A Word from Rabbi Schulman - 5/7/21
I recently found an article that Eve wrote in 2005 for the JCC Houston Newsletter entitled “Being a Mother.” At the time, Naomi was 20, Carmi 15, and Rebecca 11. I hope you enjoy this guest column in honor of Mother’s Day.
“My eldest child recently asked me if I had imagined how my life would be with kids before I had them. The question was raised while she was home from college, her boyfriend was teaching the youngest to do cartwheels in the living room, her brother was working on one of his bicycles in the garage, the 10 week old puppy was barking and digging up the backyard, and my parents were cleaning up in the kitchen. My husband and I wordlessly looked at each other, not really sure how to respond. In the last 20 years since my children entered my life, did I know what I was going to get?
Even before we got married, my husband and I knew we wanted children. We called them ‘little waaa waaas.’ While waiting for our first child to be born, we read every book about childbearing, dutifully attended our Lamaze classes, and talked to everyone about diapers, formula, car seats, strollers, and so on. My husband talked to my belly and we played all the right music…most of the time (Mozart and Springsteen to give equal time). Since we did not want to know our child’s gender before birth, we made long lists of possible names for both boys and girls. My husband attended every OB appointment and we were thrilled by the first sound of a heartbeat. The wonder and amazement we felt upon seeing our child for the first time during the ultrasound exam led to ever greater excitement and anticipation. We found a pediatrician, planned the naming/bris, our daughter was born, and then reality hit.
Who knows what it means to become a parent? How much can one really plan, anticipate, or know for certain about the incredible act of faith that is bringing a child into this world? The reality of parenthood creeps up on us without our permission. One day while driving with my 11 year old, I looked at her and said: ‘Who are you and what have you done with my baby?’ She was both amused and confused at the statement. She basically told me she was growing up and there was nothing I could do about it.
What I expected was to love my children, to take care of them, and to have fun times and difficult times. I read about the terrible twos and potty training and getting new babies on feeding and sleeping schedules. I knew about separation anxiety, teething, and going through puberty including the horrendous mood swings that go along with it. There were many things that I was not prepared for. These are the things that no one tells you about and that are not in any of the books. For instance, there is much written about carpools and the constant shlepping, but no one speaks about the places your children will take you. If not for my children, I would not have been to Kansas to take my first born to her first year of college or Park City, Utah, to support my son for the Junior Nationals Road Race Championships or become a stage mom as my youngest child practices for her various roles in the JCC drama programs.
There are endless books, articles, and websites that discuss the process of parenting and articulate all of the lessons and tasks we need in order to teach our children how to walk, how to drink from a cup, how to drive, how to save money for the future. However, in my parenting self-training program, I never came across the literature that talks about how our children become our teachers. What a joy it is to have your youngest child point blank ask you: ‘What is more important, your job or your child?’ I was never given training how to answer that question.
How do you deal with a teenager who oversleeps so you have to drive him to school, thus making you late for the rest of your day. As your temper rises and the chastisements begin, how do you respond to your child when he says ‘Mom, you just gotta’ laugh. The key to life is laughter, and I am the janitor with ALL of the keys!’
What about the child away at college who one day text messages you on your cell phone asking how you would feel about a dog coming home with her for summer vacation and you text message her back saying ‘what part of I don’t want a dog is not clear to you?’ and then she brings home the cutest, smartest, sweetest dog who digs up your backyard, turns your porch into a doggy potty, and wakes you up at 3:00 a.m. and you still think it is cute?
No, no one tells you about this part of parenting. Not even your own parents. They just sit there, watching, listening, and laughing.