Not Quite Broadway

I took a personal day this week to be a parent chaperone on my son’s class field trip.

The trip was to a local theater to see a live performance of the children’s book, Click Clack Moo. I wouldn’t say it’s the most popular book ever, but Eitan has it and enjoys it very much. The basic premise is that Farmer Brown’s cows and chickens get very cold in the barn at night so they go on strike. They refuse to give Farmer Brown any milk or eggs unless he supplies them with electric blankets. The cows learn to use the old typewriter that Farmer Brown left in the barn to send him their demands; hence, the title for the book.

It’s a cute story; just trust me on this.

The show itself was cute, as well. The theater troupe turned the story into a musical and updated it a bit for the younger target audience. The most notable difference was the addition of Farmer Brown’s granddaughter, Jenny, who is visiting him. She has brought her laptop so she can check her email and keep in touch with her friends. Farmer Brown takes away the laptop (and the printer that Jenny also brought for some reason) because he feels like Jenny is never willing to help out on the farm and sticks it in the barn. I’m skipping parts, obviously, but the lesson of is about finding ways to compromise and work together toward a common goal, rather than sticking to one’s opinion at all costs.

My point, though, is less about the show or it’s message and more about taking the day to be with my son and his class. The time I have to spend with Eitan has continues to dwindle; my caseload at work was increased in the fall, I’m still teaching religious school twice per week and I’ve taken on some more private practice clients, as well. We’re all too familiar with this refrain by now; keeping busy means I’m making money to support my family but it’s a struggle to find time to actually be with my family. In fact, now that Shayna has begun expressing herself more clearly, I’m waiting for her to have her own “Daddy lives work!” moment. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.

I try to take advantage of as many opportunities as I can to stay involved. I take days off to volunteer for field trips or go to work late so I can be at the school for early morning class programs. Also, if making these arrangements means that I have to finish assignments at home in the evenings once in a while to make sure I get my paperwork done, so be it. I want Eitan to know that I’m working a lot but that he and Shayna are my top priority, no matter what else is going on.

There is an additional benefit to going on a field trip with a kindergarten class, though: it’s fun. Let’s be clear: Click Clack Moo was hardly sophisticated theater. The show was enjoyable for what it was but we’re not likely to see cows chanting with picket signs at the Minskoff Theater anytime soon. There is something to be said, however, for spending an hour watching people in ridiculous costumes, hearing relatively clever songs and, most importantly, listening to children laugh through the whole show. There’s a reason J.M. Barrie put orphans in the theater1 at the premiere of Peter Pan; children’s laughter reminds adults how to relax and just enjoy themselves.

It wasn’t only the performance, either. Between the bus rides and the waiting periods before and afterward, Eitan’s classmates and I had conversations and played games together. We played I Spy, told jokes and made faces at each other. The kids asked about my age and then told me how old their parents were. They told me about their families, their interests and each other. I don’t mean to paint myself as the Pied Piper of kindergarten children; certainly, some of my experiences as a camp counselor and as a father are clear indicators that there are limits to my powers of influence over kids. But these children, in particular, engaged with me because they knew I was their friend’s father and because I was an adult willing to listen to what they had to say.

This is not a commentary on other parents, either the other chaperones on the trip or the parents who were not present. Certainly, I understand that everyone faces a different set of circumstances regarding their availability to participate in these types of events. I’m fully aware that most jobs do not offer the kind of scheduling flexibility that mine does and that supervision for a family’s other children is not always as straightforward. Far be it from me to make any judgments about the ways in which parents demonstrate their involvement in their children’s lives. I just know that I had the opportunity to spend extra time with my son and his friends and I wanted to take advantage.

Eitan’s smile when he saw me waiting in the school lobby was all the justification I needed to know I had made the right choice.


1. My apologies that the video clip doesn’t show the opening of the play, when the kids actually start laughing. The adults in the audience watch a man come onto the stage dressed as a dog and have no idea how to react. It’s the children’s laughter that helps them relax and accept the entertainment. Again, just trust me on this.

