(this is a repost from a few years ago, but totally worth repeating especially as summer gets underway)

I hesitate to blog about this, simply because my mind is really avoiding going there, but the facts are that yesterday, we came within in minutes of Sam drowning.

We were at a lake in one of the surrounding towns, one of those lakes or ponds that are everywhere in Central Massachusetts.  There was no lifeguard, but it felt so safe.  It was idyllic, lots of picnicking families, sand toys and buckets everywhere.  There were two beaches, separated by a bridge.  I’m crap at estimating, but I’d guess fifty feet wide.  Maybe a hundred?  It wasn’t big.  And we were there with a bunch of other people, and there were lots of little kids running around.

Sam and his buddy Harrison had gone across the bridge (with permission) and were playing on the opposite side from where we were sitting.  I was watching them, and they were wading in the water, throwing mud at each other.  It was idyllic, all these kids running and playing.  I looked away for just a minute.  I was checking the girls or talking to someone, I don’t even remember, I just know that I had been watching and then I wasn’t.  In that period of time, Sam went too far in and lost his footing and started to flounder in the water.  He’s a struggling swimmer, and good enough so that he’s not always as cautious as he should be.

Someone, another mom, pulled him out, and I didn’t see him struggling in the water, I just saw her pull him out.  I didn’t have that moment of realizing that he might die, I had the moment of realizing that he almost had.

I’ll never be able to not know that now.

I’ve never come that close before and as I relive it, I’m crying all over again. It happened so fast, and so without warning.  And in that moment, I could have lost him.  I could have lost him, and I can’t even wrap my mind around that.

I know that I’ll never, never, never go swimming anywhere without lifeguards again.  I’ll never, never, never let myself relax when my kids are near water.  Just because it feels like a perfect, peaceful summer day – anytime there’s water, my attention has to focused on my kids.  I’m going to do my best to not terrify them, Sam was okay, and eventually even asked if he could go back down and play in the water.  I don’t want to scar him and make him afraid – but I’ll never be not terrified of taking kids to the water again.

I’m awful at putting my kids to bed.  There, I’ve said it.  I like to think I’m pretty good at most of the mothering stuff.  I’m patient, pretty relaxed about most things.  I can bake really good cookies,  and get dinner on the table quickly and most of them eat it.  But I’ve never been good at putting them to bed, awake, and walking away.

When I just had Jessie, it was easy.  I was GOOD at bedtime with just Jessie.  We had an elaborate routine, involving stories and singing.  I sat beside her at night and rubbed her back and she’d drift off to sleep.  After Sam was born, it started to get more complicated.  He wasn’t an easy baby, he was convinced that his rightful place was in my arms.  All the time.  And while it’s possible to sing while nursing, reading a bedtime story is a lot more complicated.

That’s where George Stephanopolis came into my life.  I learned quickly that my kids would fall asleep immediately when faced with political commentary.  We had a big love seat then, and Marc was working most nights.  So I’d snuggle them in on either side of me, shut off all the lights and we’d watch a little George.  On the upside, I became incredibly politically fluent, and we had a bedtime routine that was perhaps unorthodox, but effective.  I’d slide out from under them, and then haul them both into their own beds.

Once Julianna was born – things got more challenging.  We moved to my king size bed.  And I’d put them all to bed at the same time.  Still watching George, or the Daily Show.  We had settled into a routine where we’d all snuggle up and watch recorded episodes of Big Bang Theory.   And it was nice… for a while.   But more and more, they were staying up with me, and I was feeling trapped and stuck because I had to stay there with them.  Nobody was getting that much sleep, and it was time for a change.  Jessie’s always been pretty good at sleeping in her own bed, but she’s struggled with falling asleep forever (hence the long drawn out routine as a toddler).  Sam’s the opposite, he falls asleep easily, but would always prefer to be in my bed.

Cut to – books on tape.  Or CDs.    I had a long conversation with both the older two, and explained that it was time for them to start falling asleep, in their own beds.  Their little bodies needed more sleep.  I googled sleep requirements and explained that they needed between 11 and 12 hours a night, and waking up at seven meant that they needed to be in bed by eight.  Julie had always been good at going to sleep, she’s down for the night at seven or seven thirty each night.

So now I’m in control.  We’ve got a SYSTEM.  I put Julie down first, getting Sam and Julie ready for bed at the same time.  Once Julie falls asleep, I focus on Sam, doing a little reading or Big Bang with him and then tuck him into bed.  He’s listening to Magic Tree House or Harry Potter.  I leave on the kitchen light, so he isn’t in the dark, and he just chills until he’s out.  Then I move on to my Jessie – she likes to read or sometimes watch television for a bit, but then it’s lights out.  AND IT WORKS.  Last night, I got Julie down by 7:15, and both the older two were sound sleep by 8:30.  I’ve got at least two extra hours a day!  Brilliant.  Bedtime Champion.

I just hope I haven’t accidentally cursed myself by bragging 🙂


There’s something about that age, for my kids, anyway.  Three is where they start to get a concept of God – and I find it absolutely magical.

When Jessica Mary was three, she was so fascinated by the concept of God that I started looking much more seriously at Judaism, because I wanted a strong religious foundation for her.  There was no Church of Melissa that I could send her to for formal instruction, and when I looked at raising her in my spiritual tradition or Marc’s – Marc’s was the clear winner.  On the theological bones of it, Judaism was such an easy fit for my beliefs – and Judaism had the added bonus of already having a huge community waiting to welcome her.  She loved the rituals, lighting the candles and making the blessings, and explaining that something was a mitzvah was the quickest way to ensure her cooperation.  As a three year old, her spirituality was already so defined.

