Happy New Year!
This time of year – the celebration of the Jewish New Year / High Holidays – is always one of reflection for me and my family. Just as many people do on January 1st – we think back on the year that has been and whether how we conducted our affairs and what we created in the world reflected our highest values and aspirations. We reflect on what there is to celebrate and to mourn, and we think ahead to the coming year. We discuss with our children what we can do in the spirit of Tikkun Olam – “repairing the world” (or “healing the world”) – our ancestral obligation to be stewards of our planet for the benefit of our children and their descendants. I use this time to make my new year’s resolutions for myself and my family.
This time of reflection corresponds to other new beginnings: the change of seasons, and the start of a new school year. Lead Poisoning Prevention Month (October) also comes at this time – and for those whose lives have been personally impacted by lead exposure this presents a special opportunity to reach out, share our stories, using our experiences to help other families who are going through what we have been through – helping to “heal the world” – one personal connection at a time.
During this time, I am always drawn towards my family. I try to take the high holidays off with my kids…to set aside (for after the holidays) the hundreds of interactions I get each day (e-mails, texts, phone calls, Facebook messages); when I begin to take a step back from it all, it seems nearly impossible—but then there are moments that remind me why it is so important for us to take time with our families, away from technology, interruptions and distractions.
At services the other day, we went to a synagogue that we have been to in years past. Avi (age 9-1/2, lead poisoned at 7 months old) thrashed about violently and refused to go into the children’s service (which they always make sure is a lot of fun – singing songs, playing music and telling stories that resonate with children.) After throwing a massive fit he then retreated into his body and lay on the cold linoleum floor in the hall, curled up in a fetal ball (as if he were on a bed) rhythmically banging his box of Pokeman cards against the wall! “This is NOT my kid”, I thought. My kid is incredibly articulate, intelligent and engaged… but when he’s in a state of “neurological overwhelm” (a new space, new people, lots of unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells) he shuts down. Completely.
In this moment – as I was crying for the “loss” of my child – the loss of a part of my child (at times like these it’s sometimes hard to distinguish), my oldest son said – “Hey Mom, don’t be upset, just let him be here – with the other kids, the games, the singing, the food. Even though he is not participating – at least he’s being exposed to it – and maybe next time it will seem familiar, and he will be more comfortable and engaged.”
As parents, we do the best we can with our children after they have been poisoned. However most days, we have no idea what to expect – what erratic behavior is around the next corner and how we will be forced to deal with it (instead of going about our day as planned) but we take baby steps… one step at a time and hope tomorrow will be a little better.
In the context of all of this, especially being in the middle of the throes of all of the “back to school” chaos, I am again reminded of the importance of NOT sending my child to yet another school with lead hazards. I am reminded I cannot risk further compromises to his fragile system and brain when I still do not know the full impact of his earlier exposures to lead. For this reason, my pledge for this new year (5775 on the Jewish Calendar) is to continue to focus on making our country’s schools safe for all of our children – babies through college-age, and to do whatever it takes to do so.
Thank you for your support over the past year. It has been a fantastic twelve months – in terms of the amount of children we have been able to help, and the number of families we have been able to personally reach out to. I couldn’t have done it without you!
First and Foremost – Mother of Lead Poisoned Children
Executive Director, Lead Safe America
#LEaDSAFe: My sons Colescott (18), A.J.(12), Avi (9) & Charlie (6) earlier today at the Tacoma Museum of Glass.