Thursday, February 24, 2011

My Child, My Teacher

"Hit him back," I tell my little boy. "If he fights with you, just hit him back."

It's all wrong. It's not what I'm supposed to be telling him. It's not what the parenting books say. But someone is picking fights with him, and I know he won't stop as long as my little boy allows it. As long as he doesn't do anything to defend himself.

"I don't fight," he says.

"You're not fighting. He is. You're just defending yourself. Just kick him when he comes near you. Just to keep him away."

It's sounding all wrong. The parenting experts would be horrified.

"I can't kick him," he says quietly. "I'm afraid I'm going to hurt him."

"But...but...he's hurting you!"

"I can't," he says again. "I can't hurt people."

I look at him, as though seeing him for the first time.

I can't hurt people....

I hug him. And I am ashamed of myself.

There are moments when a seemingly insignificant incident reveals a profound insight about a person's character. This is one of those moments.

I learned who my little boy is. I learned something about his deepest self. I learned that not only do I love him, but I admire and respect him. I learned that there is so much he can teach me. I learned that he is not only my child, but also my teacher.

My little boy is growing up. Today he is a child with a sensitive soul. A child who can't hurt people. A child I am so proud of. With Hashem's help, he will grow to be a sensitive adult. An adult who will not hurt people. An adult I will be proud to know.

Do it your way, my little boy. I am honored to be your mother.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Daughter, the Cow

A shadchan is on the phone. He has some basic questions, and I answer them all. I'm feeling good. This is a well known shadchan, and he sought me out. As he should. My daughter is a great girl, and he's lucky to have her on his list. He wants her resume, and I promise to email it to him as soon as I'm off the phone.

Then he asks for a picture.

"A picture?" I ask, naively. "What for?"

"Some people ask for one."

That's pretty standard, apparently. At least according to him. But...a picture? What does a picture tell you? She's a human being, and one would think that should make it different than a cattle sale. There's so much more to her than what the picture would show. It just doesn't feel right to me. And I tell him that.

"I have nothing to hide," I say. "My daughter is beautiful, and anyone you ask about her would say that. It just seems so degrading. If someone insists on a picture, let me know, and maybe I'll send one then. But I'd like to know who's asking."

He understands. I don't send the picture.

And I never hear from him again.

It is now a year later, and a shadchan is on the phone.

"Does your daughter have any weddings coming up soon?"

I'm not sure. I'd need to check with her. And I'm wondering why a shadchan would want to know that.

"Remember I suggested a name a while ago?"

I do remember. It had sounded like a good idea, but I learned a lot in the last year. I'm smarter now. I want the boys' parents to do their research first, and if it sounds good to them, I'll look into it. I told that to the shadchan then, and when several weeks passed without hearing from her, I assumed it went where so many other shidduch suggestions go.

But she's on the phone maybe not. I allow myself to hope for a minute.

"They're still dragging their feet," she tells me. "I want them to take a look at her at a wedding or something. I think that might help."

Take a look at her...

If the picture idea sounded bad to me, this should be sounding even worse. Take a look at her... Like an appraisal. Or an evaluation. This is sounding more and more like a cattle sale. 

I hate it.

But...I learned a lot in the last year.

I ask my daughter about upcoming weddings. She seems to be running out to weddings and all the time. I'm sure there's something.

There isn't. Not for the next month.

"There must be something! What about a vort?"


"Chinese auction?" I'm sounding desperate.

I call the shadchan back. I tell her about the wedding coming up in a month, but I promise to call her if anything comes up sooner than that.

So the mother of this boy will be joining the other women who stand around the edges of the room, watching the single girls dance. They will analyze and assess and inspect, and then make a judgment. If a girl strikes their fancy, they will find out who she is. It will be no different than any other wedding, really. Just another cattle sale.

I hereby invite all of you out there to this wedding next month - no formal invitation necessary. Come take a look at the single girls. My daughter is the pretty one in the black dress. It's elegant and stylish, but not too trendy. Completely tzniusdik, but not nerdy. I can show you some pictures, so you recognize her. Just come and look at her. Please.

