The Grown – Up Version of Hide and Seek

I cannot avoid considering the elements and events in life from a developmental perspective, among others. No matter which way I turn, there it is, providing context, along with nature (genetics) and nurture (the environment, especially within the family). A developmental view, not only of individuals, but of families and other institutions, helps me plot out the next goal, keeps me “on the line,”  and helps me know the general path of my life.

Over this long week-end, I had the blessing of interacting every day with children from infancy through early school age and with other adults who are young parents, grandparents, great grandparents, single, divorced, widowed, straight and gay, Jewish and non-Jewish. I found myself not only “in” the action but also observing it. I had the luxury of time for reflection, as well. I saw humor, honesty, irritability, integrity, self-focus, empathy and sharing. I wondered, “Where are we all headed as individuals and as a group of extended family members and dear friends? I asked myself, “How is it that some of us can laugh at ourselves first and with others later? How is that two-year-old able to share his ice cream while the adult sitting next to him is unable to share anything but anger and resentment? How can that fellow continue to enjoy the spontaneity of a family gathering while in the midst of grief? How can that person be so very ill and yet rise every morning and, upon being asked how everything is going, say, “It is going. No complaints. How is it going with you?”

We told stories; we told jokes. We contributed history; we shared dreams for the future. We played peeka-boo with the infant. “See,” we were saying. “You are there, and I am here. I will be here for you. You can depend on me. You can trust me. Just because I duck behind the pillow or throw a towel over my face doesn’t mean I disappear.” The preschoolers and early school-age children played hide and seek. “Now you see me. Now you don’t. I challenge you to be quick  and to think creatively. Where would I hide? Do you know me as well as you think you do? (Most importantly,) can I trust you to look for me, to find me, not to leave me alone and apart?” What about the adults?

Dorothy Fields, upon being asked where she was going, replied, “No matter where I run, I meet myself there,” (1966). Perhaps the game adults play is a grown-up version of Hide and Seek. Do I see myself clearly? How do my presence and my actions impact others? What is their influence over me? How much have I changed? How much hope is there that I can continue to grow and change as long as I live? Just because I was born with (fill in the blank)  which runs in my family, do I need to keep that quality or can I develop? Can I help myself grow and chang? Can those around me help? Do I open myself to feedback that doesn’t necessarily please me, or do I shut it out? When I look in the mirror, am I looking at my face and my body or at my heart, mind, and soul? Is my vision clear? Am I recalling my associations and interactions of yesterday and the exchanges through which I had an influence on others and they on me? Do I wish to seek myself so that I may see myself clearly or do I wish only to hide, to hide from myself, pretending that others do not see me as I am? Am I going to play Hide or to play Seek? Will my family and friends continue to seek and to find me? And when I have been found, when I have found myself, whom will I find?

Ruth Gruber, Haven  (1986), set her sights on finding and being herself:

            To write with my heart. To think and speak with my heart. To be adven-  turous, to be an activist, to be a rebel, to be compassionate, and most             of all, to be a mensch – a decent human being.

May we, each of us, as individuals and as a community, seek to find and to know ourselves. May we be blessed in our travels to meet ourselves.

Beaded Blessings

In some ways, I am a creature of habit. I always check into the building with my nametag. I always wear my nametag on a lanyard. No matter what kinds I have tried, no matter how many I wear, I really enjoy the beaded ones. So, when my last lanyard began to irritate the back of my neck, I headed straight for the HMJDS Spirit Shop to buy another. No luck, since the wonderful volunteers who make those lovely lanyards for sale have been quite busy donating their time in other, more crucial ways. We extend to all of you our deepest gratitude for your committed devotion and hour upon endless hour spent at school in behalf of the HMJDS community.

But…in some ways, I am a creature of habit, and I needed a new lanyard! Lately, I have learned that there are some items which I can find for sale on the internet that are not immediately available to me in other ways. So I searched for “beaded lanyards” and found myself on ebay, where there were 660 options for shopping. I found a couple that I thought were nice, so I bought them for  about $10. Then, as I looked further, I found some beautiful, delicate, very well made lanyards with lovely lampwork. The materials were varied: natural stone (jaspar, hematite, agate and more), crystal, pearls of different colors, silver,  and gold toned metal. There were beautiful finishing touches; the lanyards were reported to be double strung. There were about 120 made by Jen. I found myself bidding on three or four, and then I realized that some of my friends at HMJDS might enjoy having one too. So I contacted Jennifer and asked if we could come to some kind of agreement.  I also indicated that I work at a school and thought my colleagues and parents would love her work. She responded that she would move all the items I was interested in to Buy It Now status, and that, if I had bid more than the minimum on any because of having been outbid, she would add identical items and sell them to me at minimum price. She further added that she would ship them free of charge to me if I bought more than 10.

