This Shabbat, Sam spent "one sleep" with his Bubbie and Zeyde. They have made a concerted effort to take each of my three children separately for an overnight and some special event. This year, each child is going to a different play. Sam's play came up first in the calendar, he is going to see Peter Pan (which is very fitting, since we read the original book together this summer).
Sending Sam to his grandparents' house took a week of "sales" pitches. Sales pitches that, for the first time, actually seemed to work! This morning, he bounded into my room and asked "is today the day I go to Bubbie and Zeyde's?" When I responded yes (and I must admit, cringed, waiting for his response), he cheered and asked if he could take his feetie pajamas. I said yes, and we planned the packing in a few brief sentences. He left my room, empty suitcase in tow. I turned to my husband and we high-fived.
A few moments later he was back again. "I don't want to go to Bubbie and Zeyde's! David and Yael will get ALL THE TURNS here while I'm gone."
My husband did a great job of explaining that while he was at their house, HE would get all the turns there. "Yes, but not HERE," Sam responded.
He does have a point.
Eventually, it all worked out fine. We packed, he spent the morning playing with his brother and sister, and when my parents arrived to pick him up, he went with them happily. This was, I must say, a first for my little guy - no fuss or muss.
In this week's Torah portion, Toldot, we read about children who are not treated equally by their parents. Jacob and Esau are very different boys and grow to be very different people. It's made very clear in the Torah that Rebecca prefers Jacob, while Isaac prefers Esau. (It does set a relatively bad precedent for Jacob's own treatment of his children, doesn't it?)
I think that the lessons of the Torah are (almost) always remarkably relevant to me and my life. Each time I read these stories of the dangers of having a "favorite" child, I think about how carefully and consciously I try to show my love to each of my children. Sam might believe that he gets less turns that his sister or brother, but to me, how many turns he gets is irrelevant to how much love I show him. I hope, as he grows older, that he will understand this.
Each of my children is so different from the others - each one of them exists as a separate person with unique desires and interests. It's hard to balance this with the idea of "equality" - will they all get and do and have the same things? Probably not. They're different people, situations will change, needs will evolve. What might work for one at age 15 might not work for the next one. I have to keep my eye firmly on my prize - creating healthy, balanced, happy children who feel loved all the time for who they are.
No small task, is it? It's far more than making sure everyone gets the same-sized piece of cake. It's far more than keeping track of who gets into the car first, or who chooses the next television program, or who holds which hand in the parking lot. It's making sure to kiss each child and have a moment to tell them I love them. It's making sure that I celebrate their small and big accomplishments and notice when they're good and kind to each other and to the world. It's noticing when they're feeling down and giving them some special snuggle time. And it's soothing hurt feelings when they don't quite feel fairly treated - and giving them space to air those grievances without laughing (too hard) at their seriousness.
I don't think that Rebecca and Isaac were terrible parents. I think they made some terrible choices in parenting their children. And I think their lesson is loud and powerful for those of us who have to share our arms and our time and our laps with little human beings who want only to be loved.
|Sam and his Zeyde building a birdhouse together.|