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Mother

Inauguration into their ranks
Came in the shape of a good face-to-face
with the toilet.
Ninety days in a row.

Mother, mother, mother.
Like you, there is no other.
You are the bread winners
And bread bakers.
The diaper changers
And soccer-practice takers.
You are the lunch-bag senders,
The love never-enders,
Behind-the-scenes directors,
Always welcome-and-never rejectors.
Most faithful wife and mother –
Like you there is no other.

After a dehumanizing visit to the OBGYN
The doctor wiped her hands
And heading for the door, as if in afterthought, said:
“Well, looks like you’re having a baby!
…Any questions?”
Well yeah….I did have *a couple*…

Mother, mother, mother
I don’t know why you even bother.
You were the fire-keepers
And story-tellers.
Today, you’re professors, doctors,
Real-estate sellers.
But you remain the sacrificers
And dream trappers,
Devoted bandage wrappers,
Hidden talent tappers,
The peaceful fighters,
Profound emotion divers,
The all-odds overcomers,
The survivors, the survivors.
Among your ranks I stand, so unprepared.
Wondering, like any other,
If one day I may also earn the title:
Mother.

Wiping the last sweat off my brow
After the birth, I’m feeling older
Bolder
I glance up lovingly into the eyes
Of my committed spouse – hand holder
And whisper, “Honey, if ‘ere again you feel that yearn
Remember, dearest, next time – it’s your turn!”

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Dear God,

It’s been a while since I wrote.

Thing is, I felt like I couldn’t reach you. Maybe it was the Church that did it. With its zealous campaign to remind us that we are flawed human beings, it overshot its target and made us believe that we were completely hopeless. Some of us, who already had a good sense of our depravity, became convinced that as fallen beings we had no access to you, no place by your side and really, no place even on this Earth. Instead of being empowered we were weakened. At some point we forgot that we were created in your image, and that you created us good.

We began spending many hours of each day in ritual self-flagellation. We beat ourselves up over not being good enough parents, bad church goers, non-tithers, immoral, apathetic, un-praying and uninvolved. Not only could be not talk to you, because, after all, we hadn’t read the Bible in so many days, weeks, months, but we weren’t good enough to go to church either. We had to take action in order to at least somehow justify our existence. So we wrote to-do lists, pushed ourselves to the limit, put ourselves down and promised to do better. This all must have looked ridiculous to you.

Or maybe it was our society. Goodness, what a bunch of health-conscious, environmentally aware confused individuals we are. The world told us to eat better, to drive less, to care for the minorities among us, and instead of joyfully taking it on, we were consumed with guilt – for eating sweets, throwing away plastic cans, driving instead of biking to work, using non-biodegradable materials. There was no joy in anything we did. We were only desperately, without any real hope, trying to make this world a little bit less of a horrible place to live. And us – just a rung higher up on the unending ladder of guilt and social responsibility.

This was your enemy’s work. He took all of the good that might have been intended, and deranged it. The father of lies had prevailed, if only temporarily, at his best craft. We came to believe, I believed, that we had to earn our place; that we had to deserve it. This was impossible, and we floundered around helplessly. This is why I hadn’t written.

But lately I noticed that this idea doesn’t quite jive with what you teach. In fact, it renders the death and resurrection of your Son completely absurd.

So I just wanted to drop you a line, let you know things are getting better. I am allowing myself the joy of not thinking about guilt. You thought of that already. Funny that it took me only 20 years of faith in you to realize this. But that’s OK too. You’re probably smiling right now, maybe even rolling your eyes a bit. But hey, better late than never, and in the grand scheme of things – it’s not late at all.

It’s the perfect time to be finding the child you love.

A while ago a good friend and I were talking about time management and restlessness. I have an issue with there never being enough time, and with an inability to dedicate the little time I have to one single thing. I get distracted, start wondering if this is really the best way to spend the 1 hour gleaned between work and picking up the kids, and in the end get nothing done and feel a failure. Or even – I DO get things done but don’t enjoy the process. Exasperated, I shared all of this with him. He patiently listened, smiled, and nodded, “I totally understand. I used to be the same way…”

Being 20 years his junior, I get that a lot.

