Mesorah (Jewish stuff) · Motherhood

Pushing the Boundaries

The summer really is drawing to a close.  My Facebook feed is full of pictures of the first day of school, talk of purchasing supplies and the arrival of uniforms.  We successfully made it through Camp Mommy, took multiple road trips, added both a sandbox *and* a trampoline to our yard, and even found a carpool for the upcoming school year.


We just returned (like, nine hours ago) from a fabulous trip to Cleveland, where we spent a whole week enjoying my mother-in-law, aunt-in-law, brother-in-law and all the cousins.  It was a last-hurrah-of-the-summer kind of trip, where I threw all caution to the wind (okay, not all caution, but I did get a little brave) and scheduled the trip even though my husband would not be able to come until Shabbos.  

all by yourself?  Are you insane?
All by yourself? Are you insane?

That’s right.  I drove, with three little kids, by myself, for six hours, and then hung out for a whole week without my husband.  And it was a wonderful trip (though I am totally wiped now, but in a good, satisfied sort of way). 

I was nervous about getting there, since shlepping all my kids into a rest stop without another adult to supervise was anxiety-inducing, to say the least.  And it was fine (well, it was a little stressful, but there were no major incidents or disasters, so I count that as a success).

Though I am fairly independent by nature, it was nice to see that I was able to stretch the limits of what I thought I could do as a parent, and making this solo trip provided me with the encouragement to try to continue to stretch the limits of what I think I can do.  

Keeping Perspective

Even though I’m making a big deal about doing this on my own, it did occur to me that this is something single parents face all the time.  Solo parenting isn’t limited to a summer trip.  Even with the help and support of family or community, it’s still solo. I give you all massive respect (and if anyone would like to guest post about their experience as a single parent, please contact me).

Somewhat on that note, it was heartening to watch my kids interact with their cousins, to see how the older ones help the smaller ones, and to continually marvel at how my brother-in-law can stay so calm with a house full of children.  Talk about giving massive respect.  I mean, I only have three kids and I have difficulty keeping my cool at times. 

Back on the topic of stretching my limits, I attended a shiur on Shabbos afternoon, which only seems to happen when I go out of town.  Going to an actual class and sitting in an actual room with actual people makes such a difference for me.  It gives me that feeling of connection to Torah, to what actually matters (which, for the record, has nothing to do with Facebook or Twitter).  It’s a perspective that I really need at this hectic stage of my life.

Look at all that fun.  And that's just in Bubby's backyard!
                                       Look at all that fun. And that’s just in Bubby’s backyard!

When a Want is Also a Need

For years, I’ve been viewing attending a live shiur as a luxury (because, hello, little children).  I now see that for me, it’s more of a need.  And what with Elul right around the corner (MONDAY NIGHT PEOPLE!  That means Tuesday and Wednesday, all day, all Rosh Chodesh), what better time to make an effort to connect to reality instead of distraction?  

A nice bit of advice the Rebbetzin gave during the class was that it’s not necessarily about taking on new mitzvos for Elul, to prepare for the formidable days of Tishrei, but rather about being more conscious about the mitzvos that we are already doing.  Saying modeh ani with intention, thinking about the brachos over food when we say them, reflecting on what’s in a mezuzah when we kiss it, focusing on the words of the Shema as we recite it before sleep.  

That’s doable, right?  And even though I’ve long thought that attending a Shabbos shiur is not doable for me, I’m going to find a way to go to one, at least once a month.  Small, attainable goals, remember?  

So Chodesh Tov in advance, and here’s to an uplifting, boundary-pushing Elul!



10 thoughts on “Pushing the Boundaries

  1. That’s a great concept, to put more into the mitzvot you’ve already taken on instead of taking on something new. Each year since seminary (or around then) I’ve been trying to take on small, new things because I definitely believe that growth happens in bits and pieces and that new things motivate in a special way, but this speaks to me immediately as a good way to vary up how I (try to) get myself to grow. Thank you!

    1. It was such a relief to hear it, really. For the past few years I haven’t been successful in maintaining what I’ve taken on, so it’s nice to see that my growth can also come in solidifying the mitzvos that I *am* doing. And I’m hoping that strengthening those will lead to a desire to do more and connect more.

  2. Kudos to you for being such a great sport and traveling yourself with the kids. And managing so beautifully. Regarding the shiur, I remember rabbi yissachar frand gave a talk this time of year where I live last year and he said the same thing. That we should take on something what we already are doing. And do it better. Thanks for a great post. Good Chodesh.

    1. Thanks for assuming that I managed beautifully, and wasn’t a crazed woman. ;) It’s great eitzah, to improve what we’re already doing. My tendency is to add on, but I love the idea of adding depth to my observance.

  3. I tip my hat to single parents too, because when I have to do the solo parenting thing, it’s anxiety inducing! But we always manage, and within 2-3 days, we get into a routine, so things become easier. Though I don’t think I’d take a road trip by myself with the children just yet!

    1. I think sometimes the anxiety is greater than the challenges of doing it alone. My kids have been taking biannual road trips since they were very small, so they are relatively used to being in the car for long periods of time. That definitely takes the edge off!

  4. Rivki, don’t minimize the accomplishment that you made here. I really don’t like to travel alone at all, and I’ve been trying to wrap my head around taking a trip all by myself. I can’t believe how dependent I have become on my husband, and I don’t much like that. It’s time for me to set a realistic goal for myself – to push myself to do something new – and take strides to achieve that goal. I need to do some real thinking on this topic. I know it sounds silly, but I’d like to redo the family room and make every decision from paint color to pillows to rug to curtains. I used to be very confident in the decorating department, but I often cave when my husband expresses his preference. It’s time for me to stand up for what I want/need again.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement! I don’t think wanting to assert your preferences in family room decor. Not at all. I think it’s a great step toward independent decisions. Totally.

  5. Solo parenting is challenging, no doubt. I always find myself bewildered by it and in total respect for people who do it full time. And I only have two!
    I think that’s totally doable to be more conscious of the mitzvos you are already doing. I totally love that idea.

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