My husband and I are facing huge life decisions, including our children’s schooling and where to live. They have gnawed away at me for months, the pressure hovering behind nearly every breath, every thought.
Add the everyday stress of my four children being home for the summer — and all of the daily, seemingly insignificant decisions — and I feel like my mommy senses are on overload. They are doing activities here and there, such as karate and aerial silks classes, but mostly we are at home doing art projects, playing in the back yard, visiting the store, and trying to arrange play dates, though most of their friends are at camps.
I try to be aware of the way they (we) are speaking to one another — being respectful and kind, saying please and thank you and I’m sorry.
I’m working with my younger two on their reading and writing skills and driving my older two to evening classes, though most of our summertime break is not structured. I try to limit their screen time with guidelines that are not always easy to enforce.
When one of my children was moping around the house, saying he was bored, my first instinct was to try to fill the gap in his time. But I realized that the boredom could lead to creativity.
He ended up creating some sort of chipmunk trap (we have chipmunk holes all over our yard) with a bucket, a garbage can, peanut butter, and some other odds and ends he found around the house. It didn’t attract any animals except for ants, but he worked hard at it and cleaned up after himself, which I considered a success.
We do have meltdowns, and occasionally I feel as if I’m failing. And sometimes I feel as if maybe I’m not — in those sweet moments when I see my oldest and youngest sitting together eating pretzels or the kids playing blissfully in the hose’s sprinkler attachment I got half-price online.
At night, after the kids are asleep and the house is quiet, my husband and I sit down to our discussions of daily life and our decisions. We have consulted various “experts,” from counselors to rabbis to educators. But no one knows our family as well as we do, and the decisions, for better or for worse, are on our shoulders.
After a week of interactions and unkind words from people left me feeling vulnerable and naive, I realized how many others suffer daily with challenges large and small. It is a crazy time, and though I try to distance myself from headlines as much as possible to reserve my energy for my family, I know about the craziness. I sometimes feel helpless against the weight of the negativity, the darkness.
And so I wept. From the depths of my soul, in the darkness of night, tears poured down my face.
Then I prayed. In quiet, tearful words, as my family slept, I beseeched Hashem for His help and kindness. And I opened a book of Tehillim, reading one poetic psalm, stumbling through the Hebrew letters I learned so long ago and continue to relearn, because the best way to fight darkness is with light, with prayer and kindness and mitzvot.
I thought of my children and how I want to protect them and nurture them and be kinder to them.
I thought of how distant and insensitive I can be.
I thought of how I could be a better wife, mother, daughter and friend.
I prayed for help, for me and my family and for all those suffering in the darkness. And I fell into a peaceful sleep that lasted until well after dawn — another blessing of summer vacations and not having to rush out of the house for school or camp.
As I woke up, I felt more peaceful than usual. I made coffee and said the daily Modeh Ani prayer with my daughter as I held her in my lap. “Thank you, Hashem, for returning my soul to me. Your faithfulness is great.”
Then I started a new day, ready for life and its decisions, large or small.
Mindy Rubenstein is the founder and editorial director of Nishei, the magazine for Atlanta’s Jewish women. She lives in Toco Hills with her husband and four children. Send your Hand of Hashem moments — stories in which G-d’s presence was evident — to firstname.lastname@example.org.