When Samuel Earl was three years old, he was the same way.  He wanted to have a birthday party, just him and God for his fourth birthday.  Part of that was that he didn’t like people all that much and at least God wouldn’t be looking at him and making him talk – but part of it was also that he had a profound connection to nature and trees and being outside.   I called him my little Druid – he was intensely connected to trees and the outside.  I remember him sobbing after a really bad storm came thru and so many trees were lost.  It was painful for him on a level that was hard to watch.  For Sam, his belief in God has always been intense and natural and easy.  God is his friend, God made the trees and when there is damage done to nature, Sam is devastated, not just for him, but also for God.

And my Julianna Ruth, who turned three in April – last night, I started reading a book that I had picked up for Sam for summer reading.   First Book of Jewish Bible Stories – and I just read the beginning of it, where God first created the world.  She was fascinated.  It was a story she’s heard before, because she goes to preschool services at the synagogue, and she knew the song about the days of the week, ending in Shabbat.  She was so excited about it, reading about her friend God.  She announced that he was her new best friend, and how he must have created people so that they could be his friends – and I thought about what a fascinating way children have of boiling down theology to their level.  And how safe and reassured she was – God was out there, and he loved her and she loved him, and it was so exactly what I wanted her to take away from the story.

I struggle sometimes with Judaism.  I don’t feel at home with the culture all of the time.  I don’t like gefilte fish, and don’t understand Hebrew.  But what I love about it is that the Jewish God is my God.  He (or She) is the one that I’ve been connected to for as long as I remember, I have always felt as though we have a very personal, individual relationship.  And when I’ve struggled the most is when I’ve felt cut-off from that relationship.  But in the end, I believe what my kids believe.  I think three years olds know it all already, and we spend the rest of our lives trying to understand it.  God loves us, he gave us tools to make it easier to connect with each other and with him, that the natural world is intimately a part of him, and that in the end, the world is a better and brighter place because of our relationship with him.

Today’s my catch up day.  I’m making chocolate chip cookies, because I’m out and have somehow fallen into the routine of constantly having homemade cookies in the house.  And bread – because why not?  Right?  It’s super easy to make and I doubled the recipe and will be having some homemade pizza for lunch as well.   Cracked the code on homemade pizza – precook the crust, just until it starts to get brown.  SO much better.  I’m also doing laundry, because taking one day off from laundry is enough to spin the entire cycle (literally and figuratively) out of whack.  I’m kind of shocked at the sheer volume of clothes that need to be washed, dried and folded.

Kids are both doing well in school these days – Jessie is growing up so fast I’m still a little taken aback by it.  She’s so much more responsible these days, doing her own homework with little to no oversight from me.  Packing her own lunches and getting her little self ready all the time.  She’s so beautiful to me, all the time.  I still can’t quite believe she’s mine.

Sam is really doing well too – today was the first day in two weeks that he’d balked about going to school – and I was firm.  Loving, but also very matter of fact about it, and didn’t let myself get caught up in the emotion.  It’s okay to hate art.  It’s not okay to lose your mind screaming about it.  And he didn’t.  He pulled it together and ate breakfast and went to school.  I was so proud of him.   And of myself – because I’ve really, really struggled with Sam and his school anxieties.  But it’s easy to believe that he can’t do it, and then he lives down to that expectation – and that’s not okay.  Not fair to him – even though it seems counter productive to not comfort a kid who’s crying because he doesn’t want to leave.  But comforting him just reinforced that it was too hard for him, and gave him the message that he couldn’t do it.  Part of it was my own guilt over sending him somewhere he hated, and part of it was just because it’s hard not to react when your baby boy is screaming for you.  I’ve never been good at walking away from my kids when they’re begging me to stay.  But he’s stronger than he thinks, and I’m sorry to admit, stronger than I had been led to believe.  I think so many people told me that he was fragile and in need of support, that I started to think that he couldn’t handle school like he should.  I had always read about how parents need to advocate for their kids – but never really understood what that was about, until it was my son, and a school adjustment counsellor that was convinced he needed more dramatic intervention.  He doesn’t.  What he needs is support and encouragement, like every other six year old, and also firm, clear expectations.

Which actually brings me to my next topic – Julianna Ruth.  She’s become increasingly attached over the past couple of months.  And I’m realizing now that she’s literally never without me.  Even coming with me to drop the kids off at school in the morning, she’d rather get up and come than stay here with her Daddy – and she loves her Daddy to pieces.  She’s shying away from people trying to talk to her, and she never used to do that.  So I’m looking for opportunities to leave her with people.  I joined the gym down the street, and will leave her here with Marc and siblings on the weekends, and I talked to Becky and my mother – and asked for help.  I hate asking people to take my kids, but I think Julie really needs this.

I’m so excited – got me my very own blog. I’ve been doing daily e-mails for everyone, but now I can just refer people to the blog :-). Spent all day making shabbat dinner, and am now no longer in the mood to celebrate. I did manage to talk Jess into cleaning up her bedroom by convincing her that it had to be pretty for shabbat, and I have lulled Sam into quiet by putting on Little Einsteins. He’s into the music. He’s also discovered how much fun it is to play with the controls for the stove, hence, the quarantine in the living room.