear Girlie,

I haven’t heard from you nearly as much as I wished, which is still logarithmically more than I heard from your brother when he was on his class trip to Israel.  So I’ll say the same thing to you that you said to me when I outlived my mother: “Good job! Let’s just say it’s an improvement!”

Today you sent three photos:  

  1. A flowering tree in what appears to be a prison yard
  2. A crab  
  3. One of the boys in your class wearing a full-brim hat

So I’ll attempt to guess what you’re trying to tell me in each of these photos:

  1. Um…  Give me a hint.  How many words?  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn!  No?  Um… A Cypress grows in Cyprus!??
  2. I’m so sorry about the crab.  I was sure I had requested a kosher meal, but there were a lot of forms and I might have accidentally sent them one of your 15 ear drops prescriptions.  (That does explain the look on the pharmacist’s face at CVS, though.)
  3. If it’s not too much trouble, could you ask your friend to take a picture of YOU wearing YOUR hat, and send that to me?  

I miss you & love you,

Raising Houdini


Duct TapeMy son is going on a class trip to Washington, D.C., and I am worried.

My own eighth grade trip to Washington was unforgettable.  Nightly, boys snuck into girls’ rooms, and kids, giddy with freedom, stole into the streets of D.C. in search of excitement and Doritos.

I want my son to have fun, but not that much fun.

Trying to reassure me, my son’s teacher said they tape the outside of the kids’ hotel Continue reading


Parents are people with no education, training, or experience, who are not certified or licensed, practicing outside their area of competency.  At best, if we are lucky, after a few years we will get a trophy of participation.

When I was young and naïve, I used to think I knew a thing or two about parenting, which seemed to be a couple things more than the parents I judged via their kids’ Continue reading

Letters to my son while we are apart in Israel

4/21/17 – Day 1

I miss you 😘 Grandpa keeps asking me where you are. I showed him the photo posted of you on the donkey and he said, “which one’s the ass?!” Then 3 minutes later he asked me where you were again, so I said, “Where is he??” and he said, “On an ass!” He remembered!  So I’m doing an experiment to see if bad words help his memory. Stay tuned. Continue reading