It’s the favorite time of year for little boys. Water, fish, sand and if you’re lucky, mud too. It just doesn’t get better!
And feeling so experienced in the boys, mud, water and sand area, I reminded my kids to wear their Crocs to Tashlich. Most of them followed directions and I let it be. How dirty can they get anyway, maybe I was just being paranoid…
Arriving at Tashlich only 4 minutes after my boys, I’m greeted by muddy feet and wet pants.
And that’s when I see my oldest. In the mud.
“I lost my shoe, I need to find it!” he hollers.
We are at the pond. The pond that has been shrinking all year due to the lack of rain. And what is left in place of where lots of the pond used to be is thick, heavy mud. The type that when you walk across it, your shoes gets stuck. Which is apparently what happened.
I see the crowd gathering at the gazebo, just a few hundred feet away. I see my son, caked in mud till his elbows and up till his knees in his (new) dress pants.
I tell him to get out of the mud.
I tell him his shoes were lost and it’s too late to save them.
I tell him it is more important to get out NOW than to find his shoes.
He waves back and reassures me that he would find his shoes.
I tell him to get out of the mud.
He tells me he will find his shoes.
I breathe deeply and count to ten slowly.
I need to think quickly.
And then I tell myself what I tell my kids when they are in crisis mode:
You have a few options.
I could scream at him to get out.
I could threaten him.
I could take away all computer time for the next 18 years.
I could take away his camera indefinitely.
But as I slowly get to ten, I know none of those would work. He is not coming out.
He is going to find his shoes. With all the kids watching him, that was more important to him than 18 years of computer time.
I needed an alternative plan.
Think about him, not about yourself!
The crowd is nearing the pond, ready to recite the tashlich prayer.
I look at the approaching people.
I look at my son, covered in mud.
And there I stood, with just a minute to leave with a grace.
Breathe, count to 10 again.
“Alright, I hope you find your shoes. You sure are determined.”
I turned to face the crowd, watching as they register what they were seeing.
Yes, the rabbi’s son, in his dress clothes, is knee deep in mud.
My son. My oldest son.
The looks of amusement, horror, disgust and entertainment are pretty apparent.
He will have to figure out how to save his pride, but I had to figure out how to save mine.
Because after all, if anyone is judging my child, why then, they are ultimately judging me.
And so I say the only thing I can think of, the thought that I would be thinking if it was someone else’s child…
“Whose kid is that?! Where are the parents?? Which irresponsible mom lets their 10 year old get knee deep in thick, gooky mud in their dress clothes!?”
The ice was broken; now they are all on my team! We laugh together.
And my son, holding his pride, emerges from the mud, waving his mud soaked non-recognizable shoe with a look of triumph.
I bite my tongue hard to hold back any reprimanding because I realize it’s not necessary. Mud has it’s own natural consequence.
Mustering up whatever dignity he can find, he tells me in his most grown up way that he is going to go home and hose himself down in the backyard so he doesn’t bring any mud into the house. I enthusiastically agree it’s a good idea.
I’m squirmy at the sight. I’m not a mud person. And deep inside, I’m still mortified. But that’s not my son’s problem. I will not take that out on him.
I’m also just a teensy bit proud of his determination. And his courage to face the crowd. I remind myself that these traits will do him well as an adult…
He strides off, with all the little boys watching him in awe and with the greatest respect while the moms are cringing.
And I sigh in relief.
True, I didn’t win. He got his way.
But sometimes winning is figuring out how to lose gracefully.