Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Parenting

tk4Why is it never, ever, EVER about the Deep, Meaningful, Important things you thought, you hoped it would be all about?  The things you figured would give your life meaning?  That would send Hashem’s little arrows flying straight and strong through the battering breezes and cross-currents?

No, instead you wind up bickering about H & M's Grand Re-opening in Yorkdale – it’s a school day, but they’re giving away “free money,” ie scratch cards worth $10-300 at the checkout.  To me, a no-brainer.  To a teen, ALSO a no-brainer, but totally in the other direction.  Are we living on the same planet???

Instead you wind up bickering about the concert of the year – which happens to fall out during the Three Weeks.  Now, this is ME.  I became a baalas teshuvah at the height of my concert-going life, ie when I could finally afford to get to a concert or two that I wanted to see.  The very last time in my life that I remember consciously sticking it in Shabbos’s face was to go to a concert on a Saturday afternoon.  I stood on the subway platform, hopped on a train, thinking, “elsewhere it is Shabbos – but not here, not for me.”  I really do think, of all parents, that I get it, this force that music has to make us powerful, to transcend every other thing we may have valued. 

Every summer, during the Three Weeks, I conscientiously miss MANY valuable cultural opportunities, music and otherwise.  All the good stuff always seems to be either during sefiras ha-omer or the Three Weeks.  I kick myself; I cry.  I missed seeing David Sedaris because it was Shabbos; I’ve missed so many “opportunities” over the last 24 years of yiddishkeit that it hurts me to use the quotation marks and it’s all I can do to remind myself that these “opportunities” would probably have not led me where I was supposed to be going, spiritually.  That it’s an illusion, a trick.  Perhaps, though I’m not always sure.

I have sacrificed, kicked myself, hard, finagled, reasoned, negotiated and still come bumping up against the boundaries of halacha time and time again.  It’s Shabbos, it’s Yom Tov, it’s Sefirah, it’s a taanis (fast day)… so I sit still and don’t do it.  It doesn’t get any easier.

Hardly a no-brainer, and yet, to me, a no-brainer.  Not negotiable.  To a teen, of course, this is also a no-brainer, the kind that becomes All Your Fault.  Despite a dozen years and thousands of dollars spent on Jewish education, these dates shrink in meaning next to the spectre of a concert missed.

In the car on the way home from Stratford the other day – oh, yeah!  I went to Stratford!  With Elisheva!  To see Much Ado About Nothing!  It was wonderful! – I had my mp3 player on to keep me perky.  Elisheva was in the very, very back, the third row, which has no speakers, so she couldn’t really hear much of anything.

I was listening to the delightful audiobook of A Little History of the World (both audio and print book highly recommended, though I’m not finished it yet!), but then switched to my “soundtrack-of-my-life” folder, which basically has a selection of my own happy, boppy, singable favourites from the 70s to the 90s.  One of which was this one-hit-wonder from the late 90s, called The Way.

You know how a song can make you tear up for no reason whatsoever???

Or maybe it’s just me.

Now, this song came out in 1998, which was a horrible year.  ECh would have just turned 2, YM was 3, I was single in Toronto and probably still in love with my ex-husband in Calgary, who phoned just about every other day… well, every other day to fight and every other day to reconcile and try to figure out how the heck we could make this thing – this crazy-mad-young-puppy-love between us – work out after all in some eternal youthful summer, somewhere.

February, 1998.  I don’t remember when I first heard it, but probably pretty soon – I listened to the radio every day, driving around from work to daycare and home and back.  And he heard it in Calgary.  We talked about it, on the phone.  And I knew, I just knew it was us.  The dream, the fantasy – the life we could have in love together, if only we turned our back on the last few years, turned back the clock somehow and walked away from the lives that had gotten such a rocky and crazy start.  Oh, and from the two children we’d made together.

Does every parent have these fantasies?  Am I the only one?

They made up their minds
And they started packing
They left before the sun came up that day
An exit to eternal summer slacking
But where were they going
Without ever knowing the way?

They drank up the wine
And they got to talking
They now had more important things to say

And when the car broke down
They started walking
Where were they going without ever knowing the way?

CHORUS: Anyone could see
The road that they walk on is paved in gold
And it's always summer, they'll never get cold
They'll never get hungry
They'll never get old and gray
You can see their shadows
Wandering off somewhere
They won't make it home
But they really don't care
They wanted the highway
They're happy there today , today

The children woke up
And they couldn't find 'em
They left before the sun came up that day
They just drove off
And left it all behind 'em
But where were they going without ever knowing the way?
CHORUS

Or you can listen to it here:

(And by the way, I’m listening to it right now and I’m totally fine.  Go figure.)

So I am driving along, stuck in the front, with Elisheva way, WAY in the back, blissfully unaware of anything.  And I’m weeping.

The song, for us, was the common ground we ultimately never would find.  In a couple of years, the kids would get bigger, life would get better; I’d have better jobs and more money and move on, somewhat, in the sense that I found Ted and realized I wasn’t trapped in a dead end – that life with the kids would be fulfilling and wonderful.  And he would move on, somewhat, not much, and then he would die instead of moving any further on.

It's always summer, they'll never get cold… They'll never get hungry / They'll never get old…

The years between 4 and 14 were, overall, pretty wonderful.  Some bumps and badgers in the road, but generally, I loved being a parent for a while in there.  Walking to daycare, one little hand in each of mine, singing the “happy to be a mommy with two babies” song, and I really was – happy. 

Not just because the kids were cute – and certainly not because life was easy – but because parenting those years is usually cause-and-effect simple.  They can be illogical and nutty at times, but in general, they speak, you speak, they speak, you speak – they have learned how conversations go and do their best to keep up with a world that is always just a bit above their heads.

I feel the same thing now when I’m with Naomi Rivka and Gavriel Zev.  I love it; so simple!  But these days are overshadowed by the hormones and sad and crazy of being the Bad Guy, playing the Heavy, and I am back to wishing I could just dump it all and walk away.  They know too much for the back and forth and logic goes by the wayside – though they cannot see it, and often cloak the illogic in the toxically loud rhetorical garb of justification.

Where were they going without ever knowing the way?

These days, I’m pretty miserable, and it’s not much fun being a parent.  Of course, as I tell the kids, I don’t think it’s supposed to be fun.  But a day without screaming, a day without bitterness, a day without arguments and hatred – just pure, spitting, vile, outright hatred – would be a lovely kind of relief.

Ted bought me an air purifier for my birthday, which I haven’t used yet, because I’ve been relatively healthy.  But boy do I wish they had a spiritual one of that.  Just something to clear the air, to make this a welcome home again, to strip the toxicity and make us all feel fresh and clean, the way we were.

You can see their shadows
Wandering off somewhere
They won't make it home
But they really don't care…

Sometimes, I really don’t.  I don’t like the person these kids have forced me to become – and there’s no way out, no way back. 

Just no way.

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