I’m writing this as fast as I possibly can because Shabbat is almost here. I love this quiet day that begins at night. That was one of the things that surprised me most about the Jewish calendar; each day begins the night before. Shabbat stretches from Friday sundown until full dark Saturday night. There is something about this sense of timing that was counter-intuitive to me at first, but now feels completely natural. The only thing I can compare it to is Christmas Eve and Christmas. They are inextricably linked, the eve is a prelude but also a true part of the day. One doesn’t make sense without the other. Every holiday feels that way for me now, especially Shabbat.
While Mo and I occasionally let Ben stay up for dinner, our preference is to light candles with the kids, then put them to bed. Once they are sleeping, and we have woken whichever one of us fell asleep putting them to bed, we clear the papers, crayons, receipts, sippy cups, smooshed banana, keys, sea shells, and action figures off the table. We set out real dishes, hopefully home baked bread, and the ritual accoutrements of a challah cover and Kiddush cup. The challah cover is a hand painted wedding gift and the Kiddush cup was used to say the essential seven blessings during our wedding ceremony in Jerusalem.
The cup is tarnished now, because it is probably the only thing we own that is real silver, and we have certainly never polished it. I actually like the dark cast over the shiny silver, it reminds me that we have spent the past five years growing and changing. Sometimes I feel like we just met, so I treasure the reminder that we’ve earned the time shown on that cup. We have worked hard to get to the place where we are in our lives, in our relationship, with our kids.
It can be so easy to get carried along with the flow of days into weeks and years, and I forget to honor the time passing. I opened up iTunes today and stumbled upon a folder of recordings of Ben talking from a few years ago. To hear his little voice! What a sweet baby lisping, speaking his full name, proud he knew it all.
Mo: What’s your name?
little Ben: Ben.
Mo: What’s your whole name?
little Ben: Benyamin Betzalel Lev.
My heart filled with the overwhelming happiness and sadness every mother knows. The wonder of time, the days that eventually changed my soft baby with his blond curls into a big kid. How did it happen?
This past week I have been spending many moments catching Ben in action, and celebrating inside my mind and heart what I see.
Now it is Sunday, and I have forgotten the sweet examples I planned on sharing. The main point of what I want to say is that I have simply had the intention to SEE Ben more. Look in his eyes and read what I see in them. Reach out and hold his hand, stroke his soft freckly cheek, run my fingers through his hair. I don’t mean to imply that I wasn’t ever doing these things before, I just decided that I would do them more intentionally, with more awareness, with more presence, with more love. I can’t remember what each scene looked like, but my heart remembers the intense sweetness I felt in those moments scattered throughout the sometimes hectic beginnings and endings of our days.
I realized this morning when Ben was looking in my eyes that a fog had been present before and it seems to have lifted. He seems more interested in talking with me. In addition to spending more time with a quiet mind enjoying Ben, I have also been trying to speak out his feelings for him more. I was reminded by this article by Janet Lansbury about why parents with the best intentions get frustrated and end up yelling at their kids. When Ben gets upset I have been trying to remember to very simply and succinctly say out loud what it seems like he is feeling. “You’re sad because I said it’s time to shower. You want to keep playing.” “You are angry because Ella ripped your paper airplane.” “You’re frustrated because you are having trouble zipping your sweatshirt.” I am really trying to keep this technique in mind because it is so easy to shut down his feelings accidentally.
When I see him getting upset in these situations my initial impulse is to say something like, “Well I already told you it was time to shower in five minutes like ten minutes ago, so now it’s really time. Let’s go.” or “She didn’t mean it, she’s just a baby.” or “You don’t have to get upset, just ask for help!” Thankfully it is just as easy to speak out his feelings for him as it is to unconsciously shut him down. It takes presence of mind, which I don’t have when I’m very tired, anxious, hungry, or distracted. I don’t expect myself to always be able to do this, and I have also reminded him when he’s getting very wound up that “A tantrum is a choice.” Mostly, I think this example is yet another reason to do my best to take care of myself so I can be at my best to take care of my family, and more than ever, to enjoy my loves.
More photos from our park day coming soon…
Have a great week!