Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

10 Av 5764 - July 28, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Mother Weaning
by Chava Dumas

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 hyssop.

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 hours?

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?


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