Mrs. Perfect

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The perfect mother.

I sighted her yesterday, walking with her family on their annual post-Tisha b’Av outing to the Jerusalem market. If you live in Israel, you know the type. A hard-core settler mom, either from the Shomron or from the south of Chevron. Either a teacher at her settlement’s kindergarten or at the regional girls’ high school. Either named Shvut or Hodaya or, possibly, Esther.

The ties of her autumn-colors headscarf cascading down her back, her wind-blown beige skirt covering everything but the soles of her sandals. Her lips fixed in a determined smile that declared: “I adore summer vacation!” as she strolled with her arms around the shoulders of two of her 6 young sons, their tsitsit aflapping in the wind, as they headed en masse towards the market.

And then she looked down towards the smallest son, maybe 3 years old, as he told her something with a teasing smile, and in response she patted his cheek and laughed with her head thrown slightly back. The other children started laughing as well, and her oldest, around bar mitzvah age, picked the 3-year-old up to carry him on his shoulders like a hero returned from battle.

The perfect mom. The perfect family. I was in awe.

And then a half a block ahead of the mom and her sons I saw him. The perfect mom’s husband. I identified him by his big knit kippah and the gun tucked between his tsitsit and his blue plaid button-up shirt. Dad was walking beside yet another young son, and was pushing their lone daughter in a worn-out baby carriage.

This family could not get any cuter.

And then I saw it. The father turned around towards his wife, and shook an upturned hand at her in a way that yelled: “Don’t you know that we’re running late?! Why are you always so incredibly, unbearably slow?!”

Tension within the perfect family.

Cutting into the flawless, sparkling, ruby-red apple and finding the mealy, mushy inside.

What a disappointment!

As I walked through the market, considering the perfect family and it’s unexpected downfall, I had a surprising thought. It occurred to me that when I walk down the street with my own children, people might look at me and my children like I looked at Mrs. Perfect.

To the outside observer, things look so smooth, so easy, so flawless. But once you break through that ruby-red peel, you find a different story. You see the mealy and mushy inside that mom and dad and children bite into behind locked doors. The nachas and fun and friendship of family sprinkled with angry outbursts and teeth gritted in frustration and the boredom of an AC-less, endless summer afternoon.

And it’s not only me and Mrs. Perfect from the market, I realized. It’s all of us. The wrap-packed outside, the air-brushed Sears photo appearances we put on for the outside world vs. the messy, hectic, overwhelming reality of raising a honest-to-goodness, real-life family.

This morning, when I went to repair the delinquent screw on my glasses, I saw a poem on the wall dedicated to the World’s Best Mom, and it made me cry.

So I would like to dedicate this poem to the Perfect/Imperfect Mom in all of us. It went something like this:

Dear Child,

I know I am not perfect.
I will never be as organized as some other mothers are.
I will never be as good a cook as some other mothers are.
I will never be as neat as some other mothers are.
I will never be as patient as some other mothers are.
I will never be as fun as some other mothers are.
I will never be as creative as some other mothers are.
I will never be as adventurous as some other mothers are.
I will never be as calm as some other mothers are.
I will never be as perfect as some other mothers are.

But there is one thing at which I excel, and no other mother in the world can even come close.

There is no other mother in the world who will ever love you, my dear child, as much as I do.

And that means that for you, my child, I am the best the mother in the world.

Love, Mom

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com user Fernando

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6 comments

  1. SO TRUE, CHANA
    THANK YOU

  2. Thanks Chana- made me cry too!

  3. This is brilliant. Thank you so much.

  4. love the poem… today’s statement of the day was “you guys have sucked the oxygen out of my life” – I felt pretty guilty after saying it but later in the evening as I spent 2 hours cleaning my own head because of lice and dying it of course to make sure I killed every last one, I reflected on that statement and laughed my head off…

  5. Thank you Chana for taking the time to connect us- your blog is precious.

  6. Devorah Saban

    just loved that. thanks so much for sharing.

    devorah saban

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