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Jul 11 2014

The Amazing Things You Can Learn From a Toddler

By at 10:12 am

ice-tea

This post is part of our Torah commentary series. This Shabbat we read Parashat Pinhas. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.

This week, a dear old friend came to visit. We haven’t seen each other for a long time, but we seem to be on the same mama schedule–we both have 2-year-olds and are pregnant again.

We sat outside drinking iced tea, talking about birth and motherhood and the 15 years since we met. We talked about how confident, driven, and maybe a little entitled we both were in our early 20s. How much has changed since then. And how much of what we’ve learned, we’ve learned from our kids.

Both committed to a natural birth, we ended up with C-sections. Both committed to exclusively breastfeeding our babies, we ended up with serious nursing problems that made that goal physically impossible. And we’d both carved out wonderful and unusual careers that grew out of our passion for our work, involving tons of travel, and have turned out to require some major re-adjustment–especially as we head into two-young-kids territory.

The lessons of motherhood don’t come easy to me, but I’m so thankful for them. I’m thankful that becoming Sylvia’s mother has knocked me off the carefully constructed self I’d built. That she’s has helped me learn humility and patience. And taught me to be grateful for my good fortune at the simple blessing of sitting on the grass, drinking iced tea, looking past the peas in the garden, and watching her play.

The next day, all caught up with birth stories and nursing travails, we shared a donut and coffee and talked about what’s going on with us now that our kids are 2. We’re less certain, more flexible. Less inclined to judge others, more inclined to realize we can never know their full stories and are in no position to judge. And more aware, so aware, of all that lies beyond our control.

***

This week’s Torah portion, Pinhas, contains a great story about the younger generation teaching the older.

A man named Zelophehad–not on our baby-name list, if you were wondering–dies, leaving five daughters and no sons. Women aren’t allowed to inherit property, so his land is about to go back to the tribe.

But his daughters take matters into their own hands, basically becoming their own lawyers, and arguing before Moses that women should be able to inherit property if there are no sons. Moses asks God what to do and God agrees that the ladies are right.

Granted, it’s still a patriarchal society and if there are sons, the land goes to them. But the fact that now daughters too can inherit property is a big win for the ladies. And so I’ve always loved this story as a feminist. I mean, come on, Biblical women advocating for their rights, and getting them?

This year, though, I’m loving this story not just as a feminist, but also as a mother.

I love how after all those years leading the Israelites, Moses still has a lot to learn from the younger generation. No matter how wise he is, they have a different perspective. They can see things he can’t. Part of his job is to teach the Children of Israel–and part of his job is to learn from them.

I also love this story because it gives me compassion for who I was back when I was 22 and thought I knew it all. I was wrong, of course, but I was also right–I had a lot to teach.

***

Sylvie isn’t yet ready to present legal arguments to me, though I have a feeling that time will come. At this point, what I’m learning from her are the natural lessons she can’t help but teach: humility, love, patience, and perspective.

But I hope one day Sylvie and her little-brother-to-be grow up, go out into the world, learn about things I’ve never dreamed of, and come home to teach me about them. I hope they believe in themselves and in the wisdom that lies within them.

And I hope that one day they, too, will grow up to learn from the generation after them.

To read the previous posts in our Torah MOMentary series, click here.

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