Lord knows I’ve been a sinner lately. So much so that it’s possible just one Yom Kippur will not suffice this year, and I’ll need two. No matter, a part of me looks forward to having to answer to myself. In fact, I should do this more – especially as a mother:
I’m seven months pregnant and have two toddlers in an enormous double-jogger, which no human would ever actually use for jogging. I am pushing them uphill in the rain because why should I spend money for a cab when the exercise is good for me? A woman passes me, assuming as people often do, that I am the nanny because my children are so much whiter than I am.
“Your boss wouldn’t spend money on a cab for you?” She shakes her head in disgust.
“No,” I admit, realizing it myself. “She’s such a bitch.”
Such are my hang-ups.
Let me be clear. I should stop driving myself crazy with all the petty stuff: that too many nights I feed my kids scrambled eggs for dinner or that for most of summer, swimming in the pool will replace a bath, chlorine be damned. Not my finest moments, true, but I should get over them. These chinks only waste away the precious and finite years of childhood.
Instead, I should start answering to myself more about the real hang-ups – the deep and unreasonable ones, which may begin when I see my children in those sweet, un-wild moments, scrubbed and sleeping. In bed, they hover over some vision of perfection, inspiring in me sheer awe and even idolatry, because they seem to be some immortal and impossible extension of me.
Eventually those children wake, demanding candy and tearing through the house. And they will be kids, they will be themselves, trying out their own voices and takes on free will, complaining that they don’t want to walk a few blocks or can’t pick up after themselves. And I still project my own reflections and echoes onto them. And it is for this, that I need to hold myself accountable: Because they are not me. And I am not them. Getting us all tangled up is not good for anyone. And, of course, there is no perfect.
Would it be great if they showed the beginnings of some grit I value and try to model, like giving that extra push up the rainy hill? Sure. But they don’t, because they’re kids. And I get it. Sometimes all I really want myself is to get into bed with a block of cheese and some Eddie Vedder songs.
So I have to answer to myself about these kinds of hang-ups. Because when I truly examine such expectations with Yom Kippur scrutiny, I see them for what they are… and I let them go.
Sometimes I do this on my own. Sometimes I don’t. Often when I don’t, life in its greater wisdom will do it for me anyway, as I’m walking in the rain when maybe I don’t need to.
So this is my prayer, G-d, and I’m sure it will be one of many this year:
Give me the clarity, please, to know when I should hold myself accountable and when, in fact, I should just show mercy.