The pictures had been removed from the wall a while back. Carefully and methodically, they had been placed in the back of her desk drawer, a spot that could be reached only if one were looking for something intentionally. Other pictures were inconspicuously hanging in the corner, situated on a wall blocked by a large, mismatched piece of furniture. There were also loose photographs, neatly stacked in their original envelope, discreetly placed in an unmarked folder located in the back of her filing cabinet.
A few remained on the wall, but only a few. It was too painful for her to view them all, facing her directly day after day, reminding her of a time that was, a period in her life she could never again retrieve.
Normally she would not consider even touching them, let alone viewing them. However at this time of year, when Pesach cleaning is in the air, she could not help but rummage through some of her drawers and cabinets. Discovering the envelopes and gazing at its contents, she is overtaken by a powerful urge – evoking within her curiosity – to pick them up. One by one she scans each photo; contemplating – reminiscing – listening to her inner voice reflecting upon those earlier years.
“I can’t get over that smile; it’s so angelic. He’s so adorable and cute! I could just eat him up! How did I not see that back then? Sure I played with him as any nurturing mother would. But I have little recollection of enjoying this precious child during those tender toddler years. And yet, the one thing that does stand out vividly in my mind is my complaining, and my lack of patience at his screaming and whining. How could I have wasted that time?”
Had she known then what she understands presently – that her baby’s screaming and whining are a part of G-d’s Master Plan for her to develop patience – then maybe she would have said dayenu.
She picks up another batch of photos. This pile appears to be that of her son’s earlier school years. Flipping through each one and pondering that period in her life, she thinks about her son’s adjustment to school, homework, learning, friendships. And, within seconds, her thoughts are focused on his temperament.
Her inner voice painfully speaks: “Nothing was easy for him, or for me. Everything seemed to have been a struggle and an issue, from ending playtime and doing homework to brushing teeth and bedtime. Whatever I said was met with resistance. And to think the toddler years were tough! Oh, how I wish that stage could reappear!”
Had she appreciated then what she is thankful for today- that her child’s resistance and arguing are a part of G-d’s Master Plan for her to acknowledge his sharp mind and intelligence – then perhaps she could have said dayenu.
She gasps when she picks up the next envelope. The childlike face is gone; four inches taller, his body filled out and he’s suddenly a young man. Ah yes, the onset of adolescence. There he is in his Purim costume with a bottle of beer in hand and an unlit cigarette in his mouth.
As she gapes, her inner voice projects confusion: “Look at him; he thinks he’s an adult but he shows no responsibility. How could someone be so bright, ask profound questions and achieve such high grades throughout his academic career only to dismiss it all now. His learning means little compared to his social life. Even sports activities have gone by the wayside. The non-stop arguments over homework, curfew and, going to shul and davening are a daily struggle. His chutzpah is rampant. How I yearn for those days when the only major issues were teeth-brushing, homework and bedtime.”
Had she observed then what she notices now – that amidst her son’s compelling socializing behaviors are a part of G-d’s Master Plan for her to recognize and focus on his interpersonal skills; and to praise the exemplary character traits (middos) he embodies and demonstrates toward his friends and others – then it’s possible she would have said dayenu.
In another unmarked folder, a more recent picture lay dormant. She picks up a single passport photo. It’s the only picture she has of her son during this juncture. His hair is wild, long and partially colored. He is bedecked with piercing and jewelry. And he dresses in clothing she never imagined would have entered into her home.
Tears begin to emerge as her inner voice cries: “Why didn’t the schools try harder to keep him? Why couldn’t some of his better friends stick with him? When did the transformation take place? One minute his tzitzis are flying out of his pockets, and before my very eyes, they’re replaced with tattered jeans and tee shirts. How I wish we could quarrel just a bit. Oh, how I wish he would disagree with me about curfew. But how could he? Between his staying out a large part of the night and sleeping most of the day, our paths rarely cross. Between his grunts and depressing look, there are few words spoken between us.”
Had she felt then what she senses at this moment – that her son’s unhappiness and disengagement from the family are a part of G-d’s Master Plan for her to feel her son’s loneliness and to raise compassion for his pain and struggles – then she might have most assuredly said dayenu.
With the advent of the Pesach Sedarim, perhaps now might be a good time to move the theme of dayenu beyond the realm of the Hagaddah. Consider the following:
If your struggling teenage daughter shows up to the family Seder, appreciate that she came and has a desire to be a part of the family. If you hug her, give her a kiss and truly make her feel she belongs with you, you might feel fulfilled when you say dayenu.
If your struggling teenage son drops in while you are in the midst of the Seder and if he quickly escapes to the security of his room, appreciate that he came home.You might, then, excuse yourself from the table and go to his room with a piece of kugel or some other yom tov delicacy. And as you smile warmly and kiss him while wishing him a good yom tov, the love and compassion you demonstrate might help you feel uplifted when you say dayenu.
May Hashem strengthen all struggling families with chizuk and hope, and provide personal salvation and redemption to the entire family.
Debbie Brown is a certified life coach specializing in parent coaching, and is an NLP practitioner. She is available for private, confidential phone coaching sessions as well as lectures and group workshops. For further information or to express feelings regarding the Parental Perspective topic, Debbie may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to read Debbie’s archived articles, log on to www.jewishpress.com and, in the search box on the home page, type in Debbie Brown.