The Atlantic Misses an Opportunity to Bring a Nuanced Discussion of Gender to the Mainstream

After the Atlantic published a cover story by Jesse Singal Monday entitled “When Children Say They’re Trans,” I received an email from Caroline Kitchener, an associate editor at the magazine. It read, in part:

I’m looking for parents of trans or gender non-binary kids to respond to our latest cover story. Much of the piece reads almost like a letter to this group—of which I know you’re a part—and we’d like to start a thoughtful, productive conversation around it. I read your great essay in the Detroit Free Press, and am wondering if you might want to participate: What does Jesse get right in the piece, and what does he get wrong? What could be the potential implications of a piece like this? Continue reading


Response: “They” is Too Confusing

Yesterday I received a comment on my post, On Parenting and Pronouns, that I want to share, reflect on and, ultimately, argue against.

Here’s the comment:

There has to be a better way. Using they is too confusing. You are not communicating. My solution: don’t use pronouns at all. To the waitress: I’ll take a coffee, but my partner won’t. Is Scooby upstairs? Tell Scooby dinner is in 10 minutes. Yeah it is awkward, but not more awkward than “they” and is miraculously clear.

Maybe English will develop a gender neutral pronoun. Until then, find a way to make a gender neutral person comfortable AND communicate without confusion to that person and all others. I spent my career in corporate communications and when this came up successfully eliminated hurtful pronouns and wrote text that communicated. No, a crowd is not coming downstairs for dinner.

Here’s my response: Continue reading

Mixed Berry Pie

Yesterday I attended the most beautiful funeral. My cousin Minda died Saturday, and the rest of this week has been a blur.

Did I mention that we’re celebrating her niece’s bat mitzvah this weekend, and that there will be 70 people at my house Saturday night in her honor? The occasion was moved to a synagogue here in Detroit from Southern California a few months ago because Marcia, the bat mitzvah’s mom, knew her sister would likely be too ill to travel, and might even die. Continue reading

Packing for Camp

I haven’t opened the duffel bag. Eighteen hours till we leave for the bus, and I haven’t even peeked. I am itching to unzip that big black bag, even a little crack, but so far I have resisted.

My 11 year-old son packed himself for camp. I asked if he wanted me to double check, and he said no. When I asked myself why I wanted to, I realized that I had no good reason, save a mom’s anxiety that her darling might not have enough bathing suits or pj’s.

The packing checklist is marked up, the box from the Ziplocs he likes to stuff underwear and t-shirts into is empty. The duffel bags are full. If I encourage independence and then follow him to the corner, does that make me a liar? A worrier? A normal mom?

I don’t follow him to the corner. Last Tuesday I sent him off to Royal Oak with a buddy, even let them cross Woodward Ave., and I didn’t watch. Three hours later they returned, smiling, satisfied, thrilled that the server at the tea shop treated them like real customers, annoyed that the clerk at the movie theater did not (though she did sell them tickets to see Minions anyway.)

If I say I trust him, but I’m double-checking, he’ll know. KidFeatured images have a sixth sense like that. They listen. They watch. And so I am not checking.

Wednesday afternoon I let him push the cart at the grocery store. Every time he careened around a corner I warned him to slow down. I took over in the produce aisle because there were so many people. He told me he could handle it, and I didn’t let him try.

He will leave for overnight camp tomorrow morning, and I will assume that the pens he packed have ink. I will trust that the swim goggles are properly labeled. Tomorrow he leaves on the bus. I will send postcards and silly socks. He will not think of me much. And that is as it should be.

Is God in My Seatbelt?

This Friday’s poem is a revision of something I wrote MANY years ago. The 4 year-old is now nearly 18. Her curiosity, fashion sense and religious questioning are still intact.

Is God In My Seatbelt?

Four-years-old, and she really needs to know.
I pause, mid-buckle; running late
for preschool. We have been talking
about how God is in trees and fish,
her baby brother and sunflower seeds.
But a seatbelt? I don’t know.

Tell her yes,
says my rabbi friend – some smart person
invented the seatbelt,
and God was in that person.

I bring it up days later, but my daughter
has moved on to other things –
like which bracelets match flowered socks
or how to keep a headband on a stuffed tiger.

She nods gravely, humoring me for being slow.
What I really want is gum, she tells me.
Can I have some while we drive?


Joe and I hatched the idea for  Friday poems over coffee in Ferndale one afternoon. Let’s just write, we agreed. No comments, no praise. Just send a poem every Friday. See where it takes you.

favoritesThree months into the experiment, I’m hooked. Even when I put the piece together just before lighting Shabbat candles or grab a stanza from three years ago and polish it into something more presentable, the Friday poem always refreshes me for the week. It reminds me that I’m a writer.

Here’s this week’s contribution, composed in a parking lot between a doctor’s appointment and Josh’s archery day camp awards ceremony.

May all your favorite bands stay together
– Dawes, “All Your Favorite Bands”

May you get to the bottom
of the strawberry box
without a single moldy surprise

May you catch a firefly
on a balmy night full of fireworks
over the wide green golf course

May you finish your favorite book
sprawled across the hammock
in that shady spot behind the garage

May your dog snuggle
close in your bed
without hogging the covers

May your chocolate chip cookies
emerge from the oven
with crisp edges and gooey centers

May you hear “I love you”
every day of your life
the way I mean it this morning

One Thing at a Time

My six-year-old walked into the kitchen with a box of dominoes in both hands, the cordless phone cradled between left ear and shoulder.

“I love you, too, Daddy. Here’s Sammy,” he said as he navigated the dog gate and handed the phone to his brother.

Like mother like son, I suppose. And I laughed; but I also stopped short. I am trying to re-learn to do one thing at a time. For an inveterate  multi-tasker, this can be painful. Continue reading