There is nothing like raising kids that demonstrates how quickly life passes. Elsewhere in this bulletin I have included a piece on parenting certain to give pause to any parent at any stage of that path.
The Jewish Holiday cycle helps us catch the sacred moments and life’s precious passages, that we not awaken only after the children are grown to wonder what we missed and try vainly to recall what we overlooked. How quickly high school graduation comes after the first day of kindergarten!
The celebrations of passage and transition, secular and religious, help us pinch ourselves and notice more. Jewish holidays especially do that. Shavuot just recently celebrated highlights graduation each year; Each year receiving the Torah is a graduation into increasing acceptance of our heritage and harvesting everything learned in the year passed. The Days of Awe bring out changes we are making for the new year. Pesach moves us from the dormancy of winter to rebirth and renewal of spring. At least with such signs and ceremonies we can better see if not understand how the days pass and years go by so quickly.
These times that mark transition and changes focus us not on what we are losing and lament for time lost (though Yom Kippur does go there); their purpose is to help us through the turbulance and onto the next part of the adventure while “taking in” everything that just happened.
Life gives us lots of moments to take a break. Do we brake/break, or do we stop, pause, catch our breath and appreciate the joys and blessings we stop to celebrate and the people with whom we share the “adventure”.
Judaism gives us a three part molecular structure: Creation, Revelation and Redemption. The third is about resolution, transformation, turning a conclusion into a beginning, I.e. Creation etc. The Revelation, I.e. Torah helps us see how the cycle keeps going through the ages.
The whole Judaic system is about appreciation of the mystery of the realm of time in which we live. How precious is this moment! What a memory in the making!
Enjoy these Times and Bless them with those special points in your Journey: the high points, the accomplishments, first steps and long anticipated triumphs. They are all we have…that and whatever/whomever tomorrow may bring.
RECOMMENDED BY RABBI WHITE
By Anna Quindlen, Newsweek Columnist and Author
All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief.
I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost-adults, two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like. Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves.
Like the trick soap I bought for the bathroom with rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through unreliable haze of the past.
Everything in all the books I once poured over finished for me now. Penelope Leach. T. Berry Brazelton, Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early childhood education, all grown obsolete. Along with Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild
Things Are, they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories. What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the playground taught me, and the well-meaning relations — what they taught me, was that they couldn’t really teach me very much at all.
Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything. One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can be managed only with a stern voice and a timeout. One child is toilet trained at 3, his sibling at 2. When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome.
To a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing. Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will follow. I remember 15 years ago poring over one of Dr. Brazelton’s wonderful books on child development, in which he describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet, and active. I was looking for a sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month old who did not walk.
Was there something wrong with his fat little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind? Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane?
Last year he went to China. Next year he goes to college. He can talk just fine. He can walk, too.
Every part of raising children is humbling, too.
Believe me, mistakes were made. They have all been enshrined in the, “Remember-When-Mom-Did Hall of Fame.” The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language, mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for preschool pickup. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I responded, “What did you get wrong?”. (She insisted I include that.)
But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly
clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them, sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night.
I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.
Even today I’m not sure what worked and what didn’t, what was me and what was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I’d done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be. The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top.
And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world who have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity. That’s what the books never told me. I was bound and determined to learn from the experts. It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were.