My son has become a rabbit.
A 3-year-old rabbit with pale blonde hair and a blue Angry Birds ski cap pulled low over his forehead.
I didn’t get it at first. And I didn’t understand why he was hopping out of the classroom when I picked him up from preschool.
“Do you have to go to the bathroom?”
He wiggled his nose.
“Did you hurt your foot?”
He bared his baby teeth.
(Obviously, he couldn’t just tell me he was a rabbit because rabbits don’t talk.)
But after he hopped out of the yard and up the road, I caught on. And I ran to catch up.
I can’t tell you exactly when he went from being a little boy to a little rabbit–maybe it happened that day during preschool. Maybe it happened the night before. (One of the challenges that comes from co-parenting is that when my ex is with the kids, I’m not. Just like when I’m with the kids, he isn’t. So sometimes little things get lost in the transition between packing up clothes and sending the kids off to school where the other parent will sometimes be the one to take them home when the day is done. Little things, like a sock or a glove. Or the fact that our 3-year-old has become a rabbit.)
My son the rabbit hippity-hopped to my daughter’s preschool, past the kibbutz dining hall, through the damp grass, and across the road.
My daughter figured it out right away, and the two held hands together as they hopped across the street, past the wild flowers growing by the gym.
“We’re rabbits,” she explained.
“Don’t say that! Rabbits don’t talk!” he shrieked.
It was one of those sacred and sweet moments when I felt like I was doing something right: The sun burst through a cloud bank, and my two little rabbits were so freaking cute hopping along in their puffy winter coats and rubber boots to the grocery store. Look: There are days when it sucks donkey balls to herd the kids back and forth between preschool and grocery store and home. Days when it’s cold and raining and both want to go in opposite directions.
Days that stretch on and on and on like a long, mind-shattering whine.
And on the afternoons when the kids are crying or stomping their feet or refusing to walk one more fucking step I feel the balance I try so damn hard to maintain start to tip. These are the afternoons when I realize that the ground I’m standing on is as fragile as thin ice. These are the afternoons when I remember that my dad and the rest of my family are on the other side of the world, and if I need help, they can’t just hop on over to lend a hand.
But today, as my two little rabbits scampered past the wild flowers peeking from the crevices of cracked earth, I felt pretty awesome. Like, oh hell yeah, I’m rocking this shit. My kids–fine, my rabbits–are great. I’m great. I can totally pull off the expat mama thing, no problemo.
You know where this is going, right? Pollyanna called. Turns out she’s kind of bitch.
Because no sooner had I done a little fist pump (no, seriously) then big sister rabbit lost traction, stumbled, and fell on top of little brother rabbit.
There’s gotta be some mathematical algorithm relative to the time lapse between the bump and the scream. The longer it takes, the worse the injury. My little rabbits lay in a crumpled heap. I dragged my daughter off my son. She was fine. Bruised her dignity a little, but whatever.
But my son? Ooh, my son. I picked him up, and he stared at me with his mouth open in a silent scream–(Remember the 70s version of The Body Snatchers? It was kind of like that only way scarier.) And then the sound came. Over and over and over, a keening wail. And then I saw the dark stain spread across his Angry Birds ski cap as a thin trickle of blood crept down his forehead.
Tis but a scratch, my ass.
But the reality was this: We had to get to the convenience store before it closed in 45 minutes. Stores shut down during Shabbat in Israel, and we had nothing–and I do mean nothing at home to eat. Blood or no blood, we had to get food. Meanwhile, my daughter took stock of the situation, and she started screaming, which only made my son scream louder.
And of course, in the worst parenting fail moment of the day, I started screaming.
“Can’t you see your brother is hurt? Stop screaming!” (I screamed.)
“He’s not my brother! He’s my little rabbit!” she screamed even louder.
Yeah. We were that family.
I picked up my son and my daughter–one in each arm. But I’ll be real: I was swinging precariously back and forth between worry for him and annoyance at her. And then worry for her that she was so deeply affected by his pain, and then annoyance at myself for being annoyed and for not foreseeing that this kind of thing could easily happen to two little rabbits on a muddy road.
A few people passed by and pretended not to see us. And this moment–this exquisitely sharp moment–was a crystallized literalization of my vulnerability. My kids were crying. I was crying. And we were on our own.
A kibbutz is like a small town on steroids. Mayberry, USA only with the threat of nuclear terrorism percolating on a slow but steady drip. But in that moment, there was no one who would come and help us. And from my vantage point on the cold, hard ground, it was too easy to remember that we’re thousands of miles away from my family.
But I’m on this new kick to try to see the positive. It isn’t always easy–especially on days like these. But help comes to those who ask. So I closed my eyes, took a breath, and said a silent prayer:
Please God. I need help.
And then, my ex husband’s mother’s best friend came along. A kind woman with a soft smile, she is also an immigrant who has raised four children from scratch. And without having to be asked, she was there. She took my son to her house to clean him up and put ice on his head while my daughter and I went to the store to buy our groceries. And then, again, without having to be asked, she loaded both kids on her bike and walked home with us, offering as much compassion and support as I would hope to receive from my own family.
This is what I know to be true: Look for the worst in people, and you will find it. Look for the best in people, and you will find that, too. The same is true for rabbits.