Mum, I’m worried about you. You’re always forgetting what I told you. I think you have alzheimers….
Over the last few months, my youngest daughter has been making this statement a few times a month. It annoys the heck out of me, not because I’m in ‘alzheimers denial’, but because I keep explaining to her that when people are totally stressed out of their skulls and preoccupied, it’s hard to remember anything.
Stress damages the brain, at least temporarily, and we all know just how stressed we’ve all been, in a billion different ways, the last year.
So yesterday, she started up with that again and I glared at her, and started to feel a bit upset and angry that she was apparently deliberately winding me up again…when I was in the middle of trying to get another one of the Rav’s books done and sent out…and in the middle of trying to figure out how Beirut’s port being exploded is somehow connected to the new Haifa port being built by the Chinese (completed 2021…) and the shadowy new ‘deal’ the US has apparently just struck for Syria’s oil (CO-IN-CID-ENT-AL-LY on the same day the explosion happened in Beirut….)
…and trying to wash up and do a few other things to keep the house ticking over….
When it struck me what the real problem was.
I haven’t been giving this kid enough time and headspace.
She’s a good kid, really lovely in so many ways.
But she’s like her dad, inasmuch as that part of the gene pool has a tendency to give over BIG things in very small ways. I have the opposite tendency. I exaggerate for effect, I make a point with pyrotechnic prose – and so, I have been totally missing all these ‘big’ things she’s been telling me in her gentle way, as they haven’t come wrapped in melodrama.
That means she tells me something, and I don’t really pay much attention to it, because it’s not exciting enough to compete with the corrupt Mossad, and what I need to get from Mahane Yehuda for Shabbat, and a million other things.
So then, I’ll ask her again: where are you going tonight? Are you here for Shabbat? You said you do want pasta for supper, or not?
And then she’ll hit me with the ‘alzheimers’ speech, because in a way she’s right that I am forgetting about things. But really, just one thing: her.
As usual, I didn’t feel so fabulous, emotionally, after I realized what was going on.
I had a few minutes of that raw despair that only a parent can feel. You know what I’m talking about. We want so much to be everything our children need us to be, to give them what they require to grow up feeling loved and emotionally-healthy and connected to God and their souls – and yet sometimes, we just can’t do it.
God, I have no energy for this…
Rivka, are you saying you have no energy for her?
(God always goes right for the jugular.)
That brought me up sharp.
Of course I have energy for her! My kids and my husband are my #1 priority!!!
In practice, the last few months my kids and my husband have fallen far down the totem pole again, overlooked in the midst of a million books being written, and a million trips ‘out’, and a million hours researching what’s really going on in the world.
I turned off my computer.
I went upstairs to where my kid had retreated to her room, and I tried to start a conversation.
I’m sorry I haven’t been giving you enough attention recently. What can I do for you, that would be nice for you? Can I take you somewhere? Do you want to go shopping?
Ima, why do you feel like you always have to just buy something or do something?!
She asked me with that particularly infuriating arched teenaged-eyebrow of disdain.
(Upset teenagers always go right for the jugular.)
I fought down the knee-jerk response to try to hurt back, swallowed a couple of times, then ‘fessed up.
Sometimes, kid, I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. Sometimes, it’s very hard for me to just ‘be’. So I retreat into doing stuff and going places, because that’s often easier than just sitting here trying to be ‘real’ with you.
What I really wanted to tell her is that every time I wash her clothes, make her food, wash out the cereal bowl that was left for a day in the heat so the grains could all harden onto it like some sort of ceramic decoration – without having a go at her for doing that – that’s a small declaration of love.
Sometimes, those small declarations of love are all I can manage, because despite the fact that I’m 46, and officially ‘old’, I also feel lost and overwhelmed a lot of the time.
Even when there is no ‘COVID-19’ in the picture.
Ima, do you want a hug? She suddenly asked me, out of nowhere.
Of course I want a hug…
And just like that, the connection was re-established.
The rest of yesterday afternoon, we just hung out talking about the small stuff that looms very big in a teenager’s life, and I made a mental note to boost spending time with my teens well up my ‘to do’ list from here on in.
I have one more book to do for the Rav left on my list, before I take a proper sabbatical: One in a Generation #3.
It’s a huge amount of work in every sense of the word.
When that teen likes to really go for the killer blow, she’ll tell me in full-blown teenage troofer mode:
You care more about Rav Berland than you do about me.
In her worldview, she sees me spending hours, weeks, months and years on his books etc, for free, and she sees how engrossed I am in my writing, often to the exclusion of her. What can I tell her?
Those books are changing the whole picture….they are sweetening everything…they are helping Moshiach to come the sweet way…
She is a hardcore teenage troofer.
The more I try to explain about the Rav, the more she tells me to my face that I’m just a card-carrying cult-member-lunatic. I get zero kudos for doing all this stuff. That kid just thinks its conclusive proof I’m a retarded frier-ite.
Doing all the stuff for the Rav is so important.
But even so, my kids and husband still have to come first.
It’s a tough balance to strike, it’s a very narrow bridge to walk on.
And I got reminded again yesterday, that being a loving parent is sometimes the most challenging job in the world.
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