To correspond with the 6th day of Tammuz, June 30, 2017My dearest S,
Today you are three! Three years ago (according to the Jewish calendar), with all the reluctance followed by fervor and zeal that you continue to display toward new environments today, you arrived into this world. The third birthday is a very special milestone in a Jewish child's life. It marks the beginning of chinuch [formal education]. Today, we will cut your hair for the first time. You will begin to wear a yarmulke and tzitzis every day. We will celebrate this day just as you asked, with just our family, with cupcakes, with an aleph-beis game and jelly beans, with three balloons and a trip to Chuck E. Cheese, with reciting the pesukim, giving tzedakah and riding your new tricycle. Soon, we will wrap you in Tatty's tallis and carry you into your first school. You will have many teachers in your life. I'd like to think that Tatty and I are counted in that important and special group. But I am here to tell you today that it is you, dear S, who has taught me. Before this day three years ago, I knew everything. I knew my birth plan and where you would sleep and how you would eat and how we would spend our days and our seasons and our years. And after two full days of medically luring you out of my very cozy womb, it was finally time to push. You arrived 22 minutes later! And in that moment, I became Mommy.
Motherhood is the phenomenon of shedding a significant part of yourself and simultaneously becoming whole. It's not as though I ever felt I was broken or that part of me was missing before, but rather that with your arrival, I somehow became more complete. And at the same time, this wholeness can only exist in separate entities--where the end goal is really that you walk your own walk. My role in it is to foster in you the love, confidence and curiosity to see this world as your playground and no longer an extension of mine. And in that, I see you becoming you, writing, illustrating and illuminating your own story. Your world is huge now. You experience every detail to its fullest. I hope that intensity never dulls; I also hope it never hurts you.
Three years ago, when I realized I knew nothing, I decided to find a place where I knew something, and I went back to work. You were just five weeks old when I started teaching preschool again. If you'd asked me then, do I know what to do with seven children belonging to other people, I'd confidently say yes. If you'd asked me then, do I know what to do with one child belonging to me, I'd confidently say no. And so for half the day, I did what I knew and gained the confidence to do what I know now. I gave teaching 110% those first two years. I gave parenting 110% those first two years as well. Even you, at three years old, know enough about math to know that this is impossible. And yet, many times you graciously accepted the short end of a stick that was never big enough to begin with. You taught me how to receive the gift in every moment even if it comes in unlikely packaging. Beyond that, you taught me that most times, if not all times, the packaging itself is the very best part of the gift!
Time is a funny thing. Time bewilders you at three years old. It's time to do this and now it's time to do that. There are two more minutes before we need to go. We can do this later. We can have that tomorrow. This business of time is so out of your control and so incomprehensible. You dig your heels in. You want longer. You want it now. You want more. You hate to wait. I wish I could tell you it will make more sense when you are older, but at nearly 30 years your senior, I am still bewildered by time. Those early months were a mix of hours that would last for eons and moments that would wait for no one. And somehow we got through them, or maybe around them...
Parenthood in the early days left me with the look of a deer in the headlights. Like somehow, this tiny bundle of cheeks and chub that I was supposed to know had all caught me quite by surprise. And then you would smile. And laugh. And sit. And scoot. And stand. And fall. And climb. And scrape your knee. And walk. And bump your head. And run. And jump. And dance. And soar... And you would surprise yourself and surprise me and through it all, have more determination in a day than I could muster up in a year.
When you are three, everything is new. Everything is novel. Everything is wonderful and fascinating and terrifying and incredible. And you take it all in with a sensitivity and curiosity that I aspire to. You gather ideas into boxes and categories of sense in a world that is really quite nonsensical. "How does it work?" is one of your favorite questions to ask. It is one of the most difficult questions to answer. But I try my best to calm your worries. To calm my own worries. To tend to your curiosity and to fearlessly say "I don't know," when I need to because I hope that you are never afraid to say the same. It is OK not to know. It is wonderful to always be learning. And that is when you teach me the most. How to hug a tree. How to make going to Walmart every day the best part of your family vacation. How to love those rides and games that cost a quarter without ever spending a penny. How to be satisfied with a trip to the car wash and our storage unit when everything else is closed on a Sunday morning. How to love a rock. How to build a microphone out of tinker toys. How to be a robot. Or a dog. Or a doctor. Or a rabbi. Or a train...
And how to still be you. Completely and unequivocally you in every moment without pretense. That's one that we grown ups are still trying to figure out...
And the confidence to become Mommy again. When it was time to welcome baby Y into our family, I didn't know how we...how I could make room to love anyone else as enormously as I already loved you. I had none of those first time Mom worries I had before you were born and only worries about how becoming a brother might be for you. Would you feel betrayed and lost? Would you feel left out and left behind? Would you, did you feel this sense of loss that I felt even though we were gaining something so special and beautiful and unique? And then Y arrived. All of our talking and playing and reading culminated into an hour of you sobbing the next day. Y was a little scary. And loud. You missed Mommy. Mommy had a boo boo. You were sorry. Did we still love you? My heart broke and then my heart opened. Sometimes things have to break to open. It opened for you and for Y and for the lesson you were about to teach me: there's always enough room for more of a good thing. Whether it is jelly beans or time at the playground or space on the couch or little brothers--there is always enough room for more of a good thing.
Today you are three. Today you will lose your pony tail and gain a notch on this beautiful totem pole of life. And as it is customary to offer blessings to those celebrating a birthday, I bless you, dear S, that you should always enter new situations with a healthy level of cautious optimism as you did three years ago and as you do today. I bless you that you should feel confident in being a student and in being a teacher; in knowing what you know and not knowing everything. I bless you with continued determination to pursue your dreams and the clarity to recognize what those are. I bless you that you should pass the hours at a comfortable pace--a pace that you, as much as possible, will set for yourself. And I bless you that the moments you wish to savor do not slip away from you too quickly. I bless you that each of those moments and hours, days and seasons, months and years will grow to be fruitful and multiply into beautiful, vibrant memories. Ones you will share with many teachers and many friends and many loved ones. Ones that you will share with Tatty and with Y and with me. I bless you that the life you live should be as abundant as the love you give. Today, as you embark on your official journey toward chinuch, I bless you that you should always merit to continue learning. And teaching. Sometimes I marvel at how many times in an hour you can ask me "how" and "why" and "when." And then I remember the true meaning of chinuch. The one I wish to impart on you. The one I wish to impart on myself. Those questions are not part of the lesson, they are the lesson.
Happy Birthday my little bochur!