Archives for May 2009

Norms and deviations

Many years ago when I was studying for my doctorate, I took a course in psychological testing at the graduate school of education at the University of Pennsylvania. My professor, a singularly brilliant man, made this seemingly dry subject fascinating. He also helped us to understand tests and measurements in a new way. He gave us, for our final exam, a matching exam. On the left side of the page were 36 terms and on the right side of the page were 36 answers. We simply had to match the right one on the left side to the right one on the right side. As simple as that seems, my classmates and I puzzled over the answers for 2.5 to 3 hours. Not one person left the room before 2.5 hours were over– because for every term on the left, there were easily 2 and sometimes 3 or 4 answers on the right- and we had to find the correct one for each.

One of the terms on the left was “John’s IQ.” Strangely, that was the easiest one to answer. Because, of course, his IQ was 100. We knew that the mean score on an IQ test was 100. We knew that with a normal distribution, which IQ tests had, that within one standard deviation, 68% of the people tested would fit. We also knew that with the principle of regression to the mean, those who scored very high, would likely score lower the next time they were tested and those who scored very low, would likely score higher the next time they were tested. It was a good guess that John’s score would be 100.

I bring this up because although all of us are unique individuals, we also share a lot that makes us human. That means that none of us can fly without any apparatus on our own power. It means that all of us need to eat and to sleep. It is possible to posit certain norms.

So, when I have a family with a “problem child” who is noisy, rambunctious, demanding, and intrusive, I often will ask “How much sleep is this child getting?” Invariably, the response I get is, “He/she doesn’t require that much sleep.” The parents then go on to tell me that the child is up until midnight or later, but s/he is “wide awake” and “active” and “raring to go.” If the parents are willing to listen, the very first thing I tell them is this: “Your child does require a good night’s sleep and you need to help him/her get in the habit of getting it.” If the parents listen to me (and usually they do because they’ve invested their time, energy and money into the session) and begin to enforce reasonable sleep hours for their child, usually the second session begins like this:

“S/he’s a different child! I can’t believe it!”

And it’s true. People, all people, even your child, need adequate sleep or they become hyperactive, hypersensitive, irritable, and just plain annoying to be around. I used to tell my children, “I know it’s time for you to go to sleep because I am tired of your behavior.” I said it in a joking manner, but it was true. When children become unruly, often it is because they are tired.

Of course a side benefit of getting children into bed at a reasonable hour each evening is that the parents have a bit of time to themselves, something that is essential to keep the marriage healthy.

So, trust me, your child does require a full night’s sleep. I guarantee it!

Sleeping Abigail and friend

Sleeping Abigail and friend

Shabbat in Meron

First of all, I am not going to tell you about Meron. We had a relaxing. pleasant shabbat with a group of friends at the field school near the city of Meron. It looked like nothing so much as a summer camp in the US. It was lush with trees and beautiful wildflowers with paths to walk and beautiful vistas. Although it was in the area of Meron, we were nowhere near the city. Secondly, the pictures I am going to show you were not taken there. Instead, they are among the many pictures I have already taken of our very special Israeli scenery.

What I am going to talk about is that very hard to describe love of the land that Israelis have. It’s not just that this is our home. It’s not just that we have dreamed of it, worked for it, fought for it, and sadly, many have died for it. It is a deep love for the land itself. We love this piece of earth. We love the trees and the flowers and the birds and the animals who inhabit it. We walk its paths. Every weekend when it is not raining (most weekends in Israel) thousands of people go walking on the paths that are laid out in nature. Everyone- from babies on their parents’ back to people with walking sticks and canes- walks through the beauty that is our land. They wear hats and carry water and generously apply sunscreen and often picnic and sometimes swim and some (usually children) even skinny-dip in the streams and pools along the way. And this is what we see:

April in the Galilee

April in the Galilee

Israeli flowers in the Spring

Israeli flowers in the Spring

Flowers in the spring

Flowers in the spring

Flowers in Emek HaEla

Flowers in Emek HaEla

Is it any wonder that we love this land?

