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Mar 20

It gets different when they get older

My kids are growing up.  Which is obvious, and kind of the whole point of it, but still – I find myself realizing over and over again how DIFFERENT things are now.

Case in point – Purim.  Judaism has a lot of holidays, and Purim has always been my least favorite.  For a whole host of reasons, but mainly because it’s loud.  Really, really loud.  It’s a holiday celebrating the story of Esther.   I used to explain it to my family as the Jewish Halloween, only not really.  But I think it’s more like Mardi Gras, really.  Not only do they occur around the same time frame, they’re both big, loud rambunctious parties that appear to me to be mostly just parties for the sake of partying.  Everyone dresses in costumes, and there are noisemakers that are incredibly loud.

My first exposure to it was when Jessica was a few years old.  I had dressed her as a fairy, and it was our first time at the synagogue.  The rabbi dressed as a gorilla and jumped out and scared her.  Terrified her.  My pretty little baby, all pink and glittery, and he scared her to death.  For fun.  It wasn’t a good start – in fact, it’s safe to say that it turned me off the holiday, and that particular synagogue for a long time.

The next time I tried it, I had little baby Sammy.  He was less than a year old, and absolutely out of his mind freaked out by the yelling and the noisemakers.  I spent the entire service in a back storage room, with him sobbing louder every time the noisemakers went off.  After that, I kept going – but it was never good.  It was always a pain – the kids always started crying and had to leave the service, and I’ve never not had a kid attached to me during the service.   The service is usually followed up with a Purim carnival, and that wasn’t ever successful for me either.  Not the fault of the carnival, I just didn’t have kids who liked them.  It inevitably ended with me carrying at least one crying kid, and a couple of pouting ones out to the car and driving home, always feeling like I would so much rather have skipped it.

But… it gets different as they get older.  This year, we brought all five kids to the service and the party, and it was… kind of awesome.  My stepdaughters are, for all practical purposes, all grown up – they voluntarily go to services to hear the reading, and keep track of themselves the entire time.  Jessie is right there with them, and Sam has gotten so much more comfortable at the synagogue.  He was completely into it this year, got all dressed up and was a total joy all night long.  He sat in the services for longer than any of the other kids, and was completely relaxed and had so much fun all night long.  He played swords with one of the other kids, and then played ball and ran around like a sweaty little ninja.

(Marc dressed as a beaded lady, Julie was princess Sophia, and Sam was a ninja)

(Jessie and Julianna

I was actually able to go to the service, and stayed for almost the entire thing.  Read the service in it’s entirety (which I’d never managed before).  I danced with my husband, and shared spicy egg rolls with one stepdaughter.  Watched the other one dance and look so beautiful and confident.  I danced alone, with Marc, and sometimes, I danced with Julie on my hip.  I was the only one dancing with a toddler in my arms.  But I was dancing – and that was new.  I was not shuttled out to the lobby, trying to keep my baby calm – my baby wasn’t a baby.  My girls were old enough to keep track of themselves, and were out there dancing too.  My boy, my anxious, anxious boy, wasn’t huddled up next to me, begging to leave, he was winging a ball, and sneaking candy from some hidden cache he discovered, and playing with other kids (poor Isaac – Sam couldn’t remember his name and referred to him as “Dude” all night long).  And my Julie – she’s not so little any more.

It’s not easier – because as they get bigger, the problems get bigger.   I’m dealing with a whole new set of challenges – and I’m still not sure what I’m doing.   But it’s not as hands on.  It’s more mental now, not physical.  I don’t need to physically comfort and hold and walk and soothe them.  It’s not that they haven’t been growing all along – it’s that as soon as one got old enough to get really independent, I had another one.  So it feels very sudden, but the reality is that it’s just that my youngest is almost four.

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