Sunday, December 16, 2007

A gift

It was obvious from a very young age that my oldest son was gifted. He picked things up very quickly, knew which questions to ask, learned to walk, run, zoom, speak 2 languages and manipulate the world around him by the age of two.

Being gifted is definitely a gift - but one that is packaged in some heavy baggage. He's never quite fit the "normal" mold in terms of doing what other kids his age were doing; his cup runs over with emotional challenges; more than a pinch of ADHD, possibly some ODD tossed in - all relatively common side dishes to being gifted, and a first child, and a boy, and the carrier of my husband's "shpilches" gene. Quite a full plate - both for my son and for his parents.

Last week, I took him to take a "giftedness evaluation" (test), that is required for the junior high school program we would like him to go to. (He was found to be gifted in 3rd or 4th grade in a different evaluation we did, but we needed "refresher" confirmation). Although it was obvious he was nervous/excited, and although he took his ADHD medication that morning to help him concentrate on the task at hand, the moment we stood at the doorway of the "testing room" (5 rows of tables with 2 kids at each table) - he lost it. He didn't want to go in, he said he hated me, he wanted to go home, he said I'd owe him a big present, he didn't care about the school, etc etc (this went on for about 20 minutes, until thankfully one of the testers told him he had to go in).

And after all the other mothers calmly went off to do whatever it was they had to fill the 2 hours until the test was finished, I stood outside the closed door and can this test show if someone is gifted? Some math problems, English, Hebrew grammar, shapes and squares with lines (the test was paper and pencil, which struck me as amazingly primitive) - if my son doesn't feel like answering the questions today - how will they know that he really is smart (and not just a smarty-pants)? He has amazing artistic and language abilities, can express himself eloquently and directly, his understanding is well above that of other kids his age (with a slight detachment from reality in some cases, particularly when there is homework in question).

How do we unwrap this gift to help him fulfill his gifted potential? It's like that children's game where you pass around a present 8 or 10 times, each time unwrappinng one layer. And just when you think you'll see the gift itself, the music starts playing again and you have to let it go around the circle again, until another layer is removed.

It will be interesting to see the results of the see how many more layers of wrapping we still have to go.

(still trying to think of a song that will suit this post!)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Call me the Cookie Monster

Well, it's been over a month since my last post, but I won't apologize, since although I really do want to blog on a more regular basis - sleep still takes priority when I have the time...

Purim has passed, and with it a flurry of baking, wrapping and delivering "mishlochay manot" to all our neighbors and friends. I don't know how I do it - the whole week before Purim, every night I prepared a different batch of cookies, and immediately froze them - then on the actual holiday (this year) I prepared about 12 festive plates filled with a variety of yummy cookies.

I have this fantasy that everyone on our street compares with each other, and those who don't get them yet are hoping to be added to my "friendly baking" list...(I like to give out breads and cookies to neighbors, who are also good friends, as thanks for their help with various things. Once, I baked a really good bread for a neighbor who came to kill a scorpion that entered our house when my son was home alone...that's a story in itself).

Anyway - this year as I was baking and wondering if I will continue this massive cookie tradition next year - I was thinking, if I only put this much effort into coming up with positive ways of helping my sons with homework, with housework, or with anything I ask them to do that immediately elicits an instinctive "NO". It seems that maybe I am directing my energies into things that are "nice to have" (as they always say about the intranet I am responsible for at work) instead of really focusing on the issues that need attention. Cookies are always a success, relatively easy to prepare - there's a recipe, I follow it, cookies come out good, neighbors smile and thank me - it's a very positive experience.

On the other hand, when I remind my sons to do their homework, I am immediately met with resistance and unfulfilled promises ("I'll do it later..."), which leads me to become a terrible nudge - reminding and demanding over and over again that they stop whatever it is they're doing and DO HOMEWORK. Which brings even more opposition, yelling and resentment - ultimately and almost daily a very negative experience.

Why can't my children be more like cookies? No, the question is, why can't the way I deal with my children be more like making cookies? I need to find the right recipe - a neutral, floury base (the initial approach), sweetened as necessary (maybe with a snack or some good quality time), and just the right amount of "baking powder" (or the equivalent amount of creativity) added to get things to rise...then once it's baking (the actual sit-down and do homework process), it's only a matter of time until we can all enjoy, and gain from, the tasty results. (Although I suppose I should expect to burn a few batches in the process)

And, as my youngest son's favorite song goes: "C is for Cookie, it's good enough for me" - but now that I think about it, I need to strive for much more than "good enough", I need to go for the whole bakery....

