Sunday, July 4, 2010

The past lives of Maisie Beth

When Maisie was in Kindergarten, her very Waldorf teacher (like you could look up "Waldorf Kindergarten Teacher" in the dictionary and this woman's picture would be there) told me that she thought that she and Maisie must have known each other in a previous life. She said that she reacted unusually strongly to Maisie and that Maisie could get under her skin in ways no other child she'd taught could. She also said she thought that Maisie must have been royalty in a previous life because she had a funny habit of proclaiming things as though there were servants or peasants waiting to do her bidding.

Um, okay. I adored this teacher, so I just nodded and smiled. Sure. Maybe there is some merit to the past life theory. Who am I to say someone else is crazy? I'm sure not very many people consider me too sane. So, okay. Interesting idea to shelve in the back of my head.

Fast forward to now. We were invited to a dear friend's daughter's Bat Mitzvah. I had never been to a synagogue, never been to a Bat Mitzvah and adore the tenacious not so little girl who had busted her backside learning the Torah and Hebrew for her chance to come of age. We had to go. We drove the 6 hours to the city where the event was to take place, got everyone ready and I gave the standard mother lecture about what to expect and how to behave. Julia was for sure going to go to the service (2 hours in length) because her bff is the younger sister of the girl we had come to see. Maisie wanted to come too and insisted she was capable of sitting quietly for 2 hours. Fine. I felt I could provide enough entertainment in the form of books and paper and a pen to help her make it through.

However. We found seats in the synagogue, inadvertently sitting in the wrong section - someone give this oblivious me a map next time! - but the woman we sat next to was lovely and chatted with Maisie for a moment before the service started. The service began and we pulled out the Jewish prayer and song books, which read right to left and are in Hebrew and English. There were lots of songs, but only the words, not the music, was in the book and nearly every song included a lot of repeating certain lines and skipping around. I was lost and settled for just smiling and enjoying the sound of everyone around me singing. Oddly, there was an extra voice I was not expecting. Maisie. She happily sang most of the songs. She knew the tunes and a fair amount of the words. Hebrew words. Huh? At one point she noticed me looking at her (and not singing) and asked me in her not so quiet voice "Am I supposed to be singing?". I whispered that I didn't know the words as well as she did but that she was to carry on. She did. Beautifully. It was one of the more bizarre experiences of my life.

Well. I suppose it is possible that Maisie just is musically gifted enough to be able to wing it when she is in a situation like a Bat Mitzvah in an unfamiliar language. But how did she know the words? And the mystery of when and where songs repeated? I have no idea. None. Some things defy logical explanations. The best I can figure, is that some time between being royalty and being Maisie, this girl was Jewish. And though she has developed an intense love of pork products, she has kept the part of her that knows and understands Hebrew and old songs. It's definitely in the realm of weird, but it seems possible. What other explanation is there?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Last Child in the Yard?

If you haven't read "Last Child in the Woods", you should. However, kids in nature is one thing, what happened to kids playing in the yard? My children are the only voices on our street on any given day. No one else of any age is even outside. It's like a ghost town. Occasionally a silent adult will walk by with a dog or two. Or a bike will pass. That's it. Where is everyone?

My college age neighbor came up to complain last week about how loud the kids were. It was 3:00 in the afternoon on the first really warm day this summer and the kids were whooping and hollering in the sprinklers on the lawn. Actually the neighbor first screamed "SHUT UP!" from her yard. I had no idea she meant us, I thought there was a boyfriend or roommate spat in progress. Anyway, this person informed me that we were bad neighbors, I should be ashamed of myself for being such a terrible parent as to allow my children to be loud outside and I couldn't possibly know how hard it is to study physics and calculus when people are being loud.

Huh. I didn't even know what to say. Still don't. Obviously she was kind of right. The peace and quiet of the neighborhood is broken daily and regularly by my kids. But, and it's a big but, they're kids. They are supposed to be loud. They are supposed to be outside. You cannot play in the sprinkler quietly. Or inside. You can however, study at the library. Guaranteed to be loud child (and loud adult) free. So. What to do? Do I micro-manage the kids outside so that they only make appropriately loud noises. No fighting, no screeching, no loud games of Harry Potter or howling animals? Do I proceed as if she never came up and let the kids do their thing, letting them work out their arguments loudly when necessary, holler if the get ambushed with the hose, and play whatever games the dream up, no matter how loud? What do my elderly neighbors next door think? The older neighbors next door with grown children, what about them? I don't know.

Right now I am gently reminding them about not screaming at each other if they are angry, a good skill for inside and outside play. I am not asking them to say "Expecto Patronum!" quietly when they are playing Harry Potter, if the noise level is necessary for their play, I'm not interfering. I'm not asking them to play inside. Kids will be kids. It's kinda their job. I cannot and will not discourage outside play. I can only hope that people are tolerant and understanding or in this person's case, eventually grow up, have some children of her own and finally get it.