This is the first of two semi-related essays. Read them or not… I know they are longer and denser than my usual fare. Read part two here.
My father hauled us places against our will: I hated it, deeply, deeply.
He took us to lectures, concerts, operas, Shakespeare, and good old-fashioned SHLEPS through nature, on skis or on foot or canoe, nothing but a chilly thermos of “vasser mit milich” (basically, tea without the tea) for comfort.
Why did I hate it? And why did he seem at once mystified and nonplussed (or even bemused) by my hatred? Why didn’t he give up, just kept right on shlepping us places?
To share the things he held most dear.
I know now, as a parent – at once – of little children and of teenagers, that I didn’t always hate it, though it’s fixed that way in my memory. That’s because my early memories are gone; memories from the years when I must have loved it all so much.
How do I know that? Because I saw my sisters loving it, even during the years when I was a cynical, family-hating teenager. Because I see my younger kids loving it. They love the attention, the thrill of an outing; any outing. Doing something special with Mommy or Abba – what could be finer? They would probably even love the vasser mit milich.
I only hated the shlepping (only!) during the twelve-year-period between becoming bas mitzvah and having my first child. That’s when I turned around and started doing for them what my father had done for me (or letting HIM do it for my kids!).
That’s when I started shlepping.
Sometimes, I look at my older kids mocking me, my outings, my good intentions, free concerts, dance recitals in public parks, cultural expeditions of all kinds. If they are anything like me, they are embarrassed, cringing to be seen with me and hoping above hope that I won’t do – well, whatever it is that they dread, which I cannot possibly know so I will doubtless do it anyway.
They hate the bemused way I look at them. They hate that I see the little kids that they once were, and the fun they once would have had where now they walk around scowling and miserable, spoiling everything – or trying to.
I try not to give up on them. I try to keep the channels open, keep on shlepping, even as their scorn makes every outing more difficult, emotionally, than any outing with toddlers.
I can smile, thinking of the daughter I was able to become once again with my father once my own children smoothed the way back. I can smile, knowing I may yet get my kids back … and enjoy them all the more for what we’ve come through together.
So to somewhat segue back to where this essay spun off from - how does my father’s shlepping affect the way I homeschool? That’s coming up in the next post.