My Article on Social and Emotional Learning in The Washington Post

Last week I was thrilled to see my article on Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) on The Washington Post’s On Parenting Section. I knew I wanted to write about this topic ever since Sweet Pea came home from school practicing (and teaching us) her “soup breathing,” “birthday cake breathing,” and “pretzel breathing.” Her teacher doesn’t just talk the talk when it comes to asking the kids to focus on their breathing as a means of mindfulness and stress-reduction throughout the day—she walks the walk.

I have volunteered in the kindergarten classroom and seen the way the teacher takes her own brief pauses to collect herself, to breathe, and to show the kids how you can use the power of your own breath to be a calmer, kinder person. To read the full article (and find out why schools nationwide are increasingly adopting SEL curricula, and how you can incorporate the concept into your own home) click here.

Excited, but a little bit scared

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, on Sweet Pea’s first day of kindergarten… before Trump pardoned Arapaio and Hurricane Harvey. It feels like a lifetime ago now.

I could take my left if only the beige Toyota Camry blocking the intersection would scoot forward. The driver has at least a car length of empty road in front of her. I wave my arms like “What the hell, lady?,” but she ignores me, so I roll up a few feet so that my driver’s side window is even with hers. She rolls her window down.

“I didn’t put this traffic here. This is NOT my fault!” she shouts.

Her skin is brown and her face is pinched in anger like if one more goddamned rich white woman expects her to accommodate them she’s going to lose her mind. I pretend I wasn’t just waving my arms at her like she was a fool and in my kindest tone, attempt to explain.

“It’s just if you moved up a bit, I’d have room to—“

She drives forward, shouting, “Fucking rude lady!”

From the backseat, my daughter says, “If you can’t say something nice, you shouldn’t say anything at all.”

I want to tell my daughter that lady was probably stressed but if I talk I’ll cry. We’re on the way to school, where I will drop her off for her first day of kindergarten. So I nod my head and meet her eyes in the rearview mirror instead.

NPR comes through the speakers of our minivan. It’s the clip of Heather Heyer’s mom saying she’s not interested in talking to Donald Trump. Her daughter was murdered by a Nazi at a white supremacist rally and Trump said there were bad people on many sides. My heart breaks for this other mother.

  *     *     *

To wake my daughter, I rub her bare back as morning’s gray light trickles in through her magenta curtains. Her skin is still velvety but I can feel the outline of her ribs. She opens her eyes halfway and says she’s excited about school but also a little bit scared.

I tell her I’m excited for her. I don’t tell her I remember the hours I spent with an awkward, moon-shaped, mint-green paisley breastfeeding pillow strapped to my waist while she suckled at my breast. I don’t tell her I miss the sweetness of her silken, bald head against my chin. I don’t tell her I remember the way she looked as a toddler, beaming up at me on shaky, pudgy legs, her first ponytail sticking straight out from the top of her head, then flaring out like a blonde geyser. I don’t tell her how this day I’ve longed for has arrived too quickly, and that[bctt tweet=”I know if I’m lucky, this is just the beginning of a lifetime of letting go.” username=”PamMooreWriter”]

We walk toward the sea of nervous, proud, excited kindergarteners and their parents. My daughter marches straight up to the double glass doors.

“Wait,” I whisper. “The teachers will take you inside.”

When the teacher motions for the kids to follow her, I’m grateful my daughter and I have already hugged because now her focus is sharply on school. I leave with tears in my eyes and the tickle of a sob at the back of my throat. I will not cry, I tell myself. But of course, I do. I’m driving away, thinking of yesterday when I overheard Sweet Pea tell the babysitter her spirit animal was a goldfish.

“A goldfish?” I’d scoffed. “More like a cat. She’s so independent. She does everything on her own terms.”
How many times had I said I hated cats, didn’t trust them, that I’m not a cat person? I am ugly crying when I call my husband.

“I‑I think we should get a cat.” I can barely speak through my tears. “I said Sweet Pea’s spirit animal was a cat. She knows I hate cats and I’m afraid she’ll be in therapy about it someday. Maybe a rescue cat?”

“Just tell her what you told me. That you love her independence and you love her.” My husband pauses before saying, “We don’t need a cat.”

I am not convinced. I know my girl. She’s constantly listening, absorbing, making connections. When she was an infant, I’d be holding her and whenever we entered a room, her eyes would widen while she’d crane her neck to take in every detail. She’d sit in her Fisher-Price swing, scanning the room, her tiny forehead wrinkled in concentration. The lactation consultant at my weekly Milk Club said a furrowed brow is a sign of overstimulation, but I knew my baby was just focused.

