Fuckup Nights for Parents

Fuckup Nights for Parents

There’s this global movement in the business world called Fuckup Nights that I think is brilliant. It’s a simple concept; a series of events where people get up and tell their stories of failure. Like TED, but with a twist. Businesses that crashed and burned. Deals gone wrong. Product recalls. That sort of thing.

Along with being generally hilarious, the stories tend to be quite inspiring. Largely because the people who have the humility to be able to get up in front of a crowd of people and say, “yep, I fucked up,” those people are the good ones. It shows real strength of character. These are professionals who are able to look failure in the face, move on, and ultimately to learn from it.

So, I’m thinking, we need Fuckup Nights for Parents. A time to get together and share the times we totally screwed it up. To support each other through it, and to bring failure out into the open. To take the shame out – because we all fuck up, sometime or another. It’s just a matter of how we frame it.

Of course, getting out of the house, on time, without the kids is probably easier said than done for parents of young kids, so I guess a virtual Fuckup Nights will have to suffice for now. Here’s one of my tales of failure to get the ball rolling:

It was about 7 months ago. Little A was a few weeks old, and GG was in the thick of coming to terms with the new addition to our family. About to turn 3 and just having a really hard time of it. He was acting out left and right, but usually the trigger was when he needed me and I was busy with the baby – generally nursing or holding her when he wanted to be held.

His kindergarten threw a holiday party one afternoon, and for some reason I thought nothing of turning up by myself with Little A in tow. She was fussy so I just brought her in my arms, no carrier, no stroller. I’m cringing now just thinking about it.

The party was a low-key affair, just a few little songs and dances and then food, but somehow for us it turned into a borderline catastrophe. GG wanted me to dance with him and Little A was screaming. I had nowhere to put her down even if I wanted to. He wanted me to pick him up and had a total meltdown. The baby needed to eat. I didn’t know anyone well enough to ask for help – or I hadn’t learned yet that sometimes the only way to survive with more than one kid is to get help.

Before long the poor little guy was a total mess. Screaming for me to pick him up, surrounded by kids who had all of their parents attention, and there I was, baby in my arms, failing him. I hadn’t even thought about it, about how much GG would need my attention in there. I’m so embarrassed to say that but it’s the truth.

I could have asked someone to come with me just to hold her, I could have thought to bring the stroller in, I could have asked for help. Now that I’m writing this, I could have even run outside right then to get the stroller from the car! But I didn’t. I was so busy fucking up that I couldn’t think straight.

Eventually we made it out. I let GG eat some gross unhealthy food because I felt so guilty and inadequate, and somehow I got both of them and an armload of bags and jackets into the car.

And that’s it, that’s my fuckup story. Sounds insignificant I guess, and maybe it was, but to me it was huge. Because I realized it, plain and simple. Failure.

So, why am I thinking about this right now?

Because yesterday I had my chance for a corrective experience – the end of year kindergarten party. And this time I got it. I understood what was expected of me, prepared accordingly and we all had a great time.

I don’t have a photo of that day, but this was around then, and it seems symbolic. The two of them and me, all on top of each other, trying to work out what fits where. 

Accepting my own imperfections is a real challenge for me. My therapist is always reminding me that the aim is not perfection – but rather acceptance. Sometimes I feel like, umm hello, what am I paying you for if we’re not working on making me perfect here? But of course, she’s right. And I think owning our failures can help us move towards acceptance. Not to try to get to a point where we don’t fuck up – coz that’s not gonna happen – but rather to except that we’ll make mistakes, and to learn to see failure, nod and carry on.

So, who’s up next?

An Ode to My Tongue Ring

An Ode to My Tongue Ring

A few weeks ago, my dental hygienist sent me spiraling into a minor identity crisis (and when I say “spiraling” and “minor,” I mean – I thought about it a few times in between working full time, trying to get our ten-month-old baby’s sleep into some semblance of order, fitting in a yoga class and a run here and there, considering cooking … etc.). She meant no harm, of course – she was just taking advantage of the fact that her hands and torture instruments were jammed in my mouth, blocking me from responding, to rant about the damage that my beloved tongue ring has wreaked on my teeth and gums. She wasn’t the first dental professional to make such allegations about my most beloved of piercings, I’ll admit, but for whatever reason, she actually made me consider taking it out. But I can’t. Not yet anyway.