I continued to shop and chose the ones I liked the very most, adding a variety of colors and materials in the interests of my friends.I was enthralled and did not easily stop shopping when I realized I had decided to purchase about 40 beautiful lanyards. I included one made with Beads for Life. Those beads are made of recycled paper made by women in Ugandan Africa.  The money from the beads Jen purchased go to support the Bead for Life Foundation.  I included an Autism Awareness lanyard and a Fight Breast Cancer lanyard that came with a Pink Ribbon Pin. Jen totaled the order, using the minimum bid price for each lanyard. She did, indeed, pay for the postage and even insured the package. 

The day after I placed the order, I opened my email and found this:

Dear gayrosenthal,

I just wanted to let you know what this large order has meant to me. My son has aspergers and he goes to a montessori school. They have been so wonderful with him there he has made so many improvemnts since he started there in the fall. When he was in public school he kept declining they just let him sit there and read his books to keep him quiet. Next years down payment is due in a few weeks and I was just praying a few days ago where I was going to get the extra money~ Then your order came!! I don’t know if you believe in God but your order was God’s answer to my prayer!!! I hope you don’t mind me sharing all of this I just felt so compelled to share this Because it has been a long journey with my son and seeing him make improvements over the last few months has made a world of difference. Thank you so much!! Jen 

As I sat with goosebumps at 7:00 in the morning, I responded by email:

Dear Jen, 

I am the psychologist at a private religious school, the Amos  and Celia Heilicher Minneapolis Jewish Day School, where we  have an inclusive community and a strong Resource Team. We  have five or six students at our school with Asperger’s and we  are proud of being able to meet their needs. We also welcome  children with other needs, as long as we have the resources. Of  course, most of our students have no immediate challenges.  However, we utilize a developmental approach that allows us to  teach the “whole child” wherever they are. Responding to family  needs is a strength of our school community. 

I do believe that our paths crossed for a reason. May I share  your story with the staff? 



Did Jen grant permission? Here is her response:

Dear gayrosenthal,

Yes, please I am always striving to help others sometimes when having a challenging child it can consume your life!! I had to fight for him in the public schools but they did not want to help him only put him in a corner and keep him quiet. He struggled there and so did I finally we are at peace I always accepted him for who he was and the public school would not I am so happy that at his new school they accept him and want him to achieve his best!!! All kids are so precious and a gift!!! I thank God every day for my children. Talk with you soon. Jen

Wonder of wonders! Miracle of miracles! Our paths crossed for a reason. I feel like I know Jen, and I hope she feels like she knows me. If she were here, I would welcome her to our community with a hug. I believe she is a woman of courage, a woman of valor, and I treasure our relationship, which I sincerely hope to continue.

Jen’s lanyards will be sold through the spirit shop as soon as we can arrange the display. 

I invite each of you to consider purchasing one to benefit both Jen’s son and our students.

May we all be blessed again and again by such wonderful happenstance occurrences in our lives.

Noticing Change

Immediately prior to the beginning of this Pesach break, I had the opportunity to speak with several entire classes of students to share perceptions on change. Together, we recalled their memories of their first school days this past fall and took time to notice what changes have occurred. The students were enthused and initially presented very concrete changes: we are taller, we are older, some of us weigh more, some of us have new babies at home, some of us live in different houses. Then the groups presented broader thoughts: we know more, we have some new friends, we have kept some old friends and come to know them better. The seasons have changed from autumn to winter to spring. Here we were in very chilly temperatures with snow having recently fallen, and the children, without exception, agreed that it is now spring. Quite a bit for the younger ones to grasp conceptually! Then they went on. “Some of us behave differently,” a few offered. “What do you mean? Tell me more about what you have noticed,” I queried, urging them to speak about what they had noticed without using names.  “Well, some of us just behave better… some of us behave worse!” They agreed, for the most part, that the changes had been positive. We talked about mistakes, about learning from them, about some of the factors that lead children to misbehave. We talked about the change of seasons, how things which seemed to be “dead” and gone have returned, fresh and new. We spoke about second chances and more chances than second chances. We spoke about forgiveness and understanding, putting ourselves in the shoes of another person, considering what they might have been feeling or are still feeling. We spoke about not judging others and about giving others the benefit of the doubt. Some of the children who had had difficulty during the year identified themselves as having behaved poorly and as having worked on making changes. And then the children agreed. They simply could not continue without giving compliments to the children whose behavior they had noted to be much improved. They talked about being able to get closer again, to be friends in the same way they had been.  The exchange was certainly going well. Then, one of the children presented a problem. His/her parents had been very clear that he/she was not to play with the child who had been severely misbehaving. “But I want to [play]. They are behaving better. We can be friends again.” Then the children came up with ideas about how to proceed. They could tell their parents about the changes they have noticed, express their desire to renew friendships. Yet, still they were not sure that the parental message would change.