Mazal tov, Matan!

It’s hard to believe, but we are in the full swing of Bar/Bat Mitzvah season… I expect it to last for many years even as wedding season will begin to overlap.

By now there are 3 Bat Mitzvah girls and 2 Bar Mitzvah boys and today, the third put on his tfillin for the first time. All of us went out to celebrate together. OK, not ALL of us, but all of my children and some of the grandchildren.

It says so much about the future- not just the future of our family, but the future of the Jewish people, as I see these young people take their place as contributing members of the community with dedication. Their bright beautiful faces give me hope.

Read what my daughter Rachel said about this special day in her son’s life. here

Our taxi driver

Yesterday, my younger daughter and I went to Haifa. Since we wanted to be there by 10 a.m., we decided to go by train and avoid the rush hour traffic. Very shortly into the trip, we were reassured it had been a good choice as we looked out of the window at the parking lot that the Ayalon Expressway had become.

The train ride was pleasant and we finally arrived in Haifa, we found a taxi to take us to where we were going. We got into the taxi and started driving up the mountain. I can’t remember what we were talking about, but the taxi driver indicated that he understood our English and we continued the conversation with him. He asked if we had been in the country for a long time and we told him that we were soon coming up on 14 years. He said he had been here for 9 years and on the 23rd of May, he would be celebrating that anniversary. He asked where we were from and then we asked him where he was from. He said, “Lebanon.” We both stopped to think and after a second he told us, “I was a member of the Southern Lebanese Army (SLA).” Immediately, we began to think of those men who fought alongside the Israel Defense Forces. They and their families had been forced to flee their homeland when our forces withdrew from Lebanon. The only alternative for them was death for them and their families. These men were fighting for the freedom of their own country against terrorists who terrorized not just Israel, but their own people. When we pulled out of Lebanon rapidly, these people had to flee.

There are approximately 350 SLA families living in Israel since May 2000. These people have integrated into the country and are productive members of our society. But it hurts. Our taxi driver said, “I have no one here, only my wife and two children. Everyone else is there. It hurts me to see my house when I look at it from Israel. I haven’t been to the place from where I can see it for 6 years. It hurts too much.” I said to him, “Maybe when the extremists stop their nonsense…” and he responded, “Do you really think that will happen?” My daughter responded, “We are realists too, but we pray that things will change.” I asked him how his life is here in Israel. He said that his life is good. And then he said, “I isn’t easy to leave the place you lived for 32 years.”

Inside, I cried for him. When he dropped us off, I gave him some extra sheqels and said, with my whole heart, “Thank you.”

My father and my grandchildren

My father died too young.

He was a good man. He was kind and gentle and he loved his family. He loved nature and he loved beauty. He had a pleasant demeanor and everyone he met liked him. He had artistic gifts and was able to draw, paint, sculpt, build furniture, and take amazing photographs. Above all, he was my father.

He lived to see all 5 of his grandchildren. He got a tremendous amount of pleasure from spending time with them and learning of their achievements. I remember the day my oldest son went with him to a Radio Shack and he showed my father what he could make the TRS80 do. My father was completely stunned and amazed. Whenever we visited, he would tell me the same thing as I left: “Drive carefully; you have precious cargo.” He would tell me, “You are rich; you have 5 million dollars.”

As we all do, when happy times come, I think about my father and how I would have wanted him to be with us. Sometimes, though, I get a very clear picture of how it would be. For example, on Yom HaAtzmaut.

He would see and talk to each of my grandchildren. I can see his face beaming as one after the other was a delight for him to meet and get to know. I can see him laughing and joking with them. I can see him looking up in the trees at my little monkeys who have climbed them and shaking his finger and saying “Get down now, boys!” with a big smile on his face. I see him watching the little girls walking to and fro and enjoying the babies and then I see him talking to the children and telling them he wanted to take them up to Titora Hill to take some pictures of them, knowing all along that he would be pointing out the birds and the flowers along the way. I hear him calling them, “Come along, kinderlach!” and I see them happily skipping away after him.