Wednesday, December 13, 2006

robust traits

Hamish finally returned to daycare yesterday and I was afraid he'd fall apart with separation anxiety. Not me though. I was ready! Turns out he couldn't wait to get back, and played with his friend Arianna the whole time. Hamish likes to correct my pronunciation of Arianna's name. He also likes to boss his friends and remind them when to clean up and to follow the rules. Sometimes he gets very frustrated and tries to physically place his friends in line.

This used to concern me as much as it secretly delighted me. I liked the thought of him being detail-oriented and sensitive to what those around him were doing, but I don't want him alienating himself by acting like he's an authority over his peers. Nobody likes a bossy boss. However, this is his natural tendency, and I need to accept it and even indulge it a bit so that it doesn't squeeze out of him in a horrible way, or turn him into an unlikable control freak.

So, yes I am still smitten with The Blessing of a Skinned Knee and what I am describing is Hamish's yetzer hara, or his "impulse for evil." Every kid has one! Hoorah. At its worst, this controlling quality of Hamish's comes out as a shouting, demanding, impatient, whining and tearfully frustrated little monster. But here's the thing. The old, old rabbis of yore see good in the yetzer hara, because it also signifies our most "robust traits," like passion, ambition and curiosity. And becoming a stinking rich CEO one day. So what I need to do with Hamish is give him jobs, so that he can have a chance to be the authority, when it's appropriate, of course. So last night, he helped me set the table and clear it for the first time, and you know what? It was pretty magical. He put forks on the table, and then after dinner, he got to throw the forks into the sink. I'm going to work our way up to ceramic dishes, but in the meantime, he can definitely handle plastic. Oh by the way, every kid is also born with a yetzer tov, or an impulse for good. Of course it's the yetzer hara that makes parents work.

I keep telling Bryan that I might get Jewish on his ass but he's still in the eye-rolling phase, which means that I tend to get over-the-top excited about stuff that moves me, and right now, this book moves me, so I'm picturing all sorts of Jewy things going on here, like challah bread and Hanukkah blessings and Hebrew school. But it may turn out that I take the teachings with me, but leave the religion part. Who knows? Only the future. Only God, if there is one, if I decide to believe there is. The good news is that the rabbi who did Stella's Hebrew naming ceremony back in June said that I'm free to be as Jewy as I want to be. That there's no right or wrong, that there's no hypocrisy in being a little Jewish, or as I see it, being Jewish when it's convenient. And that all the guilt I suffer over feeling like such a hypocrite, not keeping kosher, not going to temple, etc., is a bunch of malarky. I guess to the Jewish community, it's more important to do something than nothing. Okay, so there's a religion-soaked blog for you. Oy vey!


hubby said...

ry was such a little monkey! he's probably 2 years younger than frankie there and we're already throwing jars of food into him. that was back when we had the time...he is a monkey-mensch. especially when he's wearing his karmonica.

and no matter how far you take judaism, you'll always be the jew who stole christmas.

Amelia Plum said...

Love your post today, I feel like I'm reading the book vicariously through you. Love hearing how Ry did such a good job helping you set the table. I think you're very right in giving him more jobs to exert his authority. Kids love stuff like that. Owen's much more interested in helping me clean the house than in actually putting his toys away. The rabbi who did Frankie's naming ceremony sounds so refreshing in what you wrote. I'm always associating religious leaders with laying on heavy guilt trips if you show your indecisiveness about religion. The Pic of Mel Gibson in the yarmulke is priceless.