Yoel's Terrible Threes


Bookmark and Share

Yoel started his terrible twos on his 3rd birthday.

Emboldened by his brand-new peyos and big-boy kippa, this past spring Yoel suddenly discovered the untold joys of “NO!”, “I DO IT MYSELF!” and generally demanding that things be done exactly the way he wants, exactly when he wants to do them.

This morning there was more of the usual. Yoel wanted oatmeal, make that cornflakes, make that oatmeal, make that cornflakes. Then Yoel wanted milk, make that apple juice, make that milk, make that apple juice. Then he insisted on “I do it myself!” washing his new fire-engine placemat in the sink. There was good news and bad news. Yoel stayed pretty dry but he had flooded the kitchen floor.

Very likely the sweetest moment of my day is that moment when, after humus has been successfully smeared onto sandwiches, little bellies have been sufficiently filled with oatmeal/cornflakes/oatmeal/cornflakes, and clothing has been put on after Eema has performed her never-fails one-woman good cop/ bad cop routine, my kids and I are able to step out of our front door into the life-giving fresh air of a Jerusalem morning.

This morning, like every morning, I set off with my kids down the block, and Yoel’s cheider was already in sight. I could already taste sweet freedom- the quiet breakfast, the hours on the computer, the short workout at the gym that awaited me. The Statue of Liberty on the horizon after a morning spent in steerage getting elbowed by the huddled masses.

And then Yoel let go of my hand, and grabbed onto my waist from behind, stepping on the backs of my sandals so it was hard to walk. The Statue of Liberty retreated beyond the horizon. This was a morning that just refused to end.

And then I saw the man on the bench.

The man had shoulder-length, paper-white hair, and wore a light linen shirt and loose beige pants. His eyes were closed, his lips were turned upwards in a beyond-this-world grin, and he held his thumbs and tips of his fingers together so they formed an upside-down heart. There he was, meditating right there outside of Yoel’s cheider.

And at that moment, it hit me.

Who was really growing spiritually at that moment? Who was being pushed to the limit? Who was being forced to overcome anger? Frustration? Chronic self-absorption?

Who was being challenged to become a better person, month by month, day by day, minute by minute.

I’m sure you know the answer, Jewish mom. But I’ll tell you anyway.

Despite what the world might think, the answer wasn’t Mr. Nirvana Guru sitting on his mental mountaintop contemplating Karma and the meaning of nothingness.

The answer was this Jewish mom with a 3-year-old wrapped around her waist, and a trail of spit-up running down her back.

The answer is me. And you.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com user Pfau


  1. Absolutely true, Chana!! That is what every Jewish woman should tell herself every day as it’s what gives her (us) strengh and meaning in life.

  2. 9 months k’h pregnant and having been up all night with my three year old (potty, snack, tucked in…you name it)–Boy oh boy did this blog update come at the right time!!!! B’H and thank you for the gentle encouragement!

  3. You are so inspiring Jenny! Thanks for reminding us what we’re here for.

  4. Outstanding post! We could’ve written this one about our daughter.

  5. Hadassah Aber

    multiply that times 24 ken ahora, and that is my classroom! I have the zechus of teaching boys and girls of this age everyday from 8:15 – 4:00 everyday so mommies can get some liberty! We have fun together and learn, dance, sing, eat, nap, do art, paint, and learn lots of social skills so that by the end of the year they are ready for the next grade.

  6. I love the picture! Very cute.

    Thank you!



  7. Ayalah Haas

    What a lovely reminder, Jenny, of the blessing of being a Jewish mom. We have these continual opportunities to work on our middos.

    On another note, I wish our culture would lose the “terrible” label with children of age two, or three. I suggest that mothers who think their little ones are in a “terrible” phase open up the great book, “The Baby Whisperer for Toddlers” by Tracy Hogg for amazing insights and tips on managing children (and ourselves) when they’re in a kvetchy mood, or in a melt-down.

  8. gittel nadel alpert

    every word/metaphor’s a diamond Jenny…..the picture priceless!
    really brings back those crazy making blessed days.
    Stay tuned for the teens; really deepens your awe of Hashem.
    love you. gittl

Leave a Reply

Follow by Email