I take a video of Sweet Pea on our front stoop before school. The air is crisp and it smells like fall. I ask her what she’s excited about (her friends), what she’s nervous about (nothing), her favorite food (pepperoni pizza!), her favorite activity (climbing with Daddy) and who are her favorite people are (Avigail, Alexi, and Mommy). I ask her what she wants to be when she grows up. She spreads her arms out over her head, takes a dancer’s leap, and exclaims, “A scientist!” My baby was never overstimulated. She was making observations. I want to be there for her science fairs someday. I wonder about all the somedays Heather Heyer’s mom is going to miss and fresh tears flood my eyes.

I can’t stop scrolling through Twitter, listening to NPR, and hate-watching Fox News. I obsess over the unbelievable-ness of it all. He said it was ok to grab women by the pussy. We were outraged. He made fun of a disabled reporter. We were astonished. He made a white supremacist his right-hand man. We were agog. [bctt tweet=”He said Nazis are fine people and I am wondering when it will finally feel like an emergency.” username=”PamMooreWriter”]

I wonder if the woman who said I was a fucking rude lady has been obsessed with the news, too. I wonder if the color of her skin feels like an emergency to her, when all a white supremacist, now emboldened by the president, has to do is look at her to consider her less human. Maybe we’re all excited to see how our one crazy, beautiful life will unfold, but also more than a little bit scared.

 

Heather Heyer

There is Such Thing as a Dumb Question

They say there are no dumb questions. They are wrong. (Side note: Who are they??) There are, in fact, many dumb questions. I know because I ask them more often than Kim Kardashian posts a selfie. In the spirit of conscious parenting and minimizing the urge to stab myself with a Lego, I’ve composed a list of dumb questions to stop asking my kids.

1) Are you ready to go?
Before asking this question, assess the situation. Are the child’s shoes on? Has the child gone to the bathroom? (Alternatively: Is her diaper smuggling a wrecking ball?) Is the child already holding whatever toy, doll, or tchotchke she needs to bring? If not, save your breath and some aggravation. The child is not ready to go.

2) Can you wait a minute?
If you say this to someone who has no idea how long a minute is, prepare for the aftermath: A small voice will ask, “Has it been a minute?” approximately every 15 seconds until you lose your mind. Multiply the number of uninterrupted minutes required to complete whatever you were doing by 7832. Plan to finish sometime next year. Next time, try saying, “Not right now” and then placing either the child or yourself in a locked, soundproof chamber where you or they will remain until your task is complete.

Click here to read all 8 dumb questions parents are prone to asking their kids on Parent.co

Why We Don’t Have a Christmas Tree

I am Jewish. My husband was raised Presbyterian, considers himself atheist, and until he met me, had never known a Jewish person. So it was with some trepidation and a few drinks that I told him if he was serious about me, he would have to let me raise our possible children Jewish. Never mind that I wasn’t positive I wanted kids and we’d known each other all of two weeks. I was sure of two things: Dan was awesome and I had no time to date a guy I’d never marry.

He asked me what having Jewish children would look like. I wasn’t sure. Seven years and two children later, I’m still winging it. But I had to answer the question, so I started with the one thing I was sure of.

We would not have a Christmas tree.

It’s hard for me to articulate what it means to be a Jew. It’s much easier to say what being a Jew is not. For me, being Jewish is not celebrating Christmas. As a kid, being Jewish at Christmas time meant feeling the pain of being different. Click here to read the rest on Parent.co.

#We’re With Her

My great grandparents immigrated to the United States in the late 1800’s to escape the pogroms in Eastern Europe. Once here, they had three girls, including my grandmother, Edith Berger Sinel. Having skipped a grade, she and her older sister graduated high school the same year. Their father said, “Girls, I can buy a house or I can send you to college.” They said, “Papa, you can always buy a house, but we want to go to college now.” My Memee and my great aunt Ruth were two of ten Jewish girls admitted to Pembroke’s (now Brown University) class of 1932. The quota system allowed a maximum of ten Jews in one class. My grandmother majored in German, but because of the Nazis were beginning their political ascent in Germany, she cancelled her plans to study there upon graduation.

In the 1960’s my grandfather passed away suddenly. leaving my grandmother to raise two boys and to run the family scrap metal business, which her father established in 1916. That business has provided for my family for a century. My dad finally retired this year. My uncle, my brother, and a cousin still work work there.

For two weeks, every day after preschool pick-up, before lunch, I took my daughters, ages two and four canvassing to get out the vote. We would get to anywhere from four to ten houses at a time, but we made steady progress. I think my grandmother would be proud.

#Werewithher

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