Of course, we want to save our children from hurt feelings, hurt bodies, from getting into trouble by choosing the “wrong” friends. Of course, we know best. Even so, our information is not always the most current. Yes, we have some students at MJDS who misbehave, a very few who behave severely on occasion, for many reasons. Yes, our administration and resource team work very closely with those children and their families. Yet, behavioral change does not occur according to the calendar we determine. Our young students can take note of the changes when they do occur, however, and they seem able to approach new information and new observations with open minds. Are we able to do the same? Rather than provide a message to our children about staying away from another child or other children, might we be able to help them more (and perhaps ourselves as well) in the long run if we simply have a conversation or several conversations about the factors to consider in choosing others as friends or playmates, about change, about giving others the benefit of the doubt and another chance?  Do we really want our children caught in a bind, needing to choose between following our instructions and not letting us down or following their hearts and minds and being true to themselves?

The choice is there for each of us to make. What would you want if the child whose behavior had improved was your child? 


On Your Mark…

The Olympics: what a breathtaking opening ceremony! At this moment, I am moving back and forth between my computer and the TV screen as Michael Phelps is preparing to soar to another record and another gold medal. While the opening of the school year is not the opening of the Olympics, all of our students—your children—may be readying themselves to soar too. Even so, we do not necessarily slip into the new academic year as easily as Phelps slips into the water. He has trained, practiced self-discipline and selfdenial, worked on his take-off, his timing, his stamina, his turns, and his finish. He has made sure to monitor his nutrition and his sleep. He has looked to his coaches to point the way and to his family for support

How can we, as “coaches” and family working together, support the children and point the way? Not surprisingly, it is important for us to help them develop skills in many of the areas where Phelps excels. Transitioning from the “lazy, hazy days of summer” to the tasks and demands of fall requires preparation. The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) has published on its website ( resources/ home_school/b2shandout.aspx)  suggestions in an article written by Ted Feinberg, EdD, NCSP, and Katherine C. Cowan entitled “Back-to-School Transitions: Tips for Parents.” The article presents  many of the ideas we have talked about together in past years. It stresses physical and mental health, including following a schedule for well-child checks and tracking the social and emotional development that occurred over the summer. Of course, once school begins, breakfast, no matter how small, is as important as our mothers used to tell us it is! The same is true of enough sleep. Setting a schedule that includes a supportive bed-time ritual and reasonable bed time hour is a detail we all know not to overlook. Sometimes easier said than done! We all know (and didn’t need to learn it from research) that scheduled mealtimes and family dinners go a long way to support children. The article also suggests a visit to school. We are looking forward to the K-1-2 family picnic and were delighted to see so many of you at the Ice Cream Social. We are also looking forward to welcoming those children whose parents will arrange a classroom visit with the new teacher as well as those who will just meander through the building before school formally begins. NASP also suggests that we allow plenty of time in the morning so the children (and we) will not feel rushed; having children learn to set their own alarm clocks, and making lunches the night before (it couldn’t hurt to choose clothes the night before, either. It gives children the time to choose between reasonable options, which may  be limited for younger children to two or three parental suggestions). Last, extracurricular activities should focus on quality and enrich the lives of the children engaging in them. Too many activities can be overwhelming for students as well as parents.

NASP encourages parents to choose a place for their children to do homework where it is quiet but where younger children, and older ones if appropriate, can be monitored without feeling intrusion. “Turn off the TV,” NASP recommends, whether it be in the evening before homework is completed or in the morning, when children do better if they focus on the tasks necessary to help them get to school on time. We have also found that a list, whether written or pictorial, helps children follow routines and check themselves on task completion. (If  you would like a sample or would like us to help you develop one of your own, please let me know.) 

Donna Goldberg, author of The Organized Student:Teaching Children the Skills for

Success in School and Beyond, asserts that strong organizational and time- management skills are building blocks to academic success and to success in life beyond the classroom. It is never too late to help children follow, recognize, and create their own routines or establish their own organizational systems. Helping with household chores, learning to ask themselves, “How am I doing?” filling backpacks at night while double checking what goes in, and emptying backpacks completely each day after school all facilitate organization. Of course, younger children need first to watch a parent, talk through the task with the parent, and then work toward independence. It is not ever too late to go through such steps if a student continues to have difficulty.

In addition to  the suggestions that NASP offers parents to help their children, it also suggests that parents be mindful of their own needs, take good care of themselves, and allow their presence to be felt by their children. Certainly, the Day School must be at the top of some list in that regard. For all of you who bring your smiles daily, for your volunteer efforts, for your kindnesses to faculty and staff, we thank you. We can barely wait to open the north and south doors and say, “Welcome back! We are so happy to see you!.” And we hope that you will allow time for coffee and socializing in the dining room after you have dropped your children at their rooms and seen them well off to a successful first day. We are looking forward to it! As we do so, we pray not only for a great take off, but for good timing, stamina, and an equally great finish!