Where’s my Medal? by Chaya Houpt

Where’s my Medal? by Chaya Houpt

A guest post by my favorite JewishMOMmy blogger, All Victories’ Chaya Houpt

Nobody’s handed me a parenting medal in a long time.

Actually, no one has ever handed me a parenting medal at all. But back in the days when I used to traipse about with baby twins in tow, I got a lot of nice feedback.

The girls slept and nursed on a two-hour cycle for at least the first six months of their life. We had relocated to the suburbs from Manhattan, and I was stir-crazy. So, while they napped in their car seats, I would pack up all our stuff and get ready to GO—running errands, visiting friends, anywhere.

Sometimes our adventures were ill-conceived. One of my readers will probably remember a spontaneous trip to a Chinese restaurant that went south when we couldn’t get the hang of breastfeeding our infants in public, and discovered that we hadn’t brought any bottles or pacifiers. In retrospect, what’s the big deal about three crying babies? At the time, OH MY SWEET GRIEF.

But most of the time, we had fun. I liked dressing them up and getting out of the early-parenthood fog of home life. I liked interacting with other adults. And, okay, I liked showing off.

Twins get a lot of attention. Especially the cutest twins in the world. Baby pictures show one girl a little swarthy, the other bald and bug-eyed, but I was dazzled. I was sure everyone else was, too. I loved being out with them, calm and capable. Beaming. Smiling at the woman with the screaming 6-week-old twins and telling her, “It gets easier.”

What I loved the most, though, was the encouragement. “You’re so brave,” smiled a cashier at the supermarket. Turning to the rest of checkout line, “Brave! Isn’t she brave?”

Another time, a cashier (I spent a lot of time shopping, okay) gazed at my double stroller and said, “They’re so calm. And you know why they’re calm? Because YOU are calm.”

Yup, 1 calm mother = 2 calm children. I’ll take my medal now.

What’s that you say? You are my downstairs neighbor, and you’ve noticed me leaving the building most days with two screaming and spitting preschoolers? Uhhh . . .

* * *

So my parenting life is richer and more complex and delicate and—what’s the word for something that requires a lot of thought and effort? I really need to get more sleep. The point is, I don’t spend much time in the smug zone.

Also, we moved to Israel. The culture here is child-centric, family-centric. I resented that when I lived here as a married student, trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant. Now I like it a lot. I love that when my daughter loses it in the light rail car (“Tooooooo crowded! IIIIIIII want a seeeeeat!!! You’d never know she was born in New York), one stranger hustles to shut her up with a piece of candy, and another shuffles through her purse for another one so that my other daughter won’t get upset too. I like being a mother among many others. I like that children are tolerated and appreciated in public spaces. I even like the unsolicited advice. Everyone cares!

In Jerusalem, it’s not unusual to see a woman leading a seminar with a baby strapped to her chest. Or a father and four children on the city bus. Or kids at work alongside their parents during summer vacation–a seven-year-old stamping and filing in a government office, young boys staffing booths in the shuk.

So adventurous parenting, stressful parenting, especially normal, day-to-day parenting—it doesn’t seem like much. People turn in public to pinch my son’s cheek or pick him up when he falls, but they don’t have much to say about me. I’m just another mother. No one tells me I’m brave.

But I am. I am brave. Brave and patient and hard-working and growing every day. And it’s the best thing ever to discover that I am responsible for my own validation. That I can notice my own victories and share them with you. That my worth as a parent isn’t measured by how nicely my kids behave or how much better I’m managing than any other mother. I’m giving myself a medal for caring so much, for trying so hard, and for trusting that we are all being taken care of.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com user Evelyn Giggles

Related posts:

The Parent Manifesto (11-Minute TED Talk)
A Chassidic Princess Kate?
When the Lubavitcher Rebbe Told Elie Wiesel he Must become a Father

5 comments

  1. How very sweet.
    Israeli unpretentiousness when helping other moms is refreshing.
    No one glares at you when they are wailing in the cash register line either and in the park it’s taken for granted that you watch out for each others kids by the swings and slide.
    The article made me feel like we all have medals.

  2. HOW TRUE! Thank you!

  3. I loved this!! OMG I stopped in rome on the way back to Israel from a trip to the states visitting my family…ok, I was like a Hhollywood Star – ALL of rome was into me and my 5 kids- I thought by taking them to a tour of the Ghetto theyd see some more kids and Id get to see the old synagogue- so even there- I got so many people coming up to me and saying how amazing it was that I had SO many children and how do I do it…one elderly man came up to me and I somehow understood him cuz it was mostly in Italian- thet he was number 4 out of 9 and he had tears in his eyes…I was loving it and getting away with loving it since I know I am an amateur compared to my neighhborhood in Israel)…but i was glowing- I kind of didnt like the counting- yes, they counted my kids right in front of me, I guess to let me know how many I have…on the bus, outside, and even in the museum, people were amazed and I had my 4 hours of Fame…by the way children ride free on ALL public transportation—that was another really good feel…

  4. Yeah I get stared at all the time and I only have 3. I love how in the nursing home here all the old people say, “What do ya have? 2 girls and then a boy? Perfect! You can stop now and enjoy them!”

  5. Sara, that’s what everyone said when my son was born after two girls. I hope I’m just getting started!

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