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Three is the magic number

I've made it to the lucky blog number three...and it's amazing how many times this week I thought about what my next post would be about. What I realized mainly though, is that whatever I write about, I must have a point. It may take a while, but I have to eventually get to that point.
So I'll start, and I hope that at some point I'll figure out what my point is.

The topic I could go on and on about (as every parent can vouch for) is my children. My 3 boys, big and small (no, not including my husband...) are a never-ending source of inspiration for contemplation. And frustration. And revelation, and get the point. For almost every bit of joy they bring me -and there's a lot - I always seem to find myself pointing out what they're doing wrong instead of what they're doing that's great. This is a big confession on my part, and I wonder if it stems from the part of me that has become more Israeli. I am aware of it, and I'm working to change it, to reduce my criticizing, and to decrease my over-quota expectations from them. I have American expectations from my Israeli children (say no more!), and anyone who knows how Israeli children behave can stop reading now because you get it.

For the rest of my readers (both of you), let me put things in perspective. The difference between American children and Israeli children is like comparing rabbits to raccoons - whereas the rabbits are quiet, cautious, and sensitive, the raccoons are aggressive, mischievous and make it their business to get into everything they're not supposed to. Maybe that's not the best analogy - add the stubborness of a mule, the noise of a monkey, the cunning of a fox and the drama of a dog...and you get a little closer to Israeli children. Then add the fact that they call their teachers by their first names (a strong sign of the lack of respect for parents or elders cultivated at a very young age), and you start to get the picture. (I'll have to remember to do a post about the Israeli tourist, which is the full-blown grown up version of this character at its worst.)

When I look at the typical Israeli parent, who usually over-spoils their children from a combination of the "Jewish mother" syndrome and the "we could all die tomorrow" mentality, it's easy to see how the children turn out the way they do. It's the "I didn't have anything, so I want my children to have it all" attitude that equates love with material things, that is the surest way to make your child believe that they deserve everything, without appreciating what they have. And the funny thing is that I think that even my children blame my "strange American ways" when I don't give in to their demands. If they want an allowance, they have to work for it ("but Tamar's parents give her 20 shekels a week and she doesn't do anything!"), if they want to connect to the internet, they have to be sure their homework is finished and their rooms are neat (yeah, right), and so on. Nothing is taken for granted.

Which takes me back to my point (we'll get there, I promise). Do I have too many American expectations for their behavior? When I expect them to say please, and thank you, and knock before they barge into my bedroom, is it too much? And if so, should I not get angry when they don't fulfill those expectations? (I'm not even measuring in the heaping dose of ADHD that also plays its part here).

***Note: How embarassing, it is now 3 weeks after I started this post, and I never made it to my point in the end. So I'm just going to stop, and move on to the next post.

And as De La Soul's funky version of the old Schoolhouse Rock favorite goes :
"Now you may try to subtract it, but it just won't go away... Three times one (what is it?) 1-2-3 that's the Magic Number"

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

What's in a name?

I'm guessing that this is one of the most popular topics to start writing about on a blog - especially for beginners like myself, but I figured that the name "Raw Material" is not necessarily self-explanatory (or maybe it is). So here's a short attempt to explain how I arrived at the title.

Working in a pharmaceutical company, I would most likely associate the term "raw mateial" with all of the separate ingredients used to manufacture the finished product. It could also refer to the fact that my meanderings here will be pretty raw, half-baked and only a small part of the entire "production process" that is my life. And if I play my cards right, I'm hoping that eventually my posts will blend together somehow to create a finished product that will provide those who read it with insight and enjoyment (and keep my family updated on my life when I don't remember to call often enough).

I will mix in some thoughts about work, about family, about living in Israel, and at some point maybe I will find my voice and that special topic that I will concentrate on. Although I have actually considered it and am just waiting for the opportunity, I don't think that the company I work at is quite ready for a corporate blog yet (although, if the decision is ever made, I reserve the right to use the name "Raw Material" for my internal blog too!)

So, welcome to my blog, bear with me, and as they say at the start of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at Disneyland : "Here we gooooooooo!"

Monday, January 1, 2007

Let's get this over with....

Okay - it's the first day of the new year... and I am posting my first blog.

As Ray Charles sang in a Blue's Clues movie: "I don't know where it comes from, but when you sing...there it is."

So there it is.