Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Half a Mama

"You're going to drive her??" She stared at me in utter disbelief.

My little girl was frantic. She had a science test to study for, and she couldn't find her notebook. I wasn't really worried. I knew she'd do well on the test anyway. But she was distraught. After a thorough search, I concluded that it definitely was not in the house. So at 8:30 PM, I agreed to drive her back to school to see if it was there.

My big girl was incredulous.

"I would never have dreamed of asking you to do that at her age. You would have told me that it's my responsibility to make sure I have it, and if you drive me, I wouldn't learn that."

She's right.

Sometimes, it seems like I have two sets of kids.

The older set was born when I was younger. I stayed home to raise them. I had more time, more energy and more flexibility. I took them to the playground and I read them books. Bedtime was firm, and there was no snacking before dinner. And...if they left their notebook in school, would they learn to take responsibility if I was always fixing their mistakes?

The younger set has an older mother. I have a lot more patience and tolerance. And so much more appreciation for every moment. I'm more aware of the swift passage of time. I know how fast they grow up, and I savor every minute.

With age also comes wisdom. I learned that some things are not worth getting worked up about. I learned to choose my battles.

But I don't have as much time to spend with them as I'd like, and I don't have the energy I used to have. I'm tired. Bedtime is not a concept they are familiar with. There's a lot happening around the house at night, and they want to be a part of it. So I make a lame attempt at getting them into bed, and then I go to sleep and hope they do the same sometime soon. If they want something and I can't think of any reason not to get it for them, I will. My little girl has too many pairs of shoes, and my little boy has too many books and toys. And...if they leave their notebooks in school, I'll drive them there to get it.

My older kids call me on it all the time.

"We were never allowed to do that."

"You never let us take that much snack to school every day."

"You're spoiling him."

Maybe I am.

I look at my older kids. They are mature and responsible. They are sensible and trustworthy adults and near-adults. They are everything I'd hoped they'd become. And I wonder if I am making a mistake in the way I am raising the younger set. Maybe they need me to be the kind of mother I was to their older siblings. Maybe I should be sticking to a method that has been tested and proven to be effective. Tried-and-true.

But maybe they were given to me at this age because this is the kind of parenting they need. Maybe not every child is meant to be parented in the same way.

Or...maybe I am aware of what I am unable to provide, and I am trying to create some sort of balance. Trying to make it up to them in some way, maybe.

Which brings to mind a story I read about a Rebbetzin in Meah Shearim whose married daughter came to visit and watched as her mother gave her much younger sister a potato chip.

"Mama," she cried, "when I grew up, I had to wash six floors in order to earn a half of a potato chip!"

"When you were little," the Rebbetzin replied, "you had a whole Mama, so Hashem knew it was enough for you to have half a potato chip. Now, 25 years later, your sister has half a Mama, so Hashem provided her with a whole potato chip."

More Mama, less potato chip.

Less Mama....more potato chip.


  1. I hear your daughter's point. I think I've expressed this before on your blog, that I'm not a big believer in spoiling children and driving your daughter to school to pick up a forgotten notebook kinda is, but I see where you're coming from. You explained yourself very well and I think there are many, many (if not most) mothers out there that are just like you.

    I'll also say that I grew up with a mother very similar to you in that way and I think I turned out responsible enough :-). There are many ways to teach responsibility to a child.

    Bottom line: you're a great mother, MW, and don't let anyone (not even those voices in your head :-P) tell you otherwise.

  2. Half a mama - that comment is not to my taste (sorry).

  3. Well said. I am part of the "first set" of my family and I feel your daughters frustration. On the other hand I have kids of my own now, so I respect my mother for the decisions she makes. Well said!

  4. Nice post. To me, I always find myself comparing how I spoil my kids compared to how my parents treated me as a kid. As I'm being a my daughter's taxi driver, I'm always saying "when I was a kid my parents made me walk..." I guess things change over time... we were all "spoiled" to a degree, and turned out quite all right... So there's merit in all approaches, and that don't make anyone a "half a mamma!"

  5. Good observation..

    I think we over-parent our first children.

    I have a 6 year old boy...who I barely take to shul..and I'm fine with that..
    And I see other 6 year olds that are the 1st in their families and the father takes them to shul and watches over them like a hawk.
    But I've already went through that stage with 2 older brothers..and have come to find that....children seem to find their own way..and develop their own personalities regardless of how you dote over them in their younger years.

  6. Great Post.
    I've been both Mama #1 and Mama #2 and I don't think that it even pays to examine which is better (not that I don't have ideas on the matter) ... each have their "ma'alos", but only one is possible in the time that it manifests itself.
    "L'chol zman vo'es...."

  7. SIR...

    Ahh...there's my ego boost :). Thank you!


    I'm sorry you don't like it. I didn't make up the term. But I don't think it was meant to be offensive. I'm doing the best I can with what I have, but the fact is, what I have is not as much as what I used to have.


    I am also part of the first I do understand her. But I think that it really can't be any other way. At each stage, you are the kind of parent those kids need.


    I guess the "Half a Mama" phrase didn't go over very well :). No...I'm not any less of a mother. Thank you.


    I agree with that. It's too soon to know for sure, but I think you're right.


    I love the way you explain it..."only one is possible in the time that it manifests itself". That's perfect.

  8. This reminds me of a lesson I learned in seminary about our gedolim and rabbanim being specific for our generation. Hashem knows what we need, on our level to be able to serve him best and that is why he put that person there to lead us.
    Since different people have different needs, there is even a specific rebbe on top of the chassidim...and the litvish people have their rav that is perfect for them!

    Should I say it again?! Every post I read just shows me what an unbelievable mother you are - knowing and being able to differentiate between the needs of your children at different stages in your life. They are so lucky! And I hope to be able to have that insight to always be in touch with the needs of my child(ren) at all times...can you give me some tips?

    (Were you waiting for that part of my comment? lol I guess it always comes along with each comment I it must really be true!!)

  9. Devorah...

    Yay! Of COURSE I was waiting. :)

    Every comment you write shows what an unbelievable PERSON you are. Can you give me some tips?

  10. What a beautiful post. I had tears in my eyes reading it (not sure why)!

    You have an amazing talent with your words. I appreciate the sentence structure and your parting sentence.