Sunday, January 07, 2007


Sometimes parenting feels like walking a tightrope.

It's hard to know how much is enough, and how much is too much. Like most parents probaby do, I find that I rely on a combination of my own upbringing, extended family practices, Jewish parenting hashkafas, what I see being practiced around me, and current parenting "thinking."

For instance, in a family in which Sunday is a "day off" such as ours, I'm wondering how to balance wanting to have fun and do activities together with the expectation on the part of the kids that there will very often be a fun activity to do on Sunday.

RaggedyDad has a corporate job and so, like many other workers, he's off on Sundays. Aside from his (often significant) MBA homework, there's no work on Sundays. He tries to leave schoolwork for when the kids are asleep, which is feasible because they go to sleep on the early side around here.

As a child, Sundays at our house were very different from what my kids experience. My own father still has the same appliance store he worked at with my mother's father and uncle. (Anyone need 220v?) "The store" took up almost all of my dad's time, 6 days a week, all year. And it was definitely on his mind when he wasn't there. If our lives had been a play, "the store" would have been a character all its own. They've since moved from the Lower East Side to Long Island City, but I'll never forget the original "store".

Also, my mother did not drive, nor does she now. To us kids, this majorly limited what we could do on Sundays. Even going to a friend's house who lived a bit further away involved trying to shnorrer a ride. To be fair, Mom tried to have fun with us. Once in a while, we took the bus to the train to Manhattan. Greenwich Village was a favorite of hers and she reminisced about what it was once like. I remember a particularly shleppy day on West Eighth Street, going into just about every shoe store (on a block of nearly nothing but shoe stores) to help Mom find a particular style of boot. We did find it in the end.

As we got a bit older, Sundays meant one or both of my brothers helping out at the store. Mom and I would walk down to the stores on Main Street. Maybe times were a little less scary, but I was old enough to be left in the public library for an hour or so while my mother picked up groceries. Staying at the library while my mother shopped was a big treat as far as I was concerned. I had to temper my desire to take home a huge stack of books with the knowledge that we were walking home, uphill, almost up to Union Turnpike, and then another couple of blocks in. Choices were whittled down, and the take was limited. Sundays were often boring, but usually relaxing.

So I worry as I see Ann getting older, getting more savvy and asking, expectantly, if we might get pizza or bagels, and if there's a visit to a zoo or a park awaiting her. RaggedyDad and I are cognizant of our mutual aim to counterbalance every parent's wish to give their kids the world, and (most) every parents hope that their kids don't turn out, well, spoiled. There is certainly a difference between spoiling kids with "things" and spoiling kids with "time and attention", but I think that overdoing the "experiences" reeks more of "things" than of "time and attention".

I think we're working it out, and I think we're coming out ahead. However, it's a long, fun road ahead.


socialworker/frustrated mom said...

You are a great mom.

Ezzie said...

That's funny... when I was growing up, I thought Sundays = Football. (Actually, I still do. My SIL warned Serach just before we got engaged: "You do know that you're about to become a Sunday widow..." She didn't understand, but now she does. :) )

You live really close to a nice park - walkable, too. My mom didn't drive, and we didn't do much as kids, but I and my siblings always loved the simplest places best... to the point that when my brother (32) and his family were recently in Cleveland and went to the Cleveland Metroparks, his face lit up completely when he saw the plain old large hills of grass. My parents said he was even more excited than his kids.

SephardiLady said...

Great last point about experiences and giving too much on the material end over time and attention. We occassionally do a "big" experience (which is probably small compared to what others do) and stick with smaller activities that promote bonding: puzzles, parks, legos, games.

I wish I had you as a neighbor!

Jack's Shack said...

Sounds like you are doing a fine job.

kasamba said...

Parenting can feel like you're blindfolded in a round room, looking for the corners!
Saying that, you guys seem like you have your act together!

PsychoToddler said...

When my kids were small, and I was a resident, sunday meant "abba on call" day. And mommy occupies the kids. Now it's more of a shopping/laundry day. And shlepping the boys from and to the Yeshiva.

RaggedyMom said...

SWFM - Thank you so much - it's what I strive to be. And it takes one to know one.

Ezzie - You mean the park overlooking 3 major highways and truck exhaust fumes? I get it - maybe if the kids develop asthma they'll show less interest in Sunday activities! Clever! :) RD hates the pollution - what can you do? This ain't no Cleveland.

Baruch Hashem RD is not a spectator sports kinda guy at all. Serach can always come hang out with us while you ogle the ogres in their funny white pants.

How does your mom survive out there without driving?! I feel like the no driving thing has always limited my parents' choice of where to live, as my mom doesn't want to always depend on rides. Is there excellent public transportation in Cleveland?

SL - It would be great if we could form a nice, low-key community with like-minded people. I like your ideas and I'm glad you guys are thinking along the same lines.

Jack - Thanks. Coming from a blogger who clearly focuses a great deal on analyzing and improving himself as a parent and as a person - that means a lot!

Kasamba - Thanks, and awesome analogy. I do admire your way with words. Want to start a new community with SL and me?

PT - I was thinking of you and other doctors we know when I referred to not all dads being around on Sundays. Like I've said before, even though my dad wasn't because of "the store," he was "there" in the big sense. I'm sure that applies to you too, both then and now.

"Laundry day" huh? How do you get away with that in a household that size? Every day is laundry day around here. Maybe it lessens when they're not babies.

the_laamb said...

the fact you care about your kids enough to write about it shows your a good mum :) keep it up

Ezzie said...

You mean the park overlooking 3 major highways and truck exhaust fumes?

Yes! :) That's the one. But it's actually quite nice, and you don't even realize you're right by the highway once you start having fun...

I'm sure Serach would love to. She always says she's so bored, and that I should get off the computer and we should go out and do something... ;)

No, my mom basically confined herself to being reliant on others. There's no public transportation near them. We never quite understood it.

Can I join the community you're making with SL and Kasamba!?

triLcat said...

Hey Raggedy,

My family used to do something for breakfast together - french toast (challah leftovers), bagels, omelettes, just something that would get us all to the table together.

My parents would also save all their mall-shopping errands for Sundays and let us wander (when we were old enough) and meet them back at some central location at a certain time. When they wanted to keep us busy for a long time, they'd give us some small amount of money to spend and we'd sit at a candy rack debating between Reese's peanut butter cups and Skor (back in the days before Snickers, Mars, and M&M's were kosher...)

The other solution is to move to Israel. We have school on Sundays. It's a day like every other... no muss no fuss no bother. Of course, you actually NEVER have a day off (except Shabbat), but hey.. small price to pay...

RaggedyMom said...

the_laamb: Thanks, and welcome! Positive feedback is always appreciated by moms!

Ezzie: Where are we starting this community? Please don't say Cleveland :) How about somewhere in Israel?!

Trilcat: Thanks for stopping by and for giving me a new blog to check out. How are you feeling?! :)

Ezzie said...

For sure! :)

medicalmystery said...

ok - so this is great - your father's store as a character - very sweet and clever - i love reading your blog- it is like little Elizabeth Burg moments - without the heavy heavy heaviness

i agree that time and things are very different - lucky kids, you have young grasshopper