I look both ways, making sure I won’t get caught.
One kid reading on the couch. One in the bathroom. Two playing UNO. Two playing lego. Baby asleep. It’s my big moment, I”m going to make my move.
I’m going to make a phone call.
I creep back to the kitchen, as inconspicuous as possible.
I dial the number. I start my call.
Kid-reading-on-the-couch slowly gravitates to the kitchen..it’s the perfect time to tell me all about the book he is reading. I make the one-minute motion, which he apparently chooses not to get. I mouth “Please wait till I’m off the phone,” but it’s not working.
The two lego-players come barreling in, needing a referee. “It’s my diamonds!” “No, it’s from my special pieces!” I give the one-minute motion. Nothing doing. I head to the garage, hoping to get a moment of quiet, and they all follow. UNO cards come raining down in my path; the game is over with no winner, only mischievous-looking faces. And the UNO-card rain dance is in full swing.
I motion, I whisper, I cover the mouth piece and beg for a moment to finish up…
“Come wipe me!” calls a little voice from the bathroom. And I hear that noise. The non-mistaken noise of the roll of toilet paper being unrolled as he waits…a roll that I know I put in only an hour ago.
“I’ll wipe you!” calls one of the Uno-dancers, making a beeline for the bathroom, something he knows will certainly get my immediate attention.
And then I hear it…the baby is crying. His 12 minute nap is done.
Can’t anyone see I’m trying to make a phonecall?!
Last month marked ten years that I’m in the parenting business. Unlike any other professions where at the ten year mark you’ve mastered the skills and are ready for a promotion and a raise…the rules of the parenting business is different. Can’t say the skills are mastered…or that there’s any raise coming…or a promotion from changing diapers…but I CAN say that I’ve finally discovered just what skills parenting requires!
Everyone has read a parenting book or two…gone to a workshop…ever wondered what it is we are trying to master, what is the key to successful parenting?
To be a perfect parent? I’m sure we all have a different definition of perfect…
Perfect parent = clean house?
Perfect mom = 3 inch heels?
Perfect mom = immaculately dressed?
Perfect mom = cookies and milk waiting at the table just as the school bus pulls up (in my imagination, at least) or to only buy organic free range eggs at $6 a dozen and non GMO gluten free biscuits?
It only took about 4 days into motherhood to realize I had to make adjustments to what I assumed was perfect parenting!
Is it raising perfect kids?
Kids who get straight A’s, eat with a fork and knife and always wear their socks?
Kids whose PJ shirt and pants need to match?
Kids who keep their toothbrushes properly stowed and never dunk them in the toilet?
Kids who only use the amount of toilet paper needed and never just pull a whole roll for fun?
By the time my oldest turned 2, my perfect child list was quickly shrinking…
Either I failed the parenting test or I had to redefine parenting.
And so I opted for redefining, figuring it would be more motivating that way.
And after many years of trial and error, I figured out the definition of parenting. No, I have not mastered it, but at least I now know what I need to master.
Parenting is not about perfecting my kids.
Parenting is not about perfecting my house.
Parenting is not about perfecting my husband.
Parenting is not about perfecting myself.
It is about working on myself. Working on myself to accept that I am not perfect.
Accepting my kids for who they are.
Accepting my mess for what it is.
Accepting my husband for who is.
Accepting myself for who I am.
Becoming more patient.
Becoming more flexible.
Becoming more persistent.
Becoming more consistent.
Letting go of my misconceptions of perfect parents.
Letting go of my misconceptions of perfect kids.
Letting go of my misconceptions of perfect housekeeping.
Embracing my shortcomings.
Embracing my kids shortcomings.
I haven’t failed parenting because my kids talk back.
I haven’t failed parenting because they dump their laundry on the floor.
I haven’t failed parenting because they break each others’ lego.
My kids are not perfect. They will never be perfect. My house won’t be perfect and neither will I.
