Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Thank you to everyone for your warm and much appreciated wishes on the occasion of the New Year which we just celebrated with family and friends. The days since then have been busy and there are lots of distractions taking my time and attention.

We are going through a scenario that is common to every household with children. The challenge of getting a child to hear what you are saying in a situation and not turning it into something you are not saying, simply because you disagree with them. This adds a whole new meaning to the word ‘frustration.’ I know all the obvious things; that it is not unique to our family, that everyone with young and almost grown children go through this, yet I find it saps my life force and it is very hard for me to stay on top of it. Even though I am a step parent to two of the three children in our family, I approach my step children and the role I play in their lives as if they were my own children. Nothing is less important to me in their lives then it would be if it were happening to Ross. I don’t know if they feel, know and believe that, but I have always thought that it is important for me to stay in touch with that even if they don’t. If they get it, great, if they don’t, my input is consistent. I have never tried to be a substitute for their mother who lives in South Africa; I have tried to be their next best option. I gave her an undertaking when they moved from South Africa to come live with Dan and me in London, and when I look back on that, I do so knowing I have delivered and that I have stood by my commitment – and will always continue to.

My natural child is still young enough where our differences in opinion are on matters that will not exactly mould the rest of his life, so the challenges are easier to deal with. With the older children, it is now different. What amazes me more than anything is the fact that they/he/she don’t open themselves to our opinions, suggestions, guidance and thoughts simply based on the fact that their father and I would only ever express what we believe to be is the absolute best option for them in any given situation. If you are not going to trust your parents as a reliable resource, who are you going to trust? Again, I know this is not unique to us, but as I always say to them, my concern is with them and us, not anyone else. Perhaps you have to be 46 before you realize that never ever will your parent want to see you go down a path that offers any possibility other than there being a pot of gold or rainbow, or both at the end of it for you.

I was watching OPRAH interview America Ferrera. During the interview they showed the actresses mom in the audience and OPRAH asked America what her mom had taught her. After the show I asked myself how I will answer that question when I am interviewed on OPRAH one day.

These are the first three things that came into my head:

The first thing my mom has always taught me for as long as I can remember is, “To save for a rainy day.” From the first buck I ever earned, my mother has always encouraged me to save part of what I earn. I admit to having never been a good saver. I totally believe in the concept and I never rejected it but I have never mastered it. As a parent myself now, I will most certainly encourage my children to do this. The only thing I would do differently is to not narrow it down to doing it for a ‘rainy day,’ but rather for any day. I have enough life time under my belt now to know how often it would have been fantastic to have a reserve to draw on when needed. Good advice, Mommy!

The second thing I thought of, and could totally hear my Mom saying is, “Dawn, always be a mench.” Translated from Yiddish to English, this means to be an honorable and decent person. This is so entrenched in who I am that it has become my conscious with a voice. I am not exaggerating when I say that I literally hear my mother’s voice in my head guiding me this way. It is the basis of my deeds and when I am faced with a dilemma of what to do or how to do something in any given situation, I hear that voice of conscience in my head – it can be quite funny at times. I hope I enrich my children’s lives in this kind of way – where something so profoundly good becomes a thread in the fiber of their being. Thank you Mommy, this has been invaluable to me.

The third thing, which surprised me, but this is what came up was the importance of wiping the salad bowl (or any dish you are serving) clean around the rim once you have plated it from the container you prepared it in. My mother would never allow a bowl to be presented without a perfectly straight line around it. There dare not be the slightest smudge of mayonnaise above the line in a bowl of potato salad, a splash of soup above where the contents of a soup bowl comes to rest when placed on the table, etc. I thought about this a little further and realized how this in itself relates to number two. It’s about respect and pride. Respect for the people you are serving and pride in what you do – even if you are eating alone! I thought back to the compliments I received on how awesome my table looked on Friday night for the holiday and I smiled, because truly, this comes from the heart and soul of the clean rim that my Mommy taught me to make. Thank you Mommy, and I hope I live long enough to see my children reach an age where they can see that little bit deeper into what we are teaching them.

Love begins by taking care of the closest ones -

the ones at home. ~ Mother Teresa