This Week's Challenge

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Gate leading into Kfar Retamim
I had every intention of writing a matching post to Adam's about the rest of our journey to Retamim. I even started to write it, then I got bored. I figured if I was bored writing it you would not want to read it...so I tossed it. Adam did a great job describing the post flight leg of our journey and I don't feel that my perspective has much to add. The only thing that I would reiterate is the wonderful feeling when we pulled up to the Retamim gate. The sign reading "Hopkins Welcome" brought tears to my eyes, after a VERY long day and a tumultuous taxi ride we had arrived in a place where people were waiting for us with warmth and anticipation. We had arrived home.
Our front door with artwork
from kids in the Yishuv.

This week has been a whirlwind, between unpacking, setting up our home, meeting LOTS of new people (bear with me a bit, I promise I will eventually remember ALL of your names), starting the kids in Gan and Maon (school and daycare) and on and on.... The most difficult part has been Gan and Maon. I keep reminding myself (and Adam) that under the best of circumstances this would be a difficult transition. In an English speaking school both kids took weeks to get situated and feel comfortable, the baby has NEVER been with anyone besides myself or Adam. All of this mixed with exhaustion and stress from a move as well as trying to negotiate a new language makes for the perfect storm of a tough week. This has come to a head the past 48 hours - all three kids have had fevers at some point in the last 2 days! Ugh!!

First, Maon, so far I have nothing but good things to say about it. The staff has been wonderful, the facility is clean and has lots of toys and outside play for both kids, and the food seems great (at least it smells great). We started Sunday having the kids go for 2 hours and have increased each day. The princess did GREAT the first couple of days. She loves her teacher and wanted to play with the other kids. Tuesday was a struggle, she cried a lot and didn't want to eat, but when she came home (at 2pm after nap), I realized she had a fever and was cutting molars. She stayed home with me yesterday and is back for her first full day today (crying when I left her). All in all I know she will be fine. She is the most adaptable of the three and is already speaking Heblish ("Abba, איפה my mom?"/"Where is my mom?"). I also know from experience that as long as she has her blankie, she will eventually adjust and stop crying. Of course she picked the week we move to Israel to get her molars.

The baby... this one hurts my heart and tugs at every fiber of my mommy genes. He is happy enough there playing, but as soon as it is meal time or nap time he loses it! I have created a monster. In retrospect Adam and I should have been giving him at least one bottle a day for the past month but we didn't and we also did not push the solid foods enough so he is just outright refusing to eat. He is not used to having all of the noise of the 13 other babies around so he is also struggling to get to sleep. The Maon director keeps reminding me "לעת לעת" ("slowly slowly") and I do understand that but I am nervous about him refusing food, drink and sleep next week when I am in Ulpan. Also, there is an issue of pumping enough milk. I am pumping... maybe its enough I'm not sure yet because he hasn't taken any from a bottle, but every time we put it in the bottle and warm it and he doesn't take it my heart breaks a little more. That stuff is like gold and when we have to throw it away I cry. I feel an ache even as I sit here and write this, because I know that he will be crying for me soon and I could easily make it stop by soothing him and nursing him but I shouldn't and I won't. I need to let him get settled and learn how to be separate from me.

Now, on to the big kahuna..... Gan (pre-school) is HARD. We have a sensitive boy who prefers to have Abba or Mama with him anyway, throw in 30 Hebrew speaking students, 2 Hebrew speaking assistants, and one eager, enthusiastic Hebrew speaking Ganennet along with tile floors and you have a recipe for a disastrous week. Then take said sensitive boy and make him jet lagged and sick. He wants so badly to want to be there, and he does as long as Abba or Mama are also there. We are trying very hard this week to gradually fade ourselves out of the equation and were fairly successful yesterday. I have a bad mommy confession story though, yesterday I went to check on him at 12:30p (school goes until 2p), the class was out on the playground. When I came inside the teacher told me in her broken English that he was doing well and was outside and showed me to the door. He came running in and gave me a big hug. He was very pouty and admittedly quite warm (although he was wearing a t-shirt and his forearms were freezing so I made him put a sweatshirt on). He came and cuddled on my lap for a couple of minutes. I asked what he was doing outside "nothing" he said. "I was just standing there because I wanted you and you didn't come back." OUCH. Four-year-olds know where to hit you where it hurts. "Well, buddy, I'm here now. I will stay for a few minutes and then either Mama or Abba will be back before 2 to pick you up." "Can't I come home with you now?" we ended up making a deal that I would stay through story time and someone would be back before 2 to pick him up. I stayed until 1 O'clock the whole time he was on the edge of complete meltdown. I left after getting him involved in a table top arts and craft activity. When Adam picked him up at 2 the teachers told Adam they thought he had a fever. He did. Immediately upon hearing this/seeing the number on the thermometer (102 F / 39 C) I felt incredibly guilty about forcing him to stay at all never mind that I made him stay alone.

Unfortunately, what he hears is a lot of background noise. The teacher talking is like the Peanuts parents and it seems like he just tunes it out. The Ganennet is trying very hard to intersperse the little bit of English she does know into the class but unfortunately the boy is SO overstimulated by the size of the class and the activity of the other kids and not understanding the Hebrew that it is lost on him. I know in my head that I need to walk away so that he can learn to adjust and so that the teachers can get to know him and learn how to support him, I am just afraid that when I am not there he will be standing on the sidelines not participating. Maybe that is just what he needs right now. Maybe he just needs to watch and see what the other kids do, how they interact with each other and learn for himself how to do it. My American mom intuition is SCREAMING "he's going to miss out, what will he learn standing on the sidelines?" I need to let go of that mentality and let him explore for himself. "Don't be a helicopter mom." I tell myself. Easier said than done.

I know in a few weeks the intense emotions and struggles of this past week will be a distant memory, but I also know that as a mom you never stop worrying about your kids. As babies I can/could fix all of the problems with a snuggle and some "mama milk." At  age two, a snuggle still works, most of the time and they are easily distracted. The real challenge now is learning at age four that already Mama and Abba can't fix it all and we need to learn when to walk away so he can learn how to fly on his own. This is our challenge going forward and I reluctantly accept. We'll see if Abba does.

Thoughtfully written by:

Rachel Hopkins

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