Mom’s Grit

Mom’s Grit

We’ve all heard of IQ, but last night a friend introduced me to the concept AQ–Adversity Quotient, meaning a person’s ability to deal with adversity in life.
And that, I think, is something my Mom had in abundance.
On the surface, it might have appeared from the outside that Mom had everything going for her. A strong marriage and connection with her 3 children and grandchildren as well as a deeply fulfilling and successful career.
But underneath the surface, Mom’s life had been riddled with hardship.
Mom’s only younger sister died shortly after birth and in general Mom had a difficult childhood. As a pre-med college student and in medical school she was sexually harassed and discriminated against by her male classmates, who outnumbered women 15 to 1. At 25, Mom lost her parents and grandmother suddenly in a car crash, a trauma from which it took her many years to recover. Then Mom struggled with secondary infertility, waiting 6 years for my sister to join the family. Around that same time, Mom lost sight in one eye and was eventually diagnosed with MS which would lay dormant until it would reappear (as it did in her final years) in all its crippling fury.
And through it all, Mom persisted. In fact, mysteriously, her many challenges somehow seemed to fuel her on, calling forth the tough little girl within her who’d grown up in a tough family in a tough neighborhood in Queens.

So many things Mom went through I think would have caused me to step aside or step down.
But for Mom, adversity just spurred her forward to her goal, grit, persistence and unrelenting optimism, that was Mom.


  1. “Grit” is a theme I have followed since my childhood, listening to the life stories of people who experienced World Wars, The Depression, forced migration, The Russian/Soviet Revolution, unimaginable losses, moving from one dangerous place to another that had unknown and unknowable challenges…and yet these people (parents, grandparents, neighbors) were able to face their challenges and build families, businesses, and institutions for the future. As much as my Psychology training told me that children have to be shielded from “bad news”, my instincts told me otherwise. How could generations of Jews have survived if they were always being shielded? Theoretical beliefs remain only theoretical if they are never tested. Our parents, grandparents, and ancestors had their beliefs tested over and over. Their beliefs actually were the lifeline that saved them in the maelstroms of their time. If today’s children who have been shielded from everything were put in their great-grandparents’ place–would they be able to survive and thrive as well? Chana Jenny, your mother learned valuable life skills by facing her challenges. She learned that the joy she experienced when she overcame her obstacles and met her goals was a greater joy than the one born of staying in place and “safe”. As parents, we have the ability (dare I say “responsibility”?)to teach our children to face their obstacles with intelligence, with emunah, and with grit. That’s a legacy that far exceeds any material or monetary gift…

  2. Awesome post about your awesome mom! And Tamar’s comment is a great one too! I used to attend an exercise class with Chana Jenny’s wonderful mom. I didn’t know she had MS, though I saw her persistently struggling to do each exercise. But I did know that she always had a smile to share. It lit up my heart each time.

  3. Amazing and inspiring writing. Who is in the picture?

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