A few weeks ago on Shabbos, after my husband said Kiddush, I responded “Amen.” And then a tiny voice rang out in echo “Ah-men”. My daughter had responded Amen to a brachah for the very first time.
It is my job as a mother to teach these things to my child, and I’ll admit it, I haven’t even bothered with “Amen” yet. She only has a few dozen words under her belt, and my recent efforts have been trying to teach her that not every single thing that goes into her mouth is called a “cookie”. Therefore it was quite a surprise when she said it of her own volition. Then I was just downright giddy when she said it after ha-motzi. Not only could she say the word, she knew when to say it!
I haven’t learned much yet in my mommyhood, but one thing I have learned is that some of the best things are the unexpected ones. There is what to be said for the sense of accomplishment a mommy feels when your child finally does something that you have been painstakingly attempting to teach them for days. Yet, that being said, there is little that can compete with the complete sense of awe and wonder that accompanies a totally unprovoked or unexpected reaction. But who could I share it with?
It’s a tough parsha being a convert, and an even tougher one marrying a ba’al teshuvah from a secular Jewish family. Not only must we make our own traditions and forge a path for our children so unlike the one we took, but we must undergo it alone. When my daughter said “Amen”, it was an adorable moment that I wanted to share with someone, a parent, a sister, someone in my family who could enjoy as much nachas as we did. But there was no one. I told my mother-in-law, but a frown crossed her face. So she said “Amen,” had she learned her ABCs? She did not and could not share my nachas. I don’t blame her or resent her for this, our life style is so foreign to her. We can’t enjoy this moment together, there will be others.
Thankfully, my best friend was there to “ooh” and “aah” in all the right places. This gave me pause to think. Did I have all the tools I needed to forge the path of “Ima”? In my short time as an Ima, here are the tools I have learned are important.
First, you must make shalom bayis a priority. Without having a strong relationship with your spouse, this road will be infinitely more difficult and lonely. Your relationship with your spouse must take priority over everything, yes sometimes even your children.
Second, you must make sure you have a mentor you rely on and can learn from. This is imperative to helping you battle the necessary battles. There must be someone who you can call and rely on who can be your sounding board and mirror, who can help you know which fights to pick and where to put your efforts.
Last, but not least, you need friends. You need friends who are similar situations, with whom you can share ups and downs. This will be the validation you need when you are having a day where nothing goes right, and this will be the cheer in the audience when something spectacular happens.
Does my daughter know what “Amen” means? Not yet, she has heard it enough to be able to repeat it. What is important here is that she knows it is a word that is important in our house. And with that little Amen, she helped me take a moment to prioritize and focus on the tools I need to be the mommy I want to be.