After four years of ‘Mishegas,’ columnist moves on

I’ve been doing a lot of contemplating lately. In particular, I’m thinking about my column and how much Judaism and parenting go hand-in-hand. I’m also racking my brain to figure out where I put my cell phone, again. I’ve searched everywhere: my purse, my coat pockets, the key hanger in the laundry room, the front seat of the car, and even in the freezer under the cheese pizza. Seriously, I’ve found car keys in there before.

But I digress.

Anyway, when I gave birth to “Mishegas of Motherhood” four years ago, my goal was to “entertain and enlighten” readers, and according to your ongoing positive feedback and the weekly traffic report that I get on my website, I’m doing a pretty good job.

What I’ve learned most on my journalistic journey so far, besides ways to come up with something new every year about how the Jews like to cut loose on Purim, is how relevant the centuries-old wisdom of the sages is to contemporary child rearing. And all this time the credit for family education has gone to the barrage of child development experts who have their own talk shows. Of the endless valuable lessons given to us in our rich Jewish culture of values and traditions, and I’ve explored many of them in my columns, the three that are particularly insightful to me are: “Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother,” “A father is obligated to teach his child how to swim,” and “It’s all about the food,” sort of. I paraphrased the last one.

It seems that behavioral specialists are reinventing the wheel when it comes to dealing with many of today’s family issues. The most important advice of all–“Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother”–is the best place to start. God must have thought that parental respect is important enough to rank in the top five of the Ten Commandments. Parents don’t have to be best friends with their children, but we need to be good role models. Even though I swore I never would repeat my mother’s line, “Because I said so,” it’s about as good as “Klop kope on vant,” which is the Yiddish expression for “Go bang your head against the wall.” Bottom line–while diplomacy and open communication harmonize the home, so does laying down the law sometimes.

Another message in the Talmud that I try to remember every day is “A father is obligated to teach his son how to swim,” and I’m not referring to wearing a nose plug and learning the backstroke. This holy obligation signifies the vital roles of fathers and mothers in preparing both their sons and daughters to become independent, self reliant individuals who know how to swim–not sink–when thrown into the inevitable rough waves in life. Our job is to prepare our children to eventually leave the nest and discover their unique God-given gifts in order to help make our world a better place — the whole idea behind tikkun olam.

In other words, from an early age, we should allow our children to experience the bumps in the road and resist the temptation to make life too smooth and easy for them. This is a hard one, especially for Jewish moms who have a tendency to spoil their kids and can’t resist the urge to peel a banana for their teenage son because he won’t eat fruit with bruises, and, therefore, might be deprived of potassium.

Truth is, especially in an extremely competitive society, we only hurt our children when we deny them the opportunity to overcome failure and adversity, whether they flunk a history test, strike out on the ball field, or struggle to find a decent paying job after college graduation. The Talmud forewarned us about the dangers of overprotection; its called “helicopter parenting,” a 21st-century term that describes parents who hover over their children’s every decision, especially when it comes to schooling. Think about it: If we raise a self-obsessed generation of wimps who don’t know how to problem solve and survive on their own, our very own future is at stake.

Finally, when it comes to a Jewish perspective on parenting, food feeds the soul every time we come together for a meal, and it’s no easy task with everyone running in all different directions. The act of preparing and sharing a meal is perhaps the essence of Judaism and is a rewarding way to reconnect with our children and talk about our day, even with their mouths full. The simple, yet symbolic, routine of eating dinner together allows us to strengthen family bonds and observe Jewish traditions. Whether we bless wine and break bread on Shabbat, dip apples into honey at Rosh Hashanah, fry potatoes in oil at Hanukkah, or share a carryout pizza around the table because nobody had time to cook, we celebrate being Jewish.

Actually, of the 146 “Mishegas of Motherhood” columns that I’ve written for the St Louis Jewish Light and other newspapers, some of my favorites have nothing to do with Judaism. My obsession with the Food Network, for example, is a popular read and even Paula Deen’s people took notice when I describe the bubbly, silver-haired chubby Southerner as my hero because she has a serious sweet tooth and isn’t afraid to use real butter.

Another piece that resonates with readers of all generations is why every mom should own a dog because who else is going to fetch the newspaper for you without growling about having to do a chore. Only my apricot toy poodle Luci gives me lots of hugs and wet kisses even if I forget to feed her lunch. Of course, the two-part article that landed me 15 minutes of fame is the story about my family’s camping disaster, which won recognition as a screenplay and starred comic actress Leah Remini in the webisode series “In The Motherhood.”

All of my columns are posted on my website, by the way, so feel free to browse them at your leisure or as an excuse to not fold the laundry, and continue to send me your thoughts, prayers, recipes, and story ideas. You’ll see my articles now and then in the Light, but not on a regular basis as “Mishegas of Motherhood” because I’ve decided to spread my wings and focus on other projects.

So for now, thanks for being such loyal readers and sharing the mishegas with me. Gotta go, the waste basket is ringing.

“Mishegas of Motherhood” is the creation of Ellie S. Grossman, a St. Louis freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom who never stays home. She currently is writing a book on Luci. Visit her website at