Coming Back to a Changing Reality

We’re back.

My family and I went on vacation for nine days to Boulder, Colorado and we came home this week. The flights were fairly easy and our car service trips to and from the airports went off with only minor hitches. When we got home, we flew through the unpacking process in record time; we were in the door around 7:00 PM and were fully unpacked by 8:45. After baths, dinner and one major tantrum involving silverware being thrown by one of our children (I won’t say which), both kids were asleep around 9:15. It was obviously later than their usual bedtime but that’s how things go when you’re dealing with airline flights and changing time zones.

I should say, before I go any further: I’m not going to write about the trip itself. I’m not going to go into detail about the party with the cats, dogs, goats and chickens where we somehow met someone who knew us (the second time that happened while we were away). I’m not going to write about the car trip through the winding Rocky Mountains, praying that Eitan would be able to hold his bowels until we reached a clean bathroom. I’m not going to write about the pool or the zoo or the hiking or the sunsets; you can follow me on Instagram for all that. I will write about family, but I have a specific angle in mind which deserves its own post, rather than being forced in here. Oh, and I also won’t write about Eitan shooing me off the ice rink so he could skate by himself (although I may at a later date).

I will, however, write about the fact that there was something about this trip that really seemed to affect Eitan and Shayna.

It’s often difficult for me to put my finger on the exact changes I see in my kids over time. Some of these were pretty obvious, though. Shayna has been walking and running for months already but she really took off while we were away. I saw her climbing into chairs, onto ledges and, of course, up many flights of stairs. Our walks through the zoo and around the lake took a bit longer because we had to wait for Shayna but there is nothing like watching her laugh while she’s running, especially if she thinks she is being chased.

Shayna was talking more, as well. She could already say the names of objects like shoes, fork, spoon, Mimi (her pacifier) and almost all of the Sesame Street characters. Then, on the trip, she began using the word “no.” Trudy and I laughed at first because it was cute to watch her little mouth sound out the word; it was much less cute by the end of the trip when Shayna would scream, “No! No! No!” any time she didn’t get her way. But even if Shayna didn’t add any other specific words to her repertoire on the trip, she still seemed to be communicating more directly and purposefully than she had before.

Eitan also seemed to go through a change, though his was a bit more subtle than Shayna’s. His speech patterns were already well established since he’s older and we were hardly shocked when he was able to jet off on the bicycle we borrowed from our relatives’ neighbors . The shift we saw with Eitan was more closely related to his mannerisms and the way he carried himself. He seemed more self-aware, more confident and… older. He described the concepts he has been learning in school matter-of-factly and was eager to demonstrate his reading, writing and math abilities. He engaged in real conversations and was able to laugh at jokes. Even his posture seemed straighter.

Eitan’s kindergarten teacher told Trudy and me at Meet the Teacher Night that kindergarten brings about the most significant changes in children. She said that kids coming into kindergarten are usually insecure and need considerable guidance as they figure out their next steps. By the end of the year, though, they have developed so many skills, both academically and socially, that they are practically different children. There have been countless times since September when Eitan has done or said things that have stopped us in our tracks. Shayna has had plenty of her own stop-short moments, too, although the situations are obviously different. Each time, Trudy and I just look at each other and ask, “Where did these kids come from?”

I’m not sure if the shifts I saw in our kids during our trip actually happened during the nine days we were in Colorado or if they just seemed starker to me because I finally had enough uninterrupted time to actually be with my family. Trudy seems to be slightly less shocked by our children’s ongoing emotional growth, although I’m not sure if that is really the case or if that’s just what I tell myself since she is around our kids more often than I am. Either way, I’m actually able to spend more time with my family on an ongoing basis than many other working parents with more rigid schedules and less accommodating employers. The problem is that, even if that’s the case, it feels sometimes like my interactions with Eitan and Shayna are happening with different kids from one weekend to the next.

The changes keep on coming; I just have to try to keep up.