And parenting is the ability to accept that, embrace it and work on becoming more understanding. Letting go of things that don’t work as planned. Letting my kids be who they want to be, and not project on them what I want them to be. Letting them choose their own interests, not necessarily the same as mine. Their own talents, not necessarily the same as mine.
Accepting them as their own little people.
Parenting is not about being perfect.
On the contrary, it’s about being imperfect. And loving every minute of it.
I need to call her, but I have nothing to say.
It’s hard to believe it’s the same cousin that just four weeks ago, while visiting in NY, I bumped into while walking down the street and stood in the frigid NY weather catching up on two years of happenings. Babies, jobs, kids, stuff. There was so much to talk about, we could have stood there all day.
I saw her again the next week, together with lots of other cousins, and we all had plenty to share; cousins always have what to talk about.
And now, I have nothing to say.
I need to call her. My dear cousin, a few years younger than me, a beautiful mother of four and a dedicated wife, lost her equally young and beautiful husband.
He passed away suddenly, without any warning.
It’s tragic, it’s awful, it’s horrible.
Small children without a father and a wife without her husband.
How oh how can such a thing happen?
What can I tell her?
I wish I can be there in person, but I am not able to get to New York this week.
I need to call her, but what can I tell her?
I can tell her nothing. But I need to call her anyway.
There are so many things I want to say.
I want to tell her this is all wrong.
I want to tell her this world is a crazy mess and we are all crying with her.
I want to tell her that I have not stopped thinking about her since the moment this happened.
I want to tell her my heart is shattered in pieces for her.
I want to tell her 30 year old tattys don’t pass away. This has to be a mistake.
But I won’t say any of that.
Because truthfully, there is nothing to say.
How can such a young husband, father, son and brother be taken away so suddenly?
How can his dear wife carry the pain?
I remember soon after they were married her and her husband joined us for Shabbos lunch. I was the older cousin, married already for 3 years, and I was still living in New York.
Her husband Nadiv walked in and immediately picked up my 6 month old baby and wouldn’t put her down, something not so characteristic for a guy his age! And when she fell asleep, he insisted on continuing to hold her. And he didn’t put her down until he left.
He loved babies. He loved kids. He loved people and he loved life.
I have to call her.
To tell her everything by saying nothing.
I don’t understand Hashem’s ways.
We don’t understand Hashem’s ways.
We’re not supposed to. But sometimes I really wish I did.
How cold can winter be?
The answer, I learned, is VERY.
While debating whether to do our family trip to NY in February or not, I have to honestly admit that I did not remember just how cold cold can be..
Or how many pieces of accessories each child would need to go out in that cold.
Well, we were in NY and ready to take a walk.
Instead of kids grabbing socks and shoes, or just Crocs, and hopping into the minivan, this was happening NY style.
“Ok everyone, we’re ready to leave, get your stuff!”
I take a deep breath. Here we go!
Put on baby’s hat.
Put on baby’s coat.
Strap baby into carriage.
Baby starts to scream.
Shh shh baby, we are leaving in a minute…
Put on 2 year olds hat.
Put on his coat.
He takes off his hat.
Put on his scarf.
He unzips his coat.
Put on his gloves.
Put on his hat again.
Put on his boats.
Strap him in carriage.
Call the rest of the kids.
3 year old only has one glove.
7 year old can’t find his boots.
5 year old wants to just wear a sweater.
It’s 10 degrees outside. It’s irrelevant if that’s with the wind chill or not; we need to get on our way.
I make a mental checklist.
10 year old has gloves, scarf, coat, boots.
I send nine year old to find her hat.
7 year old can not wear crocs, you need to find your boots.
Find 3 year olds other glove.
By now, 2 year old has kicked off his boots.
Baby is still crying.
Shh we’re leaving in a minute and you’ll fall asleep.
5 year old can’t find either glove.
He’ll keep his hands in his pockets.
Put two year old’s boots back on.
3 year old abandoned his scarf, he didn’t like it.
Put scarf back on.
