Southern & Jewish
Southern & Jewish celebrates the stories, people, and experiences – past and present – of Jewish life in the American South. Hosted by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, posts come from educators, students, rabbis, parents, artists, and many other “visitors-to and daily-livers-of” the Southern Jewish experience. From road trips to recipes to reflections, we’ll explore a little bit of everything – well, at least all things Southern and/or Jewish. Shalom, y’all!
Earlier this summer, my husband Ken and I sent our 16-year-old “baby boy” to Israel for five weeks. It’s one of those emotional, awe-inspiring moments that just makes you wonder… how is he already so grown? Where does the time go?
And then, towards the end of his travels—my husband and I babysat for our nieces, age 11 years and 11 months. We thought it would be nice to give my brother and sister-in-law an entire evening to themselves, so we offered to keep them overnight. After our 18-hour babysitting experience, our first time in quite some time having such little ones in our house, we had a lot of thoughts. Here were my top five takeaways from our whirlwind night of being back in that “early parenting” mode again:
- There are no guarantees—even on the little things. Usually Ken is the “favorite uncle” – this time – she wanted NOTHING to do with him. Lucky me, more baby time! But also… that’s exhausting.
- Kids will amaze you in gross ways… like when, after crying for 45 minutes straight, they throw up all over you.
- ..and kids will also amaze you in beautiful ways. Older siblings are AMAZING! The love and care Julie gave to her little sister was incredibly helpful and powerful.
- You’re always on alert. I forgot just how much constant attention is required, especially with babies. Where is she? Did she crawl into the other room? As she pulls herself to stand up – can she hurt herself where she falls? Is the dog licking her face? Is there anything she can get to that we need to move? Why does she like the same song over and over?
- You’re always tired. It all came back to me; The absolute exhaustion I felt after a not so great night’s sleep. The idea that I had to get up, make breakfast and continue to entertain the baby while also spending time with the big kid was daunting. Did I mention that the baby wanted nothing to do with Ken?
So what are the takeaways? Mostly, that in my personal and professional life, as a proud parent myself, it’s important to acknowledge how hard all parents are working. Judaism places so much importance on the family, and for good reason. It’s how we transmit our values, but it also reminds us to value the time spent with family—even when it’s exhausting.
As a Jewish professional, I was reminded that all those parents with young kids who I (and you!) might work with, it’s a mitzvah to keep in mind that sometimes they are running on fumes – sleepless nights, no down time or time for themselves; they might not even have showered that morning. Acknowledging and supporting that and creating a culture where good work and work/life balance is valued is vital.
And personally, the beauty and sadness of child rearing is that we as parents forget so much, so quickly. We forget how hard it is, and only remember how joyful it can be when you get a toothy grin, a sweet snuggle, a wet kiss.
A couple of hours after our nieces left, we went to the airport to pick up our son up from his Israel trip. It was incredible to hug him (he must have grown 4 inches in 5 weeks!), to listen to him talk about his experiences (who is this mature young man?), to make him a favorite meal before jetlag sends him to bed at 7:15 PM (but hey, we were ready for an early bedtime that night, too).
Everything we do as parents – the sleepless nights, the giving of oneself to take care of the needs of those who will turn into amazing adults. How fortunate are we to have this gift of parenthood, and to help others out in their journeys, as well.