I told him that I want to live life fully, to live each day as if it were my last. He responded, “I’ve come to realize that you have to live life as if you’re going to live forever.” I raised an eyebrow. He continued, “You have to be generous with your time. Do you want an hour of my life to complain about your boss? Sure – here you go. Would you like 30 minutes to keep me on hold – go right ahead. Are you all going to keep me stuck in traffic for two hours? By all means – I’m not in a rush, I have all the time in the world…”

Wise man, he is. This idea, at first counter-intuitive and absurd, has the potential to be life-altering. Think about it: in the end we’re all going to be dead. At that point it’s not really going to matter whether you rushed around like a headless chicken your whole life, accomplishing, checking things off your lists, not being present but being transient. It only makes the difference now. And now wouldn’t you rather live calmly, peacefully, being present in the moment and not just rushing through it to get to the next?

There is something deeply comforting in spending time with this friend. On a psychological level, it is painful, traumatic when the person you are trying to interact with is constantly being distracted. You feel as if you are not important. You notice they are already thinking about the next lunch date, planning their evening, or fretting about work instead of just being there with you. When you perceive this, you are not likely to open up. You feel trapped in a short time-slot and don’t say much beyond the platitudes and stock phrases that the other person reacts to in the usual, accepted way. With this friend it’s different. It’s as if he is there to stay – you really feel like he has no place to go, like he could just chat with you for many hours. And it is because he has made the decision to live each day as if he will live forever.

I have tried to implement this principle in my interactions with the kids, because I have noticed that they’re often at a high level of anxiety, especially at home. Since I am (usually) not able to give them my full attention for very long (I get distracted), they must feel that they don’t get the attention at all. As a result, they are always demanding, begging, bartering, or stealing it. If you think that yearned-for attention can be abruptly removed from you at any moment, you act out: you’re loud, obnoxious, annoying. You tell stupid jokes or don’t stop to listen for fear of losing your audience. The other extreme is just as dangerous: you retreat within yourself and don’t make contact, because making it and then losing it hurts more. So I am trying with my kids to give them time.

It is extremely difficult, but very important. As I do, I feel the changes in me, and in them. As for what I could have been doing instead – I try not to panic. Because I do have almost all the time in the world. At least I have as much as the world will give.

 

The other day I was putting Leo to bed. He was just not that into it. We had already brushed our teeth, taken a bath, had a snack, read some books. It was so time for him to fall asleep.

I tucked him in, sung him a song, and kissed him good night. The door wasn’t even shut behind me when, “MOM!!!”

Leo wanted a drink. I brought him some milk, he sipped it slowly, then I re-tucked him in and said another good night. Fearing a repeat I slid into the bathroom and locked the door behind me. Listened for a few seconds, was about to sigh with relief, when BANG!!! on the door. “Mama, I have to pee….”

Another tuckage, another drink, another song.

By this point I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The day had been long and stressful, I was tired myself and needed a bit of alone time before collapsing into bed. Gosh darnit, I deserved that alone time. I kissed my son a shaky goodnight, and with more than sternness reminded him that it is time to sleep, that I am tired, and that if he doesn’t want to sleep he can lay in bed and read his books. He nodded sleepily as I made my way towards the door.

I tiptoed to the living room, turned on the computer, and sank into the chair. I gave it one minute – all was quiet, and I finally exhaled. The silence began to work its healing magic, the short circuited nerves began to slowly weave themselves back together, the spinal disks began to realign themselves. But then, “MOM!!!”

He yelled again.

My heart thumped. I was about to beat my head against the table. I was about to choke myself to death with my own hands. I was about to run out the door screaming and never return. Instead, I took a very deep breath, took another one, and squeezed out of my diaphragm a stiffled, “….yes, honey?”

“I love you.” he said.

Recently I was thinking about those well-known words that Paul uses in his first letter to the Corinthians when describing love. This is the passage I am talking about:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

And it struck me that parents, who are supposed to have the most unconditional and selfless love for their children, often struggle with the very first (and therefore, arguably, most important) fascet of love that Paul describes. Patience. Interestingly enough, the other aspect of parenting that some may find difficult to maintain just happens to be the second item in that carefully selected list. Parents may be able to provide for their child’s physical needs, feed him, clothe him, even help him brush his teeth at night. But to acknowledge a child’s identity, his or her right to have and express their views, to honor and cherish instead of wanting to submit and squelch…this is something that we, as parents, may struggle with. We are in a dire shortage of kindness.

How incredibly convicting to realize that when I am patient with my child, I am not just expressing good self-control, but I am expressing the foundamentals of love. Paul reveals the depth to which he understands human nature by breaking down the amorphous “love” into tangible, accomplishable attributes. He puts patience first. Then kindness. And all of the other qualities seem just an iteration of those two.

In closing of this little doxology, I cannot help but put the second half of that chapter:

“Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror, then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

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