The surprise was a class trip to the Golan, something unheard
of in the history of her school where every year's end of the
term trip was to a water park. I immediately volunteered to
be one of the accompanying mothers. My daughter, a bright
fourteen-year-old in transition to adulthood, was thrilled
and so was I! what a wonderful way to share special time with
her by being on a seventeen-hour journey from Jerusalem to
Tel Dan and back.
I could imagine the whole scene: dozens of giggling, excited
girls, singing and storytelling, hiking alongside the
stunning waterfall, overgrown with bamboo and bulrushes,
heavenly scented with yellow rotem blossoms and spicy wild
How could I miss such an opportunity to bond with my
firstborn, who has grown up so fast?
But what about the baby? My husband brought it up later that
evening when we had a chance to discuss it. "He's still
nursing to sleep at night," he reminded me. "You know how he
screams when you aren't around."
That particular night, I pointed out, our nine-year-old had
peacefully put the baby to sleep without a peep of protest on
his part. He had been exhausted from a long day of activities
-- being babysat in the morning, working and playing in the
garden all afternoon as the children searched, chopped and
dug through the earth for the old, buried irrigation piping
that we optimistically hoped to reinstate to its former
responsibility of keeping the fruit trees properly watered.
He had eaten his meals, drunk lots from a cup and had passed
out by himself in our daughter's arms.
What baby? He was sixteen months already, last count. Not an
infant, but a toddler. Who needed me more? My daughter who
hardly complained about our lack of time together, each of us
so busy juggling our hectic schedules, or a sixteen- month-
old who should be able to survive without me for seventeen
Besides, I needed the break from him. It would be good for
both of us. He needed to be more independent. Maybe I should
begin weaning him now, with a week to work on this in
advance, so he could start falling back to sleep without the
need to nurse.
At 11 p.m. he woke up screaming. I was busy cleaning up the
kitchen and this interruption was odd. Shouldn't he sleep
through until 2 a.m. as usual? What was this waking up, if
not a confirmation of my husband's concern about the
disturbing decibels reached when I wasn't around to quickly
hush him back to sleep? Annoyed, I went to my room which he
still shared with us, as all our other children had while
they still nursed at night. After a few minutes, he rolled
over and contently returned to dreamland. I went back to the
kitchen to ponder what would be if I left him behind.
Weaning was a serious decision that I didn't take lightly. We
had a special bond that we both appreciated. And weaning
meant facing the reality that I might never nurse another
baby for the rest of my life. I certainly wasn't emotionally
ready to deal with the prospect of this perhaps being my last
baby. But at 42, one needs to be realistic.
It's easy for young women to laugh and tell me, "Oh, but 42
isn't old! Lots of women are still having babies!" But they
aren't standing on the threshold of this new stage of life.
Don't misunderstand me. I'm looking forward to being a
grandma surrounded by my offspring and their progeny. Growing
older and wiser is something I acknowledge and believe in as
the fruit of a life lived well- invested in what is truly
important. But that doesn't mean I'm ready just yet to
relinquish the nurturing that comes `straight from the heart'
directly into my littlest one's small frame, his eyes
watching me, trusting his mother as the source of warmth and
comfort in his young life, unlike his older siblings who
sadly know that in truth, Ima is not omnipotently able to
meet all their burgeoning needs and demands.
No, I can't see that a seventeen-hour trip is worth the
sacrifice of giving up this special closeness I have with my
baby. And it's true that I can't promise my husband and
children that the baby won't be screaming loud protests all
night until I return. But how can I miss this amazing
opportunity to have a great time with my oldest? No, it would
be impossible to bring a toddler! He won't enjoy ten hours
traveling around by bus, and how would I hike through the
wadi, waist deep in water, with him on my back? What if I
slipped on a mossy stone?
I remember the time I spontaneously traveled overseas to a
family simcha without my nursing one-year-old, who
didn't have a passport ready on the spur of the moment.
Despite my efforts to ensure my milk supply would still be
available when I returned home a week later, my son was quite
content to continue with his bottle, with which he had
already been accustomed to before I left. I had promised
myself not to do that again. Now all the kids have passports,
just in case, and I've never again left a little one behind
who still needed me in this way.
I highly doubt my daughter will agree to the scenario of
sharing her special time with Ima with her baby brother, so
my dilemma continues. How will I decide?
Perhaps the principal of my daughter's school will agree that
a toddler could join this group of jovial adolescents and we
will all go off together. I highly doubt this, since she can
much more objectively see that a baby on the bus won't be any
fun at all.
Maybe I'll just stay home. Maybe the principal won't need any
parents to go, and the decision will be made for me!
Any ideas out there?