I learned a lot in the last year.

Friday, February 11, 2011


"They went without me."

My little girl looks so confused. And so, so hurt.

Things would work themselves out, I know. She'd be ok. But right now she is in so much pain, and it breaks my heart.

I also know that this will not be the last time she feels hurt. There will be more pain in her life. I want so much to protect her. I want so much to erase the anguish I see in her eyes. I want her to never feel the hurt she's feeling now. But there isn't much I can do. I can listen to her and hold her, but I can't take it away.

She'll get through it. She'll heal. Her heart will be scarred, but she'll emerge stronger than before.

There is a knock at the door. A woman stands there. She is going from house to house, and she's asking for money. I'm not sure how it happens, but before I know it, she's sitting at my kitchen table with a cup of coffee, unburdening her heart. I listen to her tales of abusive husband, troubled kids and poverty, and my heart breaks. There isn't much I can do to help her. But when she leaves, her steps seem lighter. And my heart is heavier.

I am waiting on line at the pharmacy today. A woman behind me comments on the price of cigarettes.

"I quit in 1973," she says. "Cigarettes were 65 cents a pack back then."

I make some polite sounds.

"I quit cold turkey," she continues. "It was hard. I cried a lot."

And then she starts to talk. She talks about some of her troubles...some of the things she's been through. The pain...the misery...the sorrow...the heartache.

I listen, and then I leave the store. And I take some of her pain with me.

So much pain. So much suffering. It's everywhere. It almost seems as though no one is immune.

And every time I listen to it, some of it remains with me.

I know there is a reason for it. I know there is a purpose. I know as well as anyone else how pain makes us it strengthens it makes us better people. I know all that.

But I can't take it anymore.

It's enough already.

No more. Please.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


I am in the hospital awaiting the birth of my firstborn. The pain is intense. No one prepared me for this. I knew there would be pain, but I didn't really know. How could I know? How could I even imagine this agony?

My baby is not yet ready to be born. I am told to walk around for about an hour. I walk a few feet, stopping every few minutes as a spasm of pain rips through my body, and I collapse into the nearest chair. An hour… I can't bear an hour of this.

"I want to go home." The words come out in a choked sob.

My husband looks concerned.

"Home?" He seems confused. "Do you want to have the baby at home?"

"No." My voice is hoarse. I have no strength to explain. "I changed my mind. I just wanna go home. I changed my mind about this. Just take me home, please."

We stay. It's a boy. A beautiful, healthy boy. We name him after my grandfather – the first great grandson named after him.

Recently, my husband and I are honored with kvatter. The baby is my nephew. I hold him close, and look into his eyes. He looks back at me, his gaze calm and steady. He is beautiful. I give him a quick kiss and hand him to my husband.

His name is announced. He is named after my grandfather, another great grandchild joining the many who now bear his name.

A relative of mine passed away last week. He was a good person. And too young to die. I listen to his wife and daughters talk about him. There is so much to say…so many stories…so much good…so many lives he's touched. I blink away my tears. I have so many questions. He was so young.

I look at his daughters, and I know that they will name children after him, and their children will name children after him. They will be proud and honored to carry his name. His memory will endure.

I did two taharas one night this week. The first one is difficult and we are shorthanded. It takes longer than usual. When we are done, I am tired. But I feel good. We prepare for the second. I ask for the Jewish name. No one knows it. There is no family to ask.

I am sad. Sad for this woman who lived 98 years, but died alone. Sad that she left no one…no one to sit shivah for her, no one to remember her, no one to eternalize her memory, no one to carry her name.

And suddenly, it is very important to me that I make my mark on this world, somehow…that I touch lives…that I make my children proud to perpetuate my name. That I am remembered.

I have a lot of work ahead of me, and I have no idea how much time I have to achieve that goal.

But I am ready to start.