children maturing, children marrying, family adjustments to lifecycle changes, grieving and celebrating simeltaneously, marriage
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KJ Hannah Greenberg

"Channie"

Although big children are required, upon reaching their twentieth birthdays, to turn over their copies of Advanced Methods for Adolescent Insanity to their younger siblings, my "adventures in good parenting" continues with them all the same

September 2012 Posts

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Her Striped Bathrobe

Friday, September 28th 2012 @ 8:08 AM    post viewed 1686 times

As my family approaches our oldest child’s chuppah, I think about the transformations our family is undergoing. There are many.

For me, the most profound differences come from the small matters that make up daily living, such as not being able to continue to witness our big daughter, adorned in her striped bathrobe, at the table, on the sofa, or walking our halls. Additionally, it’s already been the case, this year, that after Yom Kippur, after that child and her next oldest sibling, our nineteen year-old son, snapped together (in Israel, sukkah construction resembles that of Tinker Toys construction) the frame and attached the fabric walls of our hut, rather than joining our family in our post Yom Kippur “second dinner” (we don’t eat much more than soup after fasting, for health reasons, and then satisfy our physical hungry later, with omelets or the like), she scurried away with her plate to our mirpesset to then attach our sukkah’s schach supports. Her chatan (who, incidentally, had no part of our omelets having eaten a more traditional break-the-fast before arriving at our home) was waiting on our rooftop patio to help her. Shucks, she didn’t even stay around for green pepper or parsley!

I will also miss the business of her method of “making muffins.” Missy Older begins by assembling mixing bowls and measuring implements, flour, a flour sifter, baking soda, baking powder, chips, fruit, nuts, seeds, eggs, and rice beverage (our milk substitute) and whatever other foodstuff or equipment she thinks she might need. She then lines tins, pours batter into cake pans, preheats our oven and, eventually, presto chango…pulls warm, almost healthy, yummies out of our appliance. A large per cent of those goodies get scoffed down by our family before those treats adequately cool.

It’s not her baking I will miss, though, but her related messes. That child does not enjoy cleaning up as much as she does fashioning desserts. When she moves out, our kitchen will be unnaturally tidy.

I think my husband will miss that aspect of our daughter, too. Albeit, when she lives in her own abode, he will no longer have regular access to banana bread, to sunflower seed and pomegranate seed muffins, or to spelt challah (I don’t bake), but, more importantly, he will no longer enjoy seeing our oldest child smile mischievously when he calls her out on leaving flour on the counter, utensils in the sink and bits and things all over the table. He is glad we will be walking her to the chuppah, but he will definitely miss her.

Younger Dude is less certain that the forthcoming change is good (though he bespeaks it as inevitable). Mostly, our almost 15 year-old sulks as he goes around the house. In addition, he is spending a lot more time than usual in his room. He and our oldest have a special bond. From the time she helped with his diapers, read him stories, waited for him during family outings when other siblings ran ahead, to now, when they share jokes, hand signals, plus other exclusive forms of relating, she and he have been close. When he was small, our younger son thought everyone had a mom, a dad, and an older sister, such was their connection. Even today, he thinks he’s best attached to his big sister, as opposed to his sole brother or to the sister who is the sibling closest to him in age. Whereas this son knows that people grow up and move on and whereas he likes his sister’s chatan, he’s not too keen on watching his big sister leave.

Another take on the entire scenario of our family’s transformation is that of our older son. Older Dude, after all, is “cool.” Nothing fazes him. Almost nothing. A yeshiva friend, a year older than him, was killed by a terrorist last week (may that terrorist’s nation wither, immediately. May Hashem avenge all innocent Jewish blood). As per his sister moving out, he will miss her, even though all he says publically is: that he won’t be home, at any rate, to feel the loss, that his father will gain a home office, that he is physically larger than his future brother-in-law, that it will be up to him to pick up the slack in kids’ chores when he visits, that he’ll be living closer to the newlyweds’ city than to ours, and similar such mutterings. Yup, he’s grieving.

Missy Younger is a special case, all together. Seventeen, she demands her parents’ awareness. She must be immediately compensated for the piece that is sliding away, i.e. for her impending permanent separation from her only sister. She communicates her loss in an age-typical way: slamming doors, using provocative language/bringing up confrontational topics, and, in general, seeking attention for any reason, including less-than-desirable ones. Although she eagerly anticipates moving on and out to sherut leumi, national service, next year, that change will be less difficult for her for she will be gaining a large measure of independence. This year, in contrast, she sees herself as suffering a deficit. 

I smell schnitzel burning in the kitchen. I hear young voices arguing about whose turn it is to empty the garbage cans. I hear my spouse asking why no one is helping him truck all of the cases of water, which he bought for Sukkot, up our few flights of stairs. For now, my entire immediate family is living under the same roof. We still have a little time to adjust to the forthcoming metamorphosis.

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