So I found this question on Facebook and it brought back a deluge of memories.
Hey moms, I’m in desperate need of help. I’m at my wit’s end with my lovely little defiant child. I love him lots, but enough is enough. Every morning, my son wakes up at 3 in the morning and refuses to go back to sleep. He will literally be up for the entire day. I’ve repeatedly tried putting him back in his room. I’ve tried time outs, taking away his privileges. Tried having him do chores. Nothing works. He talks back, makes faces, or just laughs at me. I literally don’t know what to do anymore.
My mother used to tell stories about me as a baby. How I’d be up and wide awake by 3 or 4 in the morning. We lived in a crappy apartment on Rose Street in Freeport. She would get up, put on her overcoat and wait until the heat came up, which wasn’t until seven at the earliest.
I was smart child and mentally active. She eventually figured out that the only thing that made life better was keeping me busy. Finding things for me to do that I enjoyed. Crayons, paint, and lots of paper were important items in my world. I pretty much did whatever I wanted — which fortunately, wasn’t dangerous.
Eventually I learned to read books and write stories. And draw. Life got better for everyone, especially me.
Even as a toddler, I went to bed hours later than the “official” bedtime for little kids. I never slept as many hours as other children. I would read in bed for hours after “lights out.” Even today, I still don’t sleep a lot. If I get six or seven hours, to me that’s a good night’s sleep.
Garry recalls being much the same, too.
I don’t think we were defiant. That term gets rather loosely used today. Defiant often means that this child doesn’t want to do what mom wants him or her to do. Doesn’t sleep enough. And has a great sense of humor.
Highly intelligent children need mentally challenging activities and they can be hard on caretakers.
We were active, curious, and drove our mothers crazy, but it wasn’t defiance. We wanted to do what we wanted to do. We didn’t want to do what we were supposed to want to do. I was never interested in what the rest of the kids found fascinating, though I tried to act interested.
These days, we label kids like this as defiant when maybe what they are is very smart, with a marked desire for information or knowledge. It’s not a character flaw. My mother, having not had the fortune to read modern psychology, read stories to me. Taught me to read. Gave me paints and drawing pencils … and lots of books.
Sometimes pop psychology is a dangerous beast. Don’t label your kids. Saying it might make it true. Just because he or she doesn’t “behave” doesn’t make him or her defiant. Maybe smarter and more creative than other youngsters. Stronger-willed — and not ready to sleep because mom would really appreciate it.
Obedience isn’t always the most important thing you can get from your kid. Being a good little child who always does exactly what he’s told doesn’t show a lot of imagination, creativity, or smarts. Personally, I think obedience is overrated.
I’m 70 now. My mother quite liked me, eventually. I’m sorry she’s gone. We could be good friends today.
I don’t know too much about my grandfather’s early life. But what I do know is very interesting.
My grandfather, Abe, was born in a part of Eastern Europe that was Russia one day and Poland the next. When an army came through the town, the Jews would hide in the basement because both the Russians and the Poles hated the Jews equally. When the Jews went into the basement in Russia, they’d come up in Poland. And visa versa.
After Grandpa was born, his mother apparently suffered from a very bad case of post-partum depression. She turned on her child and over the years, she tried to kill him. Grandpa’s father and siblings had to protect him from his own mother.
By the time Grandpa was around ten, the situation was untenable. His father decided it would be better for him to leave home and study with rabbis in neighboring towns. So Grandpa became an itinerant scholar at the age of 10. He didn’t talk much about his years wandering around Russia as a child. But he always loved history and studied both Jewish and American history throughout his life. He proudly could name all the American Presidents to me in order.
He also developed a fondness for orphanages and always gave money to them whenever he could. I think he identified with children who were cast out of their families. He never even knew his own birthday. He made one up.
Years later, he and an older brother and sister reunited in America and became close. But he never saw his parents again.
Grandpa came to New York City around 1906, in his late teens or early twenties. He spoke Russian, Yiddish and Hebrew but not English. He was taken in by relatives on the lower east side, the Jewish section of New York City. He was allowed to sleep on the floor of their tenement apartment.
To earn a living, he started selling notions from a box hanging around his neck (think cigarette girls). He sold them on the streets and also door to door in the tenements. As a young man, Grandpa was gorgeous, dapper and charming. He also had a way with the ladies. So selling came naturally to him and he was good at his job.
He tells of a day when he was knocking on the doors of an apartment building trying to sell his wares. He knocked on a door, opened it and started his pitch. It was a bathroom and he was talking to a man sitting on the toilet. He was mortified, but he kept on talking and actually made a sale!
Grandpa as young man in New York City
Grandpa in New York
A young Grandpa in New York
Grandpa gradually saved up money and met and married a first cousin, Sarah, also recently immigrated from Russia. Their mothers shared a father but had different mothers. So they were actually half first cousins. So Grandpa’s mother-in-law was also his aunt. My mother grew up thinking that all men referred to their mother-in-laws as “Tante” or “Aunt”.
Grandpa saved up money started buying real estate in New York. He became very well off. But he spent all his money over a seven-year period. He was a hypochondriac and spent the money on spas and ‘cures’ for his imaginary illnesses. At one point, he nearly died of complications from a totally unnecessary surgery. During this time, his wife and daughter had to fend for themselves. He eventually came back home to stay. He made the money back, and more, again in real estate. This was all before my mother was 16.
Giving to charities and Zionist organizations was always a big part of Grandpa’s life. He started early, giving what he could. No matter how poor he was, he always put something away in a Tsadaka or charity box on the theory that someone out there had less than he did.
As he earned more money, Grandpa became active in and a contributor to many organizations supporting the State of Israel as well as poor Jews in the U.S. When he died, he was well-known and very well-respected in the New York Jewish charitable community. He did very well for himself and he gave back, in spades. Starting when he had nothing but a roof over his head. He taught me the importance of giving to others, both in his words and his actions. For that I will always be grateful. For a poor “orphan” from Russia, he did good.
Making My Home A Haven is important to me. Sharing homemaking skills. Recipes and food. Bible Studies. This is a treasure chest of goodies. So take a seat. Have a glass of tea and enjoy. You will learn all about who I am.