Update: Chezky was born, overriding doctors' insistence on
an abortion. His mother describes a strange love-hate
relationship, which the reader has yet to encounter. We begin
with the last paragraph of last week's first part:
So why am I writing about loving Chezky? What could be so
difficult about loving such a lovely boy? I guess you could
compare it to shidduchim. It looks good on paper, but
the chemistry is all wrong.
Through great sacrifice, I nursed Chezky for almost a year
and a half. I desperately needed surgery, but I pushed it off
because I didn't want to interrupt the nursing and add
further trauma to his already fretful life. Then,
unpredictably, he just weaned himself!
For a full year, Chezky sat in his little chair and looked at
pictures of tzaddikim. He could only sit up. He didn't
crawl or say any words until he was close to two. He took his
time with babyhood and we didn't worry much about him because
he seemed content. Only my father suspected.
Holding Chezky one day in his arms, Chezky gave him one of
his little smirks. My father's eyes opened wide. "This is the
calm before the storm," he warned. "Just you watch."
Chezky didn't like to eat; he took hours. He was very skinny
and soon we did become concerned. I sat and stuffed sour
cream into that kid, night and day, until he snapped out of
it. The whole world had been created for him. Me and Pnini,
my daughter, twirled svivonim up and down the hallway
for months, egging him on to crawl after them. But he was
tough. I think he knew that he wouldn't have our undivided
attention for too long, so he wanted to make the most of
When I found out that my next child was on the way, I could
not help feeling despair after the initial joy and thrill.
Chezky was furious at his little sister for a long time and
was overt at expressing it. As much as I tried to understand
him, his fury overwhelmed me and I felt guilty besides,
because I felt he needed more of me. I had heard stories
about angry children, children who felt unloved, and this
frightened me. I didn't know how to handle this.
Chezky was a kid who wouldn't wake up even after a thorough
shaking. He wouldn't wash his hands, wouldn't get dressed or
brush his teeth, wouldn't go to cheder, wouldn't
toilet train and so on.
At the end of the day, it began all over again: he wouldn't
eat his supper, wouldn't take a bath, wouldn't get into
pajamas, wouldn't go to sleep, wouldn't stay asleep, wouldn't
get up... Around and around we'd go. Every day was a brand
new creation for him. Sometimes I felt like Savta Simcha,
jollying Chezky through life, cajoling, treating, bribing,
bending backwards, forwards, encouraging him every step of
the way. Any transition was difficult. As for me, one night
without sleep or struck with a stomach virus or a headache --
my patience would vanish.
I realized it took all of my available energy just to get
Chezky through a day. He tested me to the far borders of my
patience, creativity, endurance and acceptance. But without
my tools -- a cool head and a loving heart, it was very easy
to get frustrated with him. Very much so. Since I had grown
up in a family of girls, I had no clue about what little boys
were made of. I didn't realize something very important:
Boys are different. Nothing in my experience prepared
me for him because he was ALL boy.
I remember when I only had my little girl and most of my
friends had similar-aged boys. They would regale me with
tales of antics and I clucked my tongue at them. "Why don't
you discipline him?" I would rebuke them. "You have to tell
him NO. Lay down the law," I advised, my fair little cherub
perched placidly on my lap. Ha! The joke was on me. When
Chezky was about two, I called them up in turn. "I am so
sorry," I admitted. "So sorry! I had no idea." "We told you,"
they said, respectively. "We told you so!"
But Chezky had one thing going for him. His father. Two drops
of water, as they say. They were inseparable. Simpatico. As
close as two can be. Their introverted natures made talk
superfluous and they moved in synchrony. Inspiring to watch,
perhaps, but it emphasized my spectator role. I had no part
in their symphony. As I watched Chezky grow, I saw the
results of my husband's careful nurturing. His anger and
frustration were mirrors of my own, and his loving, warm and
caring nature were also mirrors of the care he was receiving
from my husband.
But I didn't just want to be Chezky's caretaker. I wanted to
reach him, to open my heart to him, but I didn't know how. I
refused to give up. I spoke to authorities in chinuch,
attended parenting classes, read books and spoke to mothers
of boys. I grilled my husband and understood his answers to
my questions, but they did nothing to change my relationship.
I was able to appreciate my child in theory, as a gift from
Hashem. But I needed to learn to love him in practice and
realized I would need spiritual intervention.
One night, a friend appeared at my door. I stared at her
blankly. "Don't you remember? We're supposed to go together
to the shiur tonight." It was 9:30 and I was
exhausted. The last thing I wanted to do was to walk half
a mile to hear a shiur in Hebrew from
someone I hadn't ever heard before. I glanced at my
husband who mouthed the word "Go." The angels in heaven who
guard mothers and sons also whispered "Go." All the good and
noble things in the world gathered together and whispered
"Go." And so I did. And my life changed.
On the surface, nothing special happened. The place was very
crowded. We took our seats and waited. I was in for a
surprise. Not much older than me, the reputed Rebbetzin wore
a simple dress, white kerchief, house shoes, and I regarded
her skeptically. This was not what I had expected. But as
soon as she opened her mouth, I was transfixed. She chanted
several chapters of Tehillim in a hauntingly melodious
niggun that sent chills up my spine. I had never,
believe it or not, recited Tehillim before, and so a whole
new world opened before me.
She spoke about the power of Tehillim. As it was
shortly before Purim, she said that it was a tremendous
segula, a propitious time, to say the entire Book on
Purim because then the gates of prayer were wide open.
"Kdai, me'od kdai!" she urged us
Such a project was for me, an American, the equivalent of
climbing Mount Everest blindfolded. I was desperate. My
relationship with Chezky was deteriorating rapidly, and my
frustration increasing proportionately. It was getting much
harder to access my loving feelings, and he was moving
further away from me.
Purim morning, believe it or not, I woke up at four in the
morning and recited the entire sefer. It took about
four hours, My accompanying prayer went something like
"Hashem, please, open my heart to Chezky. Open his heart to
me. Help us understand one another. Please, Hashem." I
repeated this with variations intermittently throughout my
recitation. I felt like I was drowning and clutching at words
as I swam the entire sea of Tehillim, but I just kept
going until I reached the end. Then I closed it with a long
sigh and hoped for the best.
So what do you think happened? Do you think Chezky became
willing to get dressed in the morning or to wash his hands?
Did he become more communicative or stop tormenting his
sisters? None of these happened, but nothing remained the
Suddenly, I instinctively knew just what to do when Chezky
acted up. I was able to tune in on him. I knew when he needed
a hug, a potch or a sandwich. I could intuit when he'd
had a bad day. I realized that I could put him into the
bathtub even though he was vehemently objecting and he would
soon be having a bash of a splash bath, that he lived
completely in the moment and I could distract him in the
blink of an eye.
My prayer had been answered to the letter. It felt like the
cliched stone had actually rolled off my heart. Oh, he's
still stubborn and I'm still impatient, and there have been
many days when I have been unwilling to get out of bed
because I couldn't face facing him. There are still times
when I send him off to a neighbor because I just can't handle
the struggle. Many tears are still shed over him. I don't
call him my tikkun klalli for nothing, but it's
alright. Nachas wasn't built in one day and I am
prepared to bide my time. But it's all much easier now that
I've got something in my hand, a gift Hashem gave me on that
special Purim. Chezky's heart is still difficult to open, but
at least now I have the key. And I have my
Loving Chezky may be the most difficult thing I've had to do,
but it's also been the most rewarding.