Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Taking off the Hair Shirt

So this morning, I put on my hair shirt. I got it out last night but this cold morning, I snuggled into it.

Last night, my daughter told me about someone she knows who has "no flaws." I asked about this person and she told me her friend has to go to bed around sunset, isn't allowed to watch scary movies or use technology. "I'd hate to be in that family," she said. "Yeah," I replied. "We make sure you have lots of flaws."

Then this morning, I happened upon a mommy blog, filled with sunlit photos of Meaningful Family Moments, captured by a Mom Who Cares. There were complicated but oh-so-healthy recipes on the same blog. And, that's when I put on the hair shirt.

And wondered if and when I make other people do the same.

I thought about the fact that I could compare myself to the Coke-in-the-baby-bottle parents and feel pretty good.

But really and truly, each one of us has a different skill set, heritage, set of genes, financial reality, psychological issues, gifts, talents and struggles. Some have the situation they hoped for - and many do not.

I have long loved the rabbinic saying that says, when you die, you will not be asked 'why were you not Moses?', but 'why were you not you?'

I find it hard sometimes to know what good parenting looks like as my kids get older. And I think that's why the blog got me this morning -- because that mommy did the kinds of things I used to do when my kids were small. Now, they go off in three different directions and my job is to provide a landing spot for their return, a listening ear, a cheering voice. It's very very different.

At the end of the summer, I had my melancholy regrets about the things we didn't do, as well as happy memories about the things we did. And then it occurred to me that really and truly, most of all, my job is to love these kids and help them feel loved, and that's all.

And maybe that's what it means to fulfil the rabbinic saying too, to love the people around you -- and yourself too -- in whatever ways you can.

The sun's out now, warming up the rain-drenched, chilly world. I think it's warm enough now to dare to take off the hair shirt and to sit awhile in the sunshine.

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