When I was a new parent, celebrating a baby who was finally sleeping through the night or bemoaning the challenges of introducing solid foods, a more experienced parent would inevitably tell me that it was only a phase. This response irritated me to no end. Perhaps it was because I didn’t fully get what that meant, perhaps it was because I felt patronized, but for whatever reason, I didn’t want to hear it.
Over the past three and a half years, as I have watched my daughters grow from newborns to infants and then toddlers, and now that my older girl is a preschooler, I have come to see the wisdom of those words. Yet I prefer to think about it from a slightly different perspective, one that a fellow Jewish Mama reminded me of recently.
This too shall pass.
These four words have become somewhat of a mantra for me lately, a reminder that my big girl’s culinary preferences won’t always be limited to macaroni and cheese and peanut butter sandwiches, and that my baby won’t always express her frustration by flinging herself to the floor and crying hysterically. Whenever I get to the point that I feel like I can’t possibly read Angelina Ballerina even one more time, or when the thought of schlepping the girls out in the rain feels so unmanageable that we end up saying ha’motzi over a burger bun, or when I am up all night holding a sick baby who is so congested she can’t suck her thumb, I meditate on those words–this too shall pass.
Recently, a 20-month-old in our synagogue was diagnosed with leukemia. All of a sudden my mantra has taken on a completely different meaning. Those moments when we snuggle on the couch reading books (even Angelina Ballerina!), when the girls wander around the house in fairy wings and pink tutus, when I feel nostalgic for something that is still happening, those moments feel increasingly fleeting, and increasingly precious. They say the days pass slowly, but the years pass quickly, and it suddenly feels so true.
This too shall pass.
Just this week, I learned that this phrase has a Jewish origin (or that we’ve given it one). There is an old folktale about King Solomon, in which he tells one of his advisors to find a ring that can make a happy man sad, and a sad man happy. The man spends months looking for the ring with no luck. One day, he was out walking in a poor neighborhood of Jerusalem and came across an old man peddling his wares. He asked if the man had heard of this ring, at which point the man engraved three letters onto a gold ring: gimel, zayin, and yud, which stood for “Gam zeh ya’avor”–this too shall pass. The King’s advisor had found the ring.
Reminding myself of the passing of time and the ever-changing nature of reality has made parenting a little easier, and might even make me a better parent. As I am trying to make dinner with a toddler clinging to my legs and crying for “uppies,” I take a breath and remind myself that this too shall pass. As the words “I can do it myself!” become increasingly common in our house, and I realize that I won’t be able to fit both girls on my lap at the same time for much longer, I remind myself that this too shall pass. And I hold them just a little tighter, for just a little longer.