This unseasonably warm weather has thrown my husband into a panic about climate change. He will lecture anyone willing to listen, which is basically limited to me. As the primary caregiver to our two small children, however, I can tell you I am loving it. This weekend we went to the beach. Yes, as in the ocean. As in, sand and waves and the breeze in my hair. In New Jersey.
What?! With an endless day of nothing planned ahead of me, I packed the 2.5-year-old and 7-month-old into the car and hit the Garden State Parkway towards Asbury Park.
About 10 minutes into the ride, the little man began to get restless. We had made the drive at least a dozen times this past summer without trouble, but suddenly he was aware of time and he was BORED. Around exit 140 it happened. A small voice from the back seat inquired, “Are we there yet?”
I could not help but smile. It was the first time he uttered the phrase, and I felt like I had hit a major parenting milestone. So, I said the Shehecheyanu.
“Why are you saying the blessing?” the little voice asked. I just laughed. How do you explain that one?
The Shehecheyanu is a Jewish prayer of thanksgiving, and has been around for over 2000 years. It can be recited when one experiences something new or unusual, at the beginning of festive holidays, upon completing a mitzvah for the first time that year, at the birth of a child, buying something new, and on and on. The Shehecheyanu comes easily and frequently in a house with little ones. First smile, first steps, first babble, new foods. In one day we can recite it many times. In our house, we do.
The blessing took on new significance for us following my brother’s untimely death less than two years ago. “Thank God I am alive,” I would think to myself over and over in the weeks after we lost him. Reciting the blessing with family at the start of holidays, or through a few tears when dropping my oldest at preschool for the first time, the words weigh heavily on my heart. My brother’s absence makes me more aware of my presence.
It is not always easy to be thankful. When little ones are climbing on you all day and waking you up all night, you can start to feel, well, ungrateful. In the midst of happy times and sad times, the Shehecheyanu is there to remind me to be thankful. Thankful that I have two beautiful children, a house to be messy, a bed to be awoken from, and a healthy body to be climbed on by little ones.
Thankful to be here. Thankful to be alive.
And thankful for this warm weather, despite climate change. Shehechyanu.