Tel Aviv, 2007
Said tongue ring, many moons ago.
(Dude in the background sold separately)

This shiny little guy has been with me for 16 years – more than half my life (ahh!). Right there with me at every meal, every conversation, every drink. Sitting in the middle of my head through every heartbreak, every success, every difficult confrontation. I fiddle with it unconsciously while I think, entertain small children by sliding the ball back and forth between my lips and pretending to control it with an invisible string, and yes – sometimes bite it by mistake and it freakin’ hurts. I’ve had to defend it so many times to grandparents and other older relatives that it feels like an inextricable part of me – more like part of my personality rather than a glorified paperclip with ball bearings on either end. Stupid as it may sound, I’m not sure who I’d be without my tongue ring.

I’ve faced challenges like this before. When I quit smoking I knew this feeling – the doubt. The uncertainty as to what exactly I would look like (figuratively) as a non-smoker. And ultimately I got through it, and years later am somehow that ex-smoker who turns her nose up at cigarette smoke on the street. Is it possible that one day I’ll be that old woman making my grandchildren groan with bad jokes about whatever body art is all the rage in decades to come?

I’m still trying to figure out exactly what the piercing represents. Probably some sort of teenage obsession with being “cool” that I should have let go long ago. But now it’s taken on a new incarnation – in the will to be a “cool mum.” A yoga mum, a hippy mum, a mum with crazy ideas and piercings and tattoos. Mum, I hope you’ll forgive me for saying this – but my mum is the same. She wanted (wants?) to be a hippy, to be an earth mother – but I didn’t see any of that. Not until much later. I just saw my mum, I wasn’t having a popularity contest. So if this is about how my son sees me – he doesn’t know that a tongue ring means I’m cool. He just knows it’s a shiny thing in my mouth that he likes to play with when he breastfeeds, that makes him giggle when I pop it in and out of my mouth. He doesn’t know that it represents my 16-year-old self, rebelling, exploring, evolving.

Ultimately it’s gotta be about what I want – not anyone else. And it has to be okay for me to change, to evolve. To value being cool and impressing boys and getting high one decade, my career the next, and my family and my teeth and gums the one after that.

But I’m still not ready. Not quite yet.

And when I am – at least I’ll still have my “cool” tattoos.

Blogger’s note: A few months later… it happened. Read the post.

The Latest Gaza Conflict – In My Head

The Latest Gaza Conflict – In My Head

I’m so conflicted as I write this. I can’t even find a title I like, and that’s usually one of my fortes – it just comes to me in a flash of inspiration.

On one hand, the current reality of my life in Tel Aviv is completely unacceptable. Rockets the size of mini-buses are being fired multiple times a day on dense civilian populations. I don’t feel comfortable taking our five-month-old baby to the pool for fear of a siren going off and not having a protected space nearby in which to take cover. Driving even a few minutes away seems like an unnecessary risk. Every second time I put Gadi down for a nap I end up having to bundle him up and run into the stairwell to take cover during a rocket attack.

And yet. We just went for a walk (on a route with buildings to seek shelter close by) and it’s business as usual. The sun is shining. Families are picnicking on the boulevard. Cafes are full. In a strange, surreal way, the underlying anxiety is actually tolerable – probably even a better standard of living than most people around the world. Sure, there’s an uncomfortable uncertainty – when the rockets will hit, whether Iron Dome will intercept (and let’s face it, one of these days it’s going to miss), if the Neil Young concert next Thursday will be canceled or postponed. I’m not saying it’s not unsettling – but it is livable.

But what about the new mothers just like me in Gaza? All of the normal people in Gaza. As I make my way through this weird-ass week of sirens and bomb shelters, our Gazan counterparts are constantly on my mind. I keep thinking about the mothers who are just trying to protect their own little babies, as the IDF attacks terror targets left, right and center. And to be honest, it makes my considerations seem kind of precious.

