| I of the Storm |

I of the Storm: Chapter 16

Shira’s face hardened, and with each muscle twitch, I watched the day’s progress unravel


72 hours until President’s Day.

Angela flitted into the office, humming some gospel tune off-key. “Thank the L-rd for vacation!” she cried. “I’m gonna get m’self a pedicure — can’t decide between Leopard Print or Gold Jazz.”

I stifled a chortle.


“Kid duty.”

An elongated grunt. Angela’s way of empathizing.

My phone buzzed. Predictable — Daniel was doing the morning shift. Which meant I’d get an SOS from him every 60 seconds until 9 AM: “What happened to Tali’s socks?” “Shira refuses to wear her sweatshirt!” “Ari had an explosive diaper!” “I can’t do this!!!!”

Why am I the address? I’d simmer. You’re a parent, too — can’t you handle things yourself?

To be fair, it was hard for him. A textbook male, Daniel was a systematic, methodical single-tasker who found himself stymied by the illogical tantrums, curveballs, and juggling. Stress turned him into a drill sergeant — “Shira, eat your breakfast. NOW!”, “Dahlia, move away from Shira. NOW!” — when what my kids really needed was conflict mediation and emotional validation.

I’d offer ideas, suggestions, tips, but tiptoed carefully — the last thing I needed was a defensive father who felt like a parenting failure.

Today, I heard nonstop screaming in the background. Why can’t he get it right? I boiled. Why do I sometimes feel utterly alone in this journey towards effective parenting?


“Vacation” morning had arrived. Daniel had to make up hours at work, and I was responsible for entertaining the crew.

Play therapist Risa had prepped me for what I knew would be a rough day: “Shira needs to feel like you enjoy spending time with her — even if you currently don’t,” she stressed. “Try as hard as you can to choose activities that will keep her engaged, yet are also interesting to you. Plan ahead.”

I was proud of myself — the day’s itinerary included a visit to the Children’s Museum, a pizza lunch, and a DIY home craft activity.

It went well, overall: I consciously worked to enjoy myself, or at least to use a happy, upbeat voice, giving generous smiles to Shira. She picked up on it — asking to hold my hand a lot and looking calmer than I’d seen her in a while. But there had been the inevitable fights and frustrations, and by 5 pm I was teetering on the edge.

Thankfully, help was on its way. “Hi.” The door burst open, and Daniel — looking haggard —stepped through. “How you doing?” he managed.

Drained, irritable, and ready for a three-hour nap, I wanted to say. Instead, I forced a weak smile, pointing to the cookies and cut-up veggies on the table.

“Rough day at work,” he groused, shaking his head. “The deal with Levinson fell through. Boss was livid. Kidowitz started barking at me for proposal mistakes that didn’t even exist.”

I nodded empathetically. No strength for words.

“Thanks for listening.” Daniel nibbled on a fourth cookie, looking a tad stronger from the calories. “You’re probably wiped — I’ll take over for dinner and baths.”

G-d bless this man!

“NOOOOOOOOO! I don’t want Daddy to give us supper! I’m NOT letting Mom take a nap!” Shira stomped for emphasis. “If you go upstairs, I’m going to throw this chair!”

I looked meaningfully at Daniel: Take over now. I cannot handle another millisecond around this child.

Bad move — he snapped.

“You will do no such thing! Mommy is sick and tired of you and your antics! You make everyone crazy, and Mom doesn’t want to be near you! In fact, if you continue to act like this, no one will want to be near you! You are an out of control pest!”


Shira’s face hardened, and with each muscle twitch, I watched the day’s progress unravel.

You just sabotaged hours of work!! I wanted to howl. Don’t you realize how hard I struggled to create something today — a layer of love, of trust, of connection?

I was this close to shooting one of my acerbic you-nincompoop remarks at Daniel when my good conscience clapped my mouth shut. Discuss this later, it hissed. Don’t make a scene.

“Shira, I love you very much and always will,” I heard myself say. “But right now, I’m feeling very tired. And you know Daddy reads the best bedtime stories.”

I swiveled around and headed up the stairs.

I had a ways to go vis-à-vis my relationship with Shira. In the meantime, at least I could sweat to ensure that my relationship with Daniel — the bedrock of Shira’s existence — could remain strong, a model of forgiveness, flexibility, and collaboration.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 482)

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