Sunday, March 6, 2011

Parenting with ghosts

It was bedtime and I was trying to wrestle B.A. into his footie pajamas.  A.N. was standing off to the side, whining in a rising-and-falling monologue like an accordion. Something about a cookie? Two cookies of unequal size? Broken off in an unacceptable way? I wasn’t listening to the details as much as just trying to breathe and be calm.

In the midst of this, I was overcome by the pleasure of B.A.’s adorable arms and tummy. He is at that wonderful toddlerbaby phase where his body is still soft and mushy, too new to walking to slim down or muscle up. I hugged him and I hugged A.N.

“I love this little family so much. Thank you Hashem for this little family.”

And I thought of other Jewish women over the years who have brought little children into the world and raised them and loved them, and then seen their efforts cut off by cruelty and violence. The Churban . . . The Crusades. . . Chmielnitski. . . The Shoah. . . The intifadas.

The truth is that my thoughts move in this direction quite a lot. I guess it arises from the intense love I feel for my children, my fierce desire to keep them safe and see them grow and prosper. But it’s not dark paranoia that makes me wonder how long I have to do this work. It’s a rational concern for a student of Jewish history.
So I am always parenting with ghosts looking over my shoulder. Ghosts of mothers who loved their children and dreamed of their futures. Mothers who didn’t get to see that promise fulfilled for some reason. Only God knows why. 

When I start to think this way, my first impulse is to say, “Chaya, stop it. Just enjoy your children.” But the urge to push the thoughts away is really a desire to hide from their implications. I can’t really enjoy my children, enjoy my life, unless I recognize at every moment what a privilege it all is. I don’t know how many evenings of tickling a toddler’s tummy and entertaining a preschooler’s grievances I have ahead of me. I have to take in each opportunity fully. I don’t have the luxury of complaining or coasting through mothering with a glazed expression. I don’t want to take anything for granted.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

you are so right! keep up the good work and writing. Thanks.

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