Cover carriage with the carriage plastic, something people in California would think is abusive but east coasters count as a blessing.
Now 2 year old and baby cry together.
I want to join.
5 year old needs the bathroom.
Off comes hat, scarf, gloves, boots and coat.
3 year old wears one glove.
I instruct him to keep the other hand in his pocket.
7 year old got his boots.
5 year old is back and ready.
Ok, we’re going.
Whoops, what about me?
I’m in my slippers.
I find my boots.
And one glove.
I suppose the other glove went on a runaway together with three year old’s missing glove.
I don’t blame them.
I put on my coat. I know it’s freezing outside, but for some reason I’m sweating.
Scarf. Where’s my scarf.
Kids are getting impatient,
I see 3 year old taking off his scarf again,
No, we’re leaving!
We’re out the front door.
Bounce the carriage down the steps.
The brakes lock.
Open brakes, bounce another step.
The brakes lock.
I’m ready to scream.
Why did they put the brakes in such a ridiculous place?!
We make it down the steps.
Baby is asleep.
Wow, that only took 42 minutes to get out!
I think of the sunshine I left in California.
At least the kids are loving the snow.
I pass many other moms on the street.
And I have a newfound respect for these winter moms.
Who do this many times a day, everyday.
And I silently salute them all.
I make a promise right then and there to all my freezing, frazzles fellow moms:
When I get back home, I will not post on Facebook any pictures of sunny California until the last of the snow is gone.
It’s the least I can do.
Libraries are not for little boys.
I knew that.
But I was being a good Facebook mom and taking my five little boys to the library.
Maybe it was the sunny weather or maybe it was my good mood, but for some reason I believed all those who told me that the local library was a great place for kids.
It’s beautiful, special kids wing, it’s new and nice, there’s lots to do there…
So there we were, heading from the parking lot to the library, reviewing library etiquette on the way. My little boys nodded along, agreeing with it all.
The first red flag came when we passed the fountain out front. The type of fountain that makes the minds of little boys race, trying to figure out the quickest way they can somehow get wet. On their tippy-toes, desperately trying to reach up and into the water…
Still optimistic, I gathered them up and reminded them of our exciting plans of actually going into the library..
The second red flag followed too soon, when we had to cross through the adult section of the library in order to reach our destination.
And it was silent.
I mean deafeningly silent.
It hurt my ears, I had not heard such loud silence in years.
I shushed my five little boys and rushed them through the room lest one of them makes so much as a peep.
And I silently wondered; what would happen if someone made noise in a library? Who said you can’t read in noise? I mean, I manage just fine. After all, I can read a whole recipe without the sounds of crying, laughing, shouting, toy fire engines and garbage trucks even slightly distracting me! Or maybe that’s why every now and then I mess up a recipe and forget an ingredient or two…
We made it to our destination. And just as I carefully planned, the after school crowd hadn’t come yet and the preschool kids were taken home for naps already, so it was just me and five of my little boys.
And they sat down at the little table with the activities, long enough for me to snap a pic and Whatsapp it to one of my doubting friends, to say, “See, it’s working out great!”
Five minutes later, it was still working! I settled in on one of the nice inviting couches. Baby is sleeping, rest of the boys are busy; wow, this just might be a relaxing afternoon. We should come here every day!
Except for the other couch. The large u-shaped couch that has a wide flat surface leading from the back of the couch to the window. That, to my kids’ eyes, is nothing short of a stage. Or walkway. Or runway.
Warning 1, 2 and 3 are issued.
We are not climbing. We do not climb in libraries. How about a book about trucks? Chickens? Cities? People? Anything?
Like I said, libraries are not for little boys. Maybe that’s why I hadn’t visited the library in 7 years…it was suddenly coming back to me.
And perhaps libraries should call in moms of boys to design the kids’ section. Before consulting any contractors, they need to make sure the room is boy proof. No ledges or edges, no poles, no slats – nothing that can be mistaken for a play structure.
