| War Diaries |

Perfectly Okay

   To say that I’m horrified is the understatement of the century


pause while sorting the laundry in the guest room — the better to listen in to a conversation taking place in my kids’ bedroom.

“No, I’ll show you how to do it. That’s not how to be a mechabel!” my eight-year-old Yael tells my five-year-old Aron. There’s some scuffling and then Yaeli says, “Here’s the mechabel!”

I abandon the washing pile and sneak closer to the bedroom door. Why are the kids playing “terrorists?”

“Here’s the mechabel. Look, you can be one, too!” A quick peek into the kids’ room shows Yaeli tying a pair of pajama trousers over her own head and Aron’s so that only their eyes are visible.

“Now here come the mechablim. First we take away the mommy, she’s screaming and crying. Look—” Yaeli mimics a crying noise. “And look, she has, like, a million kids, now we’re going to get the kids. Kids, kids, stop crying, here’s some candies. They’re from your mommy.” Then she turns to Aron and stage-whispers, “They’re not kosher. We gave them not-kosher candies. And they don’t know! MWAHAHAHA!”

Both Yaeli and Aron fall over, shrieking with mock-evil laughter.

To say that I’m horrified is the understatement of the century.

I interrupt their game. “Yaeli, where did you learn to play this game?” She definitely didn’t learn it at home. We have kosher phones and only turn on the computer at night after the kids have gone to sleep. Even then, I never check the news; I unsubscribed weeks ago from all the kosher news snippets that used to pop up in my inbox. And we never, ever turn on the radio.

“What do you, mean?” a pajama-pants-clad-head asks me innocently. “This is the game we play in school! The whole kitah joins in, it’s so much fun!”


I immediately want to call up the school — some kid somewhere has seen too much and is spreading it around the class — but my husband advises against it. “Look,” he says. “we can’t really shelter them. Reality filters in, and they’re just processing it together. I’m sure it’s their way of dealing with a reality they don’t really understand.”

Later in the day, I’m talking to my mother. My mother has begun volunteering alongside many other wonderful women. “Another one of the volunteers is a retired social worker,” she tells me. “And she said that if people confide in us, we’ve just got to say, ‘Oh, thats how your child is dealing with the situation? That’s perfectly normal,’ even if we think, ‘What? That kid sounds seriously traumatized!’ People need reassurance that whatever they’re feeling is okay. So I say to you: Your kids are playing at being terrorists? What exactly are you going to do about it? It’s just the way they’re dealing with reality, and that’s perfectly okay.”

I’d really, really rather my daughter went back to dressing up as a princess, or standing in front of the mirror flicking her hair like her morah flicks her sheitel during class. I’d really, really rather that my son went back to walking on his hands, building 1,000-piece puzzles, and flooding the bathroom to practice his swimming.

I really wish they’d stop so accurately mimicking the sound of a siren; even my one-and-a-half-year-old can do a convincing “wooo-woooohhhh” sound. I really wish they didn’t know what “mechablim” were. I wish we lived in a perfect, safe world, and I wish I could cocoon them.

But I can’t.

And I realize that the children need to playact the incomprehensible to make sense of it, to continue feeling that there’s some order to the world, to feel safe.

I realize with a jolt that I’m engaged in the adult version of the same game they’re playing: the game of process-the-incomprehensible. What happened? How come? Why? Why didn’t they—? Why did they—? And what if—?

Maybe it’s time to pull the pajama pants off my own face and face the moment itself. I can’t reassure the kids about the what and why of it. I can only say that right now, right here, Hashem is with us, we’re blessed to be home, we’re blessed that all is quiet where we live, we’re blessed to live in Eretz Yisrael, we’re all here together….

My mother is, in fact, quite correct: Right now, in this moment, everything really is perfectly okay.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 872)

Oops! We could not locate your form.