Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

22 Av 5759 - August 4, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Home and Family
Part II
Loving Chezky - A Mother and Son On Two Separate Wavelengths

by Miriam Luxenberg

Update: Chezky was born, overriding doctors' insistence on an abortion. His mother describes a strange love-hate relationship, which the reader has yet to encounter. We begin with the last paragraph of last week's first part:

So why am I writing about loving Chezky? What could be so difficult about loving such a lovely boy? I guess you could compare it to shidduchim. It looks good on paper, but the chemistry is all wrong.


Through great sacrifice, I nursed Chezky for almost a year and a half. I desperately needed surgery, but I pushed it off because I didn't want to interrupt the nursing and add further trauma to his already fretful life. Then, unpredictably, he just weaned himself!

For a full year, Chezky sat in his little chair and looked at pictures of tzaddikim. He could only sit up. He didn't crawl or say any words until he was close to two. He took his time with babyhood and we didn't worry much about him because he seemed content. Only my father suspected.

Holding Chezky one day in his arms, Chezky gave him one of his little smirks. My father's eyes opened wide. "This is the calm before the storm," he warned. "Just you watch."

Chezky didn't like to eat; he took hours. He was very skinny and soon we did become concerned. I sat and stuffed sour cream into that kid, night and day, until he snapped out of it. The whole world had been created for him. Me and Pnini, my daughter, twirled svivonim up and down the hallway for months, egging him on to crawl after them. But he was tough. I think he knew that he wouldn't have our undivided attention for too long, so he wanted to make the most of it.

When I found out that my next child was on the way, I could not help feeling despair after the initial joy and thrill. Chezky was furious at his little sister for a long time and was overt at expressing it. As much as I tried to understand him, his fury overwhelmed me and I felt guilty besides, because I felt he needed more of me. I had heard stories about angry children, children who felt unloved, and this frightened me. I didn't know how to handle this.

Chezky was a kid who wouldn't wake up even after a thorough shaking. He wouldn't wash his hands, wouldn't get dressed or brush his teeth, wouldn't go to cheder, wouldn't toilet train and so on.

At the end of the day, it began all over again: he wouldn't eat his supper, wouldn't take a bath, wouldn't get into pajamas, wouldn't go to sleep, wouldn't stay asleep, wouldn't get up... Around and around we'd go. Every day was a brand new creation for him. Sometimes I felt like Savta Simcha, jollying Chezky through life, cajoling, treating, bribing, bending backwards, forwards, encouraging him every step of the way. Any transition was difficult. As for me, one night without sleep or struck with a stomach virus or a headache -- my patience would vanish.

I realized it took all of my available energy just to get Chezky through a day. He tested me to the far borders of my patience, creativity, endurance and acceptance. But without my tools -- a cool head and a loving heart, it was very easy to get frustrated with him. Very much so. Since I had grown up in a family of girls, I had no clue about what little boys were made of. I didn't realize something very important: Boys are different. Nothing in my experience prepared me for him because he was ALL boy.

I remember when I only had my little girl and most of my friends had similar-aged boys. They would regale me with tales of antics and I clucked my tongue at them. "Why don't you discipline him?" I would rebuke them. "You have to tell him NO. Lay down the law," I advised, my fair little cherub perched placidly on my lap. Ha! The joke was on me. When Chezky was about two, I called them up in turn. "I am so sorry," I admitted. "So sorry! I had no idea." "We told you," they said, respectively. "We told you so!"

But Chezky had one thing going for him. His father. Two drops of water, as they say. They were inseparable. Simpatico. As close as two can be. Their introverted natures made talk superfluous and they moved in synchrony. Inspiring to watch, perhaps, but it emphasized my spectator role. I had no part in their symphony. As I watched Chezky grow, I saw the results of my husband's careful nurturing. His anger and frustration were mirrors of my own, and his loving, warm and caring nature were also mirrors of the care he was receiving from my husband.

But I didn't just want to be Chezky's caretaker. I wanted to reach him, to open my heart to him, but I didn't know how. I refused to give up. I spoke to authorities in chinuch, attended parenting classes, read books and spoke to mothers of boys. I grilled my husband and understood his answers to my questions, but they did nothing to change my relationship. I was able to appreciate my child in theory, as a gift from Hashem. But I needed to learn to love him in practice and realized I would need spiritual intervention.


One night, a friend appeared at my door. I stared at her blankly. "Don't you remember? We're supposed to go together to the shiur tonight." It was 9:30 and I was exhausted. The last thing I wanted to do was to walk half a mile to hear a shiur in Hebrew from someone I hadn't ever heard before. I glanced at my husband who mouthed the word "Go." The angels in heaven who guard mothers and sons also whispered "Go." All the good and noble things in the world gathered together and whispered "Go." And so I did. And my life changed.

On the surface, nothing special happened. The place was very crowded. We took our seats and waited. I was in for a surprise. Not much older than me, the reputed Rebbetzin wore a simple dress, white kerchief, house shoes, and I regarded her skeptically. This was not what I had expected. But as soon as she opened her mouth, I was transfixed. She chanted several chapters of Tehillim in a hauntingly melodious niggun that sent chills up my spine. I had never, believe it or not, recited Tehillim before, and so a whole new world opened before me.

She spoke about the power of Tehillim. As it was shortly before Purim, she said that it was a tremendous segula, a propitious time, to say the entire Book on Purim because then the gates of prayer were wide open. "Kdai, me'od kdai!" she urged us enthusiastically.

Such a project was for me, an American, the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest blindfolded. I was desperate. My relationship with Chezky was deteriorating rapidly, and my frustration increasing proportionately. It was getting much harder to access my loving feelings, and he was moving further away from me.

Purim morning, believe it or not, I woke up at four in the morning and recited the entire sefer. It took about four hours, My accompanying prayer went something like this:

"Hashem, please, open my heart to Chezky. Open his heart to me. Help us understand one another. Please, Hashem." I repeated this with variations intermittently throughout my recitation. I felt like I was drowning and clutching at words as I swam the entire sea of Tehillim, but I just kept going until I reached the end. Then I closed it with a long sigh and hoped for the best.


So what do you think happened? Do you think Chezky became willing to get dressed in the morning or to wash his hands? Did he become more communicative or stop tormenting his sisters? None of these happened, but nothing remained the same, either.

Suddenly, I instinctively knew just what to do when Chezky acted up. I was able to tune in on him. I knew when he needed a hug, a potch or a sandwich. I could intuit when he'd had a bad day. I realized that I could put him into the bathtub even though he was vehemently objecting and he would soon be having a bash of a splash bath, that he lived completely in the moment and I could distract him in the blink of an eye.

My prayer had been answered to the letter. It felt like the cliched stone had actually rolled off my heart. Oh, he's still stubborn and I'm still impatient, and there have been many days when I have been unwilling to get out of bed because I couldn't face facing him. There are still times when I send him off to a neighbor because I just can't handle the struggle. Many tears are still shed over him. I don't call him my tikkun klalli for nothing, but it's alright. Nachas wasn't built in one day and I am prepared to bide my time. But it's all much easier now that I've got something in my hand, a gift Hashem gave me on that special Purim. Chezky's heart is still difficult to open, but at least now I have the key. And I have my Tehillim.

Loving Chezky may be the most difficult thing I've had to do, but it's also been the most rewarding.


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