Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Chip Off the Old Block

Shabbat #7

Guests: Judy, John and their three kids J. (2), N. (4) and C. (4). Four adults, five kids, all under five. Recipe for disaster, but went off without a hitch.

Menu: Steamed Halibut with Boursin Cheese Sauce, Steamed Asparagus, Israeli Couscous, Toby's Whole Wheat Challah, Cherry Angel Food Cake with Coconut Icing, cookies for kids

What I Learned:

I've known Judy forever. Literally. We grew up across the street from one another. She was my very first friend and I am certain she will be with me to the bitter end.

When I look at Judy I see my childhood. Instead of the sleek-haired, uber-business woman, wife and mother of three, I see the curly-haired girl who raced big wheels, ran around in knock off plastic Dr. Scholl's and spied on her older brothers' parties through the crack in the basement doors. And I was right there with her.

Having a friend to share the trials and tribulations of parenthood with is a blessing. That Judy is the same girl I played "house" with nearly 40 years ago is downright surreal.

These days Judy and I aren't running around in the front yard imagining that we're solving crimes as two of Charlie's favorite Angels. We're chasing kids. And when we manage to squeeze in some adult conversation it invariably relates to a detailed dissection of the various child care options, who ate what when, the closely-related topic of poop, or a careful assessment of whether our children have achieved all of the items on the tidy lists provided in the "What to Expect" series. We busily plan playdates, craft our days around music class, stage "candid" shots for holiday cards and lament that we have not pasted enough pictures next to handwritten memories in our baby books.

But the conversations pretty much boil down to a single question:

Are we doing the right thing?

Memory is funny. I have to struggle to remember what I dressed Ben to be on his second Halloween. Despite thinking at the time that I would never forget the moment, pausing to iron it permanently into my mind. Yet I can remember that Judy's cat JoJo played Baby Jesus in our impromptu Christmas pageant when we were six. (Judy was a year older so I got stuck with the role of Joseph and she was Mary.)

Our lives were unprogrammed. A playdate amounted to our mothers pushing us out the front door and across the street. COCA and Music Together classes were replaced by basement talent shows (yes we charged admission) and duets on Judy's electric organ (she still has it).

A few days after our dinner with Judy, Steve and I took Ben skiing with my Dad. Riding up the lift I saw my Dad standing at the top of the hill next to the race shack. Skis off, hand resting on propped leg carefully standing watch over the skiers out of the gate and down the course.

The same thing happened. I saw my childhood.

I saw an energetic young father (partly because he still looks half his age), who wanted to be the first one on the mountain and the last one off. Who rode next to me on the chairlift sharing granola bars and blowing into my gloves to warm them. The dad that always played one more game of Chutes and Ladders and fixed things no matter how long it took. Had Steve not been sitting next to me and Ben blazing a trail beneath I would have believed that I had turned back time.

Which got me to thinking.

What will my kids remember?

My childhood memories seem to have nothing to do with carefully orchestrated parental planning, bygone holiday cards or baby books that lay tucked away in someone's basement. Energy put into those endeavors was lost on me.

Maybe my time is better spent doing less planning and more being. Avoiding the urge to make every moment "memorable" for my kids. Meeting "down time" with anticipation instead of intimidation.

Thirty years from now when my kids look at me what will they see?

That's a pretty powerful thought.

I'd like them to see someone who is energetic. Someone who will always take one more run. Someone who fixes things.

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