I cannot believe that I’ve been a mother for 10 years. Or that I have a daughter old enough to wear high heels, borrow my clothing, and make better PowerPoint presentations than I can. I suddenly feel old – if she’s anything like me (or most Israeli kids, for that matter), she’s more than halfway out of the house – for good. The only saving grace, perhaps, is that my nephew turned 10 three months ago, which means that my (twin) sister must be older than I am, right?!
Though we don’t really do birthday gifts in our family, I thought the best gift I could give Tzofia was something intangible, that I hope she can take far into the future. So here goes:
There are so many lessons that I’ve tried to teach you, many of which I’m still learning myself. I hope that by recording some of them here you’ll get the message, even if teaching by example hasn’t worked out exactly the way I planned.
1 – If something can be solved with money, it’s not really a problem. This is a lesson that I learned from Poppy, and one he professed to me even in our last few conversations…which is just one way I know that it’s really, really important. Logically speaking, this makes so much sense to me, because there are so many very important things (such as health concerns, for example) that can’t always be solved with money. But on an emotional level, I have a very hard time with this concept, especially when many things seem to break all at the same time, and each of them is expensive to fix. Tzofia, I want you to know that while it is important to save money for the future, it’s also important to know that it’s ok to splurge a bit on yourself. I haven’t mastered this yet, but luckily, I get a lot of enjoyment out of splurging on you, and for now, that’s enough.
2 – “A bissel un a bissel, macht a gantze schissel.” This is a lesson that I learned from my Bobe – it means that a little + a little makes a full bucket. I know people make fun of me for starting my Shabbat cooking on Tuesday, for example. But at the end of the week, when I can enjoy my Fridays without having to rush and worry whether everything will get cooked, I know I’ve done the right thing. Don’t be afraid to take your time on a project and to make sure that it’s right instead of rushed.
3 – Your siblings are your best friends. Of all the things I hope you’ll learn in life, I think this is the one you’ve mastered best thus far. It makes me so proud to see how you take care of your siblings, share with them and treat them as equals even though you’re the oldest. I hope that this continues to be as you get older, and that you’ll always remember to take care of your siblings, no matter how old you are or how far away you are.
4 – It’s OK to say no. This is not something that I’ve been able to implement (yet), which is why you see me constantly running to do things that I don’t have time for and agreeing to help out when I actually need help myself. And while there’s definitely a feeling of satisfaction in knowing I’m a reliable friend/worker/parent in times of need, there’s a certain personal strength in being able to draw boundaries and to know where your own limitations lie. At least, this is what I’ve heard…and it is my hope for you that you can draw from this strength to focus on the things you really can do without constantly driving yourself to the brink of insanity.
5 – Miracles do happen. I’m not talking about pie-in-the-sky, winning the lottery type of miracles, but every day miracles that aren’t always easy to see, but are most definitely worth looking for. I hope you learn to see these miracles rather than to take them for granted. I also hope you know that you are one of the many miracles in my life, and one I’ve been grateful for every day for 10 years.
6 – Exercise is important. I hope I’ve been able to teach you that it’s important to be active not because it makes you skinny, but because it makes you healthy. I hope you’ll never aim to be the thinnest you can be, but the healthiest you can be – and I hope you’ll find a sport or activity that you’ll love, so that you’ll always want to stay in shape.
7 – Honesty is the best policy. There are, sadly, so very many reasons to bend the truth these days, whether it’s to protect your reputation, to avoid negative consequences or to advance yourself in one of life’s endless challenges. You must know, however, that telling the truth is always the right thing to do, even if it doesn’t always seem that way. This is a lesson that most people learn from making mistakes along the way, and I hope that you avoid these mistakes by trusting your old lady. If not, just know that I’ll be here to help you figure things out when things get rough and that I’ll love you no matter what.
8 – Girls can be mean, but you don’t have to be. It’s a sad fact of life that girls tend to be jealous, judgmental, and sometimes even petty. But that doesn’t mean that you have to act that way. It’s certainly normal to have your feelings hurt at some point, and to want to hurt someone the way she’s hurt you. But at the end of the day, you’ll be a better person (and a stronger person) by learning how to handle yourself with dignity and grace, rather than to act on your emotions in a way that you may regret later. Self-restraint certainly isn’t easy, but if you can master this trait, you’ll be able to develop deep and meaningful friendships, and to easily ignore the haters of the world. You can start by practicing on your sisters, and remembering tip #3 above.
9 – Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Over the course of life, you’ll inevitably be judged based on the way you look, where you live, where you went to school, who your parents are (sorry!) and many other variables, some of which are beyond your control. It’s not possible to make everybody happy all the time. But if you can find the self-confidence to be yourself rather than being who you think others want you to be, you’ll be able to make a long-lasting, positive impression on those you meet along the way.
10 – Be positive. Shortly after I met your father, he told me that his blood type was B+, and that he always tries to look at the bright side because it’s just part of his DNA. This message has stayed with me, and it’s one that I try, not totally successfully, to teach you on a daily basis. Lucky for you, you’ve got some of his blood, so you shouldn’t have such a hard time being positive. A bit of positive energy can go a long way in the way your projects turn out, the way you present yourself, the way you see yourself and the way others think of you (among other things). I know sometimes I tend to point out the downside of a situation, but if anything, I hope you learn from me what not to do. Because staying positive tends to make every situation more pleasant…even when you have to force it.
It goes without saying that there are many, many more things I hope to teach you over the years, but I’m hoping you can get cracking on these for the time being, and maybe by the time you’re 11, you can teach me a thing or two. I can’t wait to see where the next 10 years (and more!) will take you!