the 90th minute

Until September 2007, when my oldest daughter was born, this blog covered daily life and politics in Israel, as well as Hebrew-English linguistic issues, from the perspective of an American-raised journalist and translator living in Israel. Now it mostly serves as the SmunchMonk&Bear news agency, a portal into the bizarre universe of the little people. Read more at:

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Just kvelling

Each of my kids has such a glaringly dynamic personality of her own that I sometimes find myself wondering to what extent each family's parenting style actually makes a difference (given a baseline of consistent love, affection and security, of course). But sometimes Rimonit makes comments that show she really seems to have internalized something I've been trying to drill into her (especially when she says it repeatedly at different times, as in these cases), and it's a bit of an ah-hah moment: a signal that maybe my primary purpose in their lives is not just making sure they don't leave the house naked. Here are the two examples that come to mind:

1. Many times when I would ask Rimonit to clean up her toys, she would kind of listlessly hang around, saying she needed help (even when I was helping her) and that she doesn't like putting things away. I would tell her, perfectly honestly, that I was cleaning up even though I don't like cleaning either, and that I was doing it anyway just because it needed to get done. For a while it didn't seem to have much effect. But recently she has been more cooperative, and as she's putting things away, she tells me: "Ima, I don't like cleaning things up - but I'm doing it anyway."

I totally love this, because if for some reason I had given birth to one of those strange creatures who lives for tidying up, the house would presumably be cleaner but what would she learn from it? That she gets praise for doing something she loves to do anyway? On the other hand, the attitude that Rimonit has been expressing has the potential to help her any time she has to tackle one of life's many unappealing tasks, whether it's cleaning or doing homework or paying bills. Because there's always gonna be something you don't like, but (as I still struggle with) sometimes you've just gotta do it anyway.

2. I've made an effort to highlight (in what I hope is a non-lecturey way) the importance of, well, effort. And practice, and trying again, because that's the only way you'll (eventually) get there. This is particularly important for Rimonit because she has some speech (and fine motor coordination) issues, including word-finding difficulty, meaning that even if she knows the right word for something it can be hard for her to call it up on demand, a problem intensified by her vocabulary gap in Hebrew engendered by the fact that we speak only English at home. This can, naturally, be frustrating, which can in turn lead to diminished self-esteem and a reduced motivation to even try to succeed.

And so it is that Pablo, Disney's penguin that hated the cold (a childhood favorite of Warren's), and the little engine that could have become not just storybook characters but also touchstones for talking about how sometimes we don't get it right the first, or second or third, times, but like Pablo, we have to keep finding a way to get it right (or reach a warmer climate, in his case), and how even if we're smaller than the other guys and the mountain is very big and it's so hard to get over the mountain, we, like the little engine, still have to try, telling ourselves that we think we can. I'm not generally a big fan of stories whose main function is to hit you over the head with a moral lesson, but both these stories have enough personality to stand on their own, as well as being quite useful when there is a message you want to bring home anyway.

As Rimonit's victories have been racking up, we refer less to those stories and more to her personal accomplishments. Last year she became an expert at hopping (both on her right foot and her left one), and still repeats back to me the narrative of her success: "At first it was hard for me to hop on one foot, but I kept practicing and now I so good at it!" ("To be" words, on the other hand, appear more difficult to get the hang of! At least partly because they don't exist as helping verbs in Hebrew.)

More recently, she has really started to get a grip on how to hold a pencil correctly and has been showing a great deal of enthusiasm for writing her name and learning her letters (all in Hebrew - I had started with identifying English letters last year, but it fizzled out when she started speech therapy and we had to work on speech issues at home as well, and now I'm thinking that the best thing to do is to supplement what she's already doing in gan). As soon as she wakes up in the morning and as soon as she gets home from gan she rushes to her notebook to practice writing her name.

Not only has there been dramatic improvement but, at least as important, she has told me excitedly: "I so much better at writing my name and at holding [a pencil]! I want to practice more and get even better!" I can only hope that these lessons stay with her, and that she will always be so excited at the prospect of practicing things that are hard for her and so confident that doing so will help her improve.


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