The Blessing of Spilt Milk

This week it’s been broiling hot here in the Holy Land. The kind of hot that makes me feel like every hour of the day I gain two pounds, so that by the time bedtime rolls around I’m as hot and uncomfortable as a Thanksgiving turkey basting in gravy and begging to be taken out of the oven.

And this week, as well, all sorts of liquids have been flowing in the Weisberg home. And in this heat, I’ve been having a hard time keeping my cool about it.

First I spilled the milk yesterday, and it slithered lickety-split all over the kitchen floor and underneath the fridge. Yoel sped over to jump in the puddle, and I grabbed him hard by the arm and directed him back to his chair with the gravity of an Israeli cop shooing the crowds away from a suspicious backpack in the middle of the mall.

“Hashem,” I pleaded, “wasn’t I hot and miserable enough in this heat without having to figure out how to get that puddle of milk out from underneath the fridge?”

“Shoot!”

And then, not long after that Moriah almost made it to the bathroom in time, but just almost.

“Shoot!”

And then my 10-year-old Hallel somehow dropped and shattered the bottle of air freshener in the front hall. So that today every person who comes into my house enters into a cloud of perfume thick enough to sweeten up a cowshed.

“Shoot!”

And then last night, after a long day of spills and muttering and not keeping my cool, I received an Email from an editor about an article I submitted about the joys and challenges of motherhood. In the article, I refer to some typical challenges of mothers of young children: the bottomless laundry basket, and the torn newly-bought Shabbat dress, and the spilt chocolate milk all over the kitchen floor.

And the editor, a mother of grown children and a grandmother many times over, responded: “I wonder, are there really lots and lots of women for whom the big problem is the laundry and the spills? Seems so idyllic, almost unbelievable! But maybe this is because my children are all teenagers or married now? Maybe I gained perspective and now cannot remember not having it?”

At first her response made me feel indignant. Mothers of teenagers and married children face their challenges, and mothers of babies and small children face different but no less real challenges. Why the need to compare?

But then I pondered for a moment the life and the problems of some mothers of older children. The mother of the 15-year-old son who doesn’t want to be religious anymore. The mother of the 14-year-old who just got suspended from school. The mother of the married daughter whose marriage is on the rocks. The mother of a 17-year-old daughter who hates her.

From the point of view of quite a few mothers of older children, my day HAD been full of idyllic scenes. As sweet as the image of a newborn baby cuddled in his mother’s arms or a 6-year-old girl squealing with pleasure as she gallops away on a pony.

My 3-year-old jumping in the puddle of milk as it slithered lickety-split underneath my fridge.

Idyllic, almost unbelievable.

My 5-year-old who almost made it to the bathroom, but not quite.

Idyllic, almost unbelievable.

The 10-year-old’s elbow and the bottle of air freshener meeting in an unfortunate collision.

Idyllic. Almost unbelievable.

I smiled as I thought of my day and my life. Of the tiny curses and the great blessings of small children, and small problems.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com user Eqqman

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3 comments

  1. Rishe Deitsch

    Wow! I made it into one of Chana Jenny Weisberg’s essays! As a longtime admirer of Chana’s, and a BIG fan of her writing and her insights, I am excited!
    Thank you, Chana, for understanding me so well. You got it!
    Just one small correction, if I may.
    When a 17-year-old “hates” his or her mother, this is normal. This is not a problem, unless s/he is the oldest, in which case the parents and especially the mother treat it like a tragedy. With later children, the parents have usually found out already that it is a passing – and necessary – stage, and they can comfortably detach from the “hate” – which soon (patience, patience) turns into undying love.
    Yasher koach, Chana.

  2. Fonda Weiss

    Dear Chana,
    I always enjoy reading your inspirational essays, full of emunah.

    Coincidentally with your recent article, my daughter too had a messy spill yesterday. With good intention, she was cleaning up her desk, and accidentally dropped this clock that had little dolphins swimming in bubble-like blue water that you can see through in order to see the time. Well the clock shattered and out came all the blue stuff which turns out to be very smelly (like kerosene or some other highly flammable oil) and very greasy and very hard to clean. The stuff splattered into little blue bubbles everywhere… onto my daughter’s backpack and all her organized stuff on her desk, and all over the floor, and under her closet. It was quickly absorbed into all the papers and materials that she had just diligently arranged. She was upset… but I kept my calm and just tried to clean the spill right away. My daughter’s twin sister came to her rescue to help wipe away the tears, as did my husband who reminisced with our daughters about something dear to him from his father that he had taken care of and accidentally broke… which obviously left an imprint on his heart.

    The smell is already gone today, and my daughter already forgot her troubles. And we learned a lesson to never keep something breakable on your shelf over your desk.
    Baruch hashem.

  3. faith/emuna

    as a mother of children raging from 20 to 3, including a soldier and 3 teens, i still find young children and their spills to be more annoying. less worrisome, but more annoying. kind of like pnemonia is in the bigger picture a much bigger deal then a mosquito in your ear, but at a given moment the mosquito can be more annoying.

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