Letter to Parents

So here we are in the middle of a pandemic.  Few of us could have ever imagined what life would look like in August of 2020.  In normal times, as parents and teachers of young children, we would be getting excited about the new school year and savoring the last days of summer before everything gets crazy busy again.  

The tone of this time is very reminiscent for me of the days and months following September 11th of 2001.  I speak for many – especially those of us who lived just blocks from the World Trade Center site – when I say it was other-worldly, thoroughly disturbing our sense of reality and normalcy.  How could we get through it?  How will our world look in the future?  Will life ever feel normal again?  

I believe life will feel normal again, just altered.  Changes may be significant, but we will make it normal.  We humans are extremely adaptable.  Life will not be the same but that doesn’t have to mean awful.  Our kids will, as always, take their cues from us.

On September 12, 2001 I closed the playgroup for a a short time – a total of three days as I recall.  We had only just begun the school year on the 10th.  The playgroup families did various things.  Some got out of the city while others hunkered down in place.  My daughter Sara and I travelled to my sister Frances and her family in Massachusetts.  I went to the ocean the day after I got there.  There was no one there but me and I cried and screamed into the air that thousands of people had just died and that I was so sad and so scared.  I scared the daylights out of the seagulls who were walking on the beach I remember, which made me laugh a little between crying and screaming.  

When we got back to New York I resumed the playgroup and vowed to myself to make it an oasis for the kids and the families.  And it was.  One family moved out of New York right away, but everyone else stayed.  By the end of the school year we all felt lucky to have been part of something bright and hopeful.   

I have that same feeling right now, although we’re going through a far more complicated time.  We have to fight to get our lives back and fight injustice with regard to people of color, especially black people in this country.  I’ve learned to be not just a non-racist, but an actively anti-racist person.  This forcibly quiet and unhurried moment is a gift.

As I ready my playgroup space and my mind for this coming year, I have that same determination to make the playgroup a sanctuary.  And I know it will be.

Testimonial

I loved my time at Judy’s Playgroup. I’m 32 and my best friends are still from there! It’s a community, creative loving and engaged. I feel so lucky.

  • Lena Dunham, Class of 1989

Quill Pig Farm

My daughter, Sara, and her husband, Doni, have created a wonderful life on a farm in Plainfield, Vermont.  They raise beautiful and healthy pigs, primarily, and have the meat humanely processed.  They sell their delicious products in Vermont, also delivering to Manhattan and Brooklyn once a month.    

This may seem shamelessly self- and family-promoting (I guess it really is), but suffice to say I am immensely proud of them and their pure intention to be honest and trustworthy business people.  

When Sara was little, she wanted to someday live in the country.  She has certainly fulfilled that dream, and then some! 

The name “quill pig” is a folkloric name for porcupine, no doubt because it looks to be very much part of the swine family, but with quills.  Doni found a dead one on the property a few years back, looked into the origin of the name, and together with Sara, decided that was the absolute perfect name for their farm.  

Last summer I stopped the car on a back road, and my granddaughter, Audrey, and I watched in awe this prehistoric-looking creature lumber down the road, stopping from time to time to raise its quills upward.  As quickly as it could, it scrambled into the woods.  I learned later that porcupines don’t propel their quills when threatened, but simply release them into those unlucky enough to be in contact with them.  Indigenous people would throw a blanket over them, and the quills would release into the blanket.  They would then be used for decoration.  Brilliant!

If you want to learn more about the farm, please go to quillpigfarm.com.

Reasonable/Unreasonable

We bring home these beautiful and precious babies.  We love them, nurture them, trying our hardest to fulfill their every need.  We stare at them for hours on end, looking for signs of connection.  We are thrilled when they make the tiniest bit of progress.  They grow and change daily, learn and delight us.

So, it stands to reason that we are shocked when, only months later, they start saying “No!” and suddenly aren’t cooperating.  WHAT HAPPENED??!

We continue trying the same things that were working just last week.  Nope.  It seems completely counterintuitive to be the “boss” when we hadn’t needed to be.  Until now.  It feels wrong, unnatural.  But, alas, it isn’t.  

Our job is to try to keep pace with where they are in their development.  And not to blame ourselves, or them, when we just don’t understand what’s happening at any given moment.

At some point early on, and because we’ve done a good job, they will pull away slightly.  I remember reading that when we are holding our infants, the first sign of individuation, or separation, is when they arch back.  Maybe.  It makes a certain amount of sense to me.

These states of holding and letting go, remain part of our relationship with our children forever after.  They need to separate, and we participate in that dance from the start.  We are hard-wired to hold on, and have to learn when to let go, bit by bit.  They are hard-wired to do the same.

That is all to say, that when they start asserting themselves, this is a new level of separation.  The trick is not to take it personally, but to see it for what it is.  We need to repeatedly work on removing or minimizing the idea/thought that we need to bend them to our will, and to respect their need to separate.  

I break it down to what we feel is reasonable or unreasonable.  Do they need to get dressed in warm clothes when they go out into the cold?  Should they be allowed to keep throwing food on the floor, even when they’re two years old?  Vs., do they need to finish every single bite of food on their plate, or like the same things we do?  Can they pick out their own clothes even though we think they look silly?  Can they make their beds, imperfectly?  There are thousands of possible scenarios, but you get the picture.  When my daughter was little, I used to hear “Pick your battles.”  I guess that is a good way to express this.

On the other hand, they need to win some of these “battles.”  And we need to teach them what’s important, and what can be negotiated, or let go of.

We can keep adoring them, even when they frustrate us.  That never needs to change.