I found it hard to sleep the night of the first rockets on Tel Aviv this week – I kept thinking I was hearing air raid sirens and worrying about what angle a rocket would hit if it slammed into our apartment. But there were none, and realistically I would have heard if there was, and eventually I did sleep. Do new mothers in the Gaza Strip have any time to relax between night feeds under these unrelenting attacks, night after night? Are their babies screaming non-stop? Do they have roofs? I can’t stop thinking about it.

I’m so conflicted as I write this. I simultaneously agree and disagree with so many of the arguments I see splattered across my Facebook News Feed. I think the Israeli management of the conflict is stupid – short-sighted and uninspired and aggressive. But yes, we do have the right to defend ourselves, and life for Israelis in the South under rocket fire is intolerable, and what would America do if Mexico…. bla bla. And of course Hamas is no better – the Islamist organization has no regard for human life, poor organization and planning at best and murderous intent at worst. And that’s to say nothing of efforts and failures at fair reporting locally and abroad.

Last time we lived through almost the exact same war – in 2012 – I was running the JPost.com news website. During one rocket attack I was walking home after a long day in the newsroom, blasting music in my headphones, and managed to completely miss a siren. I tweeted about it and received polarized responses – from “take care,” “shalom,” and “stay safe” to “oh poor you, no headphones – think about all the Gazans you’re killing.” Trying to keep an unbiased, journalistic voice, I said little. But you know what – both responses are right. Everyone should be able to walk down the street listening to The Prodigy and not have to worry about their personal safety. All human beings should have that luxury. And yet by the same token, it really was but a small inconvenience to my life – a cute anecdote, if that.

I’m conflicted because I don’t want to be political, and I want this blog to be about mindfulness and parenting and yoga and other such crunchy topics. But this is the reality of our lives at this moment, and I do want to give my internal conflict a voice. I believe that this dichotomy is shared by many, and ends up being the reason that nothing changes. Because for most Israelis (civilians in the South under constant attack notwithstanding) – it’s not bad enough to do anything. And for most Palestinians, it’s too bad to even imagine life any other way.

There has to be a better way. The bottom line is that we – Israelis in Tel Aviv – can deal with life like this. Possibly for a long time. I don’t know how long Gaza can hold out. And I shudder to think of the long term effect on the psyches of the Gazan people – will any of them ever really recover from these bi-yearly military operations? Is there any chance of the babies just like Gadi growing up not hating Israelis? I honestly doubt it.

And it doesn’t matter who’s to blame – this is exactly what we can’t afford to tolerate.

I’m bringing up a lot of questions, wishy-washy statements, emotions – and few answers, I know. Everyone has to take this situation and do with it what feels right for them. But for me – it’s gotta be a catalyst for change. Because if Israel keeps going the way it seems to be going – fast to the Right with no sign of it making anything any better, with regular mini wars with neighboring terrorist groups – then we’re not going to want to raise kids here. And I want to be clear – I wasn’t born into this society; I came here to realize a dream of bringing up children in an Israel of which I could be proud.

I’m not proud right now, and I want to be.

I can’t be responsible for everything, no one can, but I can do my bit to make this society into one that could make peace – when the conditions are ripe. I can speak up against intolerance, against senseless violence and against bolstering an “us and them” mentality which marginalizes the “other” and justifies all manner of unethical behavior. Without pointing fingers, without assigning blame – just calling a spade a spade when I can.

To this end, my husband and I just joined Israel’s left-wing party, Meretz. It’s a small step and you probably won’t see either of us leading the party any time soon, but at least we’ll be putting a little bit of time, money and energy where our proverbial mouths are. Doing something to prime Israel for peace, adding our voices to the whisper that still thinks it’s possible.

But even if every single Israeli followed suit right now, it still wouldn’t be enough – Palestinians are going to need to do the same. In Gaza, in the West Bank, wherever else – please, for your own sake. To those of you looking at your babies and wondering what will be – find some way to do the same. My life is already pretty good. It’s your lives that stand to get so much better if we can somehow find it in our hearts to make peace. Know that there are Israelis who believe in peace. Use the word. Convince your husbands and your fathers and your mothers and your sisters.

For our sons.