One of my e-friends send me a really thoughtful message asking me about the permanency of my Son’s move to Israel. I started writing her an answer and this post is the result.
Here is how it is usually played. The kid goes into the type of school DS went into and if all is well for the next three years we will only see him on Passover and Sukkot – if we can afford the tickets and he wants to come home instead of romantically helping someone in Russia, or Singapore, Chicago or Petach Tickvah to organize holiday services, lead the Seder or blow shofar. He also comes home for Summer vacation – that lasts about 3 weeks. Unless he decides to become a helper in some camp. In that case our parental function is to pick up him (and a load of his friends) from the airport. Try hard not to embarrass him too much in front of above-mentioned friends. Feed him, do his laundry, feed him, take him to another airport.
If we were in Israel we would see him for Shabbos once a month. Since we are not there….
Am I sad? Yes, the next time I see him he will be a different person. Am I scared? Not too much. Or rather not too often. Every time I begin to hyperventilate I remember the true beginning.
We moved to the farm in upstate New York when DS #1 was two years old. It was just the four of us. Us, parents, our two-year old and a baby. While people there, in Lowell were very nice and friendly we were different enough to be lonely. We spend most of the time left over from cow watching together. There were no other kids on the farm. We tried a Jewish kindergarten in Syracuse. Thankfully Winter interrupted that self -inflicted horror. Two and a half hours each way, with a two-year old and a baby. We only came back to New York a couple of times. Each time DS mainly interacted with adults. Russian speaking adults. That is right. We spoke Russian at home, DS #1 did not start talking until almost three and he has not been around English speaking people much.
Than, when he was 4 we came back to New York. It was very different. It took us a couple of years to convince DS #1 that this too was America. He smiled politely but did not believe us. When two years later we went visiting friends in the bungalow colony in upstate N.Y. he told us how happy he was to finally go back to America.
Why am I telling you all this – to show that here was a really sheltered kid. Who mainly spoke Russian and Yiddish, who has never attended “an institution”. The predictions were really dire. In our community there is a ritual torture inflicted on the mother of a child entering “an institution” for the first time. For two weeks you go with your child in the morning. Sit on a wonky, wobbling child size chair, and just stay there enduring lovely things from noise overload to constant bladder pressure brought on by an unnaturally contorted position. All this done to make your child feel comfortable.
So on the first day of Kindergarten I arrived, ready and even kind of willing to SIT. I had a book, I had a bottle of water and my crocheting. Since I was 8 months pregnant I started my day with the bathroom brake.
By the time I got out of the bathroom my non-English speaking son has found his classroom and got himself a “perfect” seat. When I waddled in, he run up to me and told me ” Mammy, you – go home. I am going to come home with the boys on the bus”. I tried to convince him that he really wanted me there. He so obviously did not, that his teacher gave me permission to depart.
It has been the pattern of our life.
So, when I wake up scared at the middle of the night (that is if I ever went to sleep) I remember that first day of school.
And I can breathe again.