So out we went, with the little boys trailing behind, wondering out loud why we were leaving.
And I reprimanded myself quite firmly, “You can not be angry at them! Little boys don’t belong in a library, why did you take them there in the first place?!”
And off we went, to the place where little boys belong.
To the park.
And they played and ran and jumped; climbed and swung on the swings and splashed in the drinking fountain; acting like normal little boys because that’s what I was allowing them to be.
I have to remind myself of my mantra more often; Don’t believe anything you see on Facebook.
I keep pressing backspace; whatever I write just doesn’t seem to come out right.
I’ll try again.
He was a giant of a man. He was larger than life. He cared for everyone.
It’s all true. But it doesn’t seem to really explain who Zaidy was. It sounds like just Anyone’s biography. And Zaidy was certainly not just Anyone.
So I’ll try yet again.
He was timeless. He was 90 but too young to leave us. He only saw the positive in everything and everyone. He made an impact on the life of thousands of people.
It sounds so cliche, but it’s all true! Yet, it’s still missing the heart of who Zaidy was.
He educated thousands of children in the Torah’s ways. He dedicated himself to reaching out to every Jewish person he came in contact with. He worked full time, every day of his life. He never retired and never got old.
It’s all Zaidy; every word of it.
But it still not capturing the life of Zaidy.
And the more I write, the more I realize that words alone will never suffice to describe my Zaidy; Zaidy isn’t someone you can just write about; Zaidy was life. And the words themselves are only half the picture.
And the other half are the memories I hold close to me.
The shared memories of me, my family and my relatives. The precious memories of love for all of us, never ending enthusiasm for anything we were telling him and patience for each one of us. And when I say “us”, thats a few hundred “us”, the lucky grandchildren.
He made each of us feel as though we were his only grandchild.
In my memories, Zaidy is full of life. Passionately sharing a word on the parsha. Enthusiastically telling us a story at the Shabbos table; every story he told felt as though he was there to witness it. On the way to some far out little city to find a lonely Jew who needs some motivation to pursue Judaism. Boarding a plane to yet another grandchild’s wedding. Holding yet another great grandchild, as Sandek of the bris. Listening to a three year old grandchild reciting his alef bais, glowing with pride. Patiently asking my children what they were learning in Chumash, so eager to hear their responses.
And glowing grandchildren lined up, waiting for his warm embrace.
Bubby and Zaidy were an inseparable pair; together they not only raised a large family, they raised a community and a generation. They lived for the same goals, aspired for the same dreams.
Yet Zaidy never sat back to marvel at what he accomplished – even though he had every right to! He only kept moving forward. His focus was the next generation; making sure they were educated and trusted to continue his holy work.
It’s so hard to share the memories properly, complete with their rich warmth and life. And I don’t think I ever can.
The other night we had a conference call with lots of cousins. And we shared memories. And we all felt it; we all knew Zaidy, and we felt the life of these memories.
And that’s where I know Zaidy will continue to live.
Pen and paper alone are not enough.
He will live with each one of us, his grandchildren.
And as the sadness sets in that Zaidy, our patriarch, our role model, our grandfather who was blessed to live until 90 without ever getting old is no longer with us, I know he will continue to live in all of us. All of us who know his life, who felt his warmth, and who still feel the love when we talk about him.
Zaidy will continue to live in how I live my life.
With his positive outlook on life; with his patience for every child; with his love for each one of his children, grandchild and great grandchildren; with his incredible ability to always see the good in everything; with his great respect and admiration for Bubby, with his determination to reach every Jew and share with them the joy of Judaism, with his passion for Torah and mitzvos; and with his acceptance of everyone, as they are.
And I think I know the secret to how he was able to do all this; how he was able to be 90 but young, to get older without ever aging.
Turning 90 was but a mere detail of his active and busy life.
Because he never retired.
He never sat back, saying his work was complete and it’s time to relax. His life was not about himself, it was about everyone else.
When you have a life worth living, you never retire.