| I of the Storm |

I of the Storm: Chapter 18

Hashem, there are nine whole unstructured hours left until Havdalah! I cried inwardly. How many more times can I swing this, calmly?


Someone take me away, I mentally pleaded. Anywhere. Just away.

It was Shabbos, and for now, Dr. Blakely had told us to skip Ritalin on weekends.

Not that Ritalin-days were so hunky-dory; while things had started off with a bang, Daniel and I quickly realized there was no “happily ever after.” Shira was doing far better in school, but some days, her 4 p.m. rebounds would last all evening. “If I so much as see that child again before 6:30 a.m. tomorrow, I will need a sedative,” I shakily informed Daniel one night after a particularly harrowing dinner.

Today I was experiencing near-identical feelings — except it was only 10 a.m. Daniel had gone to k’vasikin at six; he usually stayed in shul until eleven earliest, for the one solid learning seder he managed all week. I dragged myself out of bed at seven to supervise breakfast, only to earn the privilege of hearing Shira unload a mouthful of nastiness on her sisters. (Their crime? Daring to pour themselves Cocoa Puffs before her.)

“You’re a stinky piece of garbage,” Shira told Dahlia. She shoved Dahlia aside to lay hands on the cereal box, knocking over the brimming bowls in the process. “You’re a stupid little schnook, and so STUPID!

Dahlia froze, petrified. She held back the tears for a millisecond, then broke down in sickening, heaving sobs.

Whach’ya gonna do now, huh? My inner pessimist leered. You can either punish Shira severely, putting her into a funk that will make the rest of the day miserable. Or you can employ the newfangled methods, asking everyone about their feelings — and risk making Dahlia feel unprotected by the person she relies on most.

My eyes got moist. I can’t do this! the child in me yelped to no one in particular.

Deep breath.

Thankfully, my more mature side kicked in, probably because I’d just slept for eight heavenly hours. The combo method I chose worked surprisingly well: I forced Shira to detox in her room for ten minutes, delaying her much-anticipated weekly sugar fest, and we used the time to sit, implement a calm-down strategy, and discuss what happened.

Score. But it was the kind of touchdown that left you gray and sweating and praying for a bed.

Hashem, there are nine whole unstructured hours left until Havdalah! I cried inwardly. How many more times can I swing this, calmly?

I envisioned a rebbetzins’ tribunal, each member tsk-tsking loudly. Look what’s become of this girl, they clucked, fingering their oh-so-eidel pearls and smoothing shoulder-length sheitels. She used to daven four tefillos on Shabbos, review the parshah, initiate thought-provoking table discussions on important hashkafic issues. Now she just counts down the hours of the holiest day of the week!

I zapped the image from my mind. Not productive, my voice of lucidity intoned.

But two hours, six eruptions, and three bawling siblings later, Ms. Lucidity had gone the way of Roanoke. Shira was ranting at someone — again; Tali was whimpering — again; and Ari — sweet-tempered Ari who probably didn’t get nearly enough attention — was hungry. I felt suffocated, smothered, desperate for space.

A bloodcurdling shriek. Shira had scratched Dahlia, hard. Hard enough to draw blood.

My last vestiges of restraint snapped. “You. Did. Something. Unacceptable,” I spat, glaring at Shira in a disgusted, completely un-motherly way. “You. Will. Leave. The House. Now.”

Before I could stop and think, I grabbed Shira and pushed her onto the terrace. Click, went the door lock.

Did you seriously just do that?

I had locked my daughter out.


“I locked her out,” I told Risa on Monday, furiously wiping my eyes. “I can’t believe I sunk to that.” She nodded empathetically, handing me a tissue.

“But you successfully dealt with several blowups that very same morning,” she noted when I’d calmed down. “So what do you think this incident tells you?”

I knew the answer; Daniel and I had rehashed the episode more times than I cared to remember.

“I need to get more help,” I said. “Shira is a full-time job. I invest a lot — parenting courses, a slew of therapies, and middos work — but I’m human, and I can’t do it alone. On challenging days, I need more help. A girl to take her out, maybe…”

There. I’d let my pride disintegrate, allowed my deeply ingrained I-can-do-it-all persona to breathe its last.

Risa smiled warmly. “Ilana, that took a lot of strength. You can be proud of yourself.”

The tears came anew, hard and heavy. But this time they were tinged with hope.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 484)

Oops! We could not locate your form.