100daysoff

Jeff Astrof has 100 days off. See how he spends them.

Day 64

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It was on our last trip to Israel, when Shawni and I first noticed our daughter manifesting her social anxiety. Back then, without the benefit of all the psychologists and psychiatrists we’ve spoken to, my reaction was pure frustration mixed with a little anger. Now, two years later, I am glad to say that… my back is smooth. We knew bringing her to a new country with a time zone change that if it was any bigger would be smaller, it was likely that it would take her more than the six hours I allotted for her to acclimate. But this being the Land of Miracles, I held out hope. Unfortunately, the miracles are reserved for smaller things like winning wars and splitting seas.

The time change has had a really dramatic effect on our girl. Whereas my son deals with this problem by going to sleep LA time and waking up Israel time, Sasha has been a wreck in the morning. This morning was particularly hard because I had (over)booked us for a really fun day. Sasha woke this morning exhausted and did not rally (she’s not a rallier) and said she didn’t want to go. One of my greatest challenges as a father is knowing when to push my kids and when to fold. I don’t want to be the tyrant father who makes their kid do objectively fun things, but I also don’t want to let my plans be dictated by a nine year old. This challenge is exacerbated when one of the parties is being extremely whiny and the other one planned a really cool day of camel riding, ATV driving and a tour of a bullet factory– I don’t want to name names but I was not the whiny one.

Shawni and I decided that there were certain things our kids would have to do by themselves- order a hot cocoa if they want one– and some things we would decide to do for them– a super fun day planned by Daddy. As our morning unfolded and my daughter did not relent in her drive to not go and had, indeed, gone to 9 on the
‘if it was still okay to smack a kid I would do so’ meter, Shawni approached me: “I’m going to propose something and hear me out before you jump–” “THERE’S NO WAY YOU’RE STAYING BACK WITH HER! I PLANNED A REALLY FUN DAY!” Shawni then thanked me for almost waiting for her to finish her sentence before jumping in. The truth is, while we didn’t want to cave to a 9 year old vacation terrorist, we also didn’t want to deal with someone who would be making a potential scene. I took a breath and told Shawni I agreed that she should stay back with Sasha– despite my incredible parenting training, Sasha and I would have wound up on Israeli CNN had I stayed back at the hotel.

Now, of course, as soon as I left to go pick up the rental car Sasha said she wanted to go– but only to the first part, something called “Genesis Land” where you got to ride camels and bake pita with people from the Bible (I know, fun, right?!) I told Sasha it was a package deal, or all nothing. She had a melt down and I said she couldn’t come. I realized a long time ago that you can’t threaten a kid with something that you can’t back up, and the more important lesson that you shouldn’t threaten a kid with something that is a punishment for the other parent, like when I told my kids no tv for the entire Sunday, the day they get to watch an hour of tv, then left them with Shawni while I went to yoga. Even though I knew I would be punishing Shawni by leaving Sasha with her all day, I also knew that once I drew the line there could be no compromising.

So here’s what the compromise was: we would all go to Genesis Land, then on an ATV ride through the Judean Desert, then drop Shawni and Sasha off at the hotel while Caleb and I went to a bullet factory. I know we should have been stronger, but Genesis Land was one of the favorite things we did on our last trip here four years ago, in no small part because we got to feed a newborn camel, Mazel, from a bottle. Let me tell you something, there’s nothing cuter than a newborn camel; I think we in America miss out because we have so few of them. Anyway, our plan was to reunite with Mazel. Of course, I was expecting the kind of reunion reserved for South African lesbians and the lions they rescued, but to be honest, we weren’t that far off. Mazel (or at least the camel they told us was Mazel after they heard our story) greeted us and let her pet her nose and my wife SWEARS that she has a picture of Mazel smiling. We may photoshop Mazel’s smile onto Sasha’s face for our album.

After that it was an ATV ride through the Judean Desert which was magnificent. I chose to go with Caleb in my car, because I think sometimes I do things with Sasha to spend time with her and I try way too hard to bond and it backfires. Caleb is just a fun-loving goofball who’s game for pretty-much anything. RIght now he’s going through a phase where he’s very sensitive to different tactile sensations, but I told Shawni that we have reached our limit on Crazy in our family, so if wants to get treated for something he’s going to have to get someone else to give up one of theirs. It’s my own version of Idiosyncracy Cap and Trade.

As a side note, I have to tell you, Israel is one of the most culturally, geographically and religiously diverse places I’ve ever been to. The soldiers who are too young to be my children, or pretty much gorgeous across the board. It’s an old joke, but the physical and psychological difference between the Israeli soldier Jew and the Sitcom writer must challenge every genetic theory available. I’m convinced that if an alien landed and was instructed to bring down one “Jew”, and I was standing next to the tan, blonde hair, green-eyed soldier that was waiting for a bus next to the restaurant I was eating at, the alien would have to take us both because he couldn’t imagine we were both the same species.

In any case, tomorrow is another day– and a really long one at that. The holiday of Passover starts tomorrow so my writing will be interrupted and unleavened for a little while. It’s a holiday where you’re supposed to teach your children the meaning of Freedom. My children have taught me so much, I just want them to know that I’m just trying to prepare them to have a better life, and not want their freedom from me. And if that doesn’t work, punish them. Punish them hard.

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Written by 100daysoff

April 17, 2011 at 11:11 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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