You know that song “Sunrise, Sunset” from the musical “Fiddler on the Roof”? Well, growing up, whenever my dad heard that song, he would start tearing up and getting all sorts of weepy. My sisters and I thought it was kind of funny, seeing a grown man cry whenever he heard a particular song. It probably wasn’t nice of us to MOCK my dad for being sensitive and getting emotional, but we were KIDS. We didn’t understand. We thought he was being silly.
But now? I totally get it. If I heard “Sunrise, Sunset,” today, I would probably melt into a mess of tears, grab my children, and weep into their tiny little heads.
Ever since I became a mom to Emmy, some 30 months ago, I have heard the phrase “they grow up so quickly” more times than I have heard any other words. Relatives, friends, co-workers, and strangers in the supermarket have all instructed me to treasure these moments, when my children are so young and tiny and cute, because “in the blink of an eye” they will be angst-ridden teenagers, and in two blinks they will be visiting from college less often than we would like, and in three blinks they will be bringing their own kids over to our house for holiday celebrations.
I’ve taken these words to heart, really I have. But the truth behind the words really sunk in yesterday.
When I brought the kids home from their Baba’s house in the afternoon, Oren was exhausted and was in desperate need of a nap. I asked Em to play nicely by herself for a few minutes, so I could put Baby O down for a rest, and told her that after he was asleep I would come play with her.
Well, Em didn’t seem to pay attention to my request. As soon as I had laid Oren down in my bed, Em started running up and down the hallway screaming, “Mama! Mama! Look what I have! Mama, where is my shoes?? Mama!!” which of course woke Oren up and made him supremely miserable.
“Emmy, you have to be quiet,” I said. “Mama is putting Oren down for a nap. Do you want to come here and snuggle with us?”
“YESSS!” she screamed. And then she crawled into the big bed with me and the miserable baby. I snuggled Em and Oren, and after a few seconds Oren started closing his eyes again.
“Mama! I need my MASSY!! I need my MASSY!” Emmy started wailing. Massy means pacifier, in Emmy lingo.
Oren again woke up and started screaming. I got out of bed, searched for and found Em’s pacifier, and came back to my two miserable children.
“EMMY! You have to be quiet!!” I shout-whispered. “I need you to cooperate or else you have to go to your own room. Oren needs to take a nap!”
I handed her the massy.
“I don’t want THAT MASSY!! WAAAAAAAAAH!!” my lovely daughter cried. Oren chimed in.
“Em, I can’t help you right now. Oren REALLY needs a nap. You can either lie down with us, with THIS massy OR you can get a time out!”
Ugh. I hate using “time out” as a threat to get Emmy to cooperate. But it WORKED. Emmy stopped crying, snuggled into my body, and Oren finally fell asleep. Once the baby was sleeping, I told Em we had to sneak out of the room and shut the door without making any noise. She whispered “ok,” and followed my lead.
Em and I tiptoed to the kitchen, where we started playing with the refrigerator magnets. Suddenly, she turned to me.
“Mama, I sorry for talking in loud voice and waking up baby.”
“Oh, Em. That’s ok.”
“I sorry for making you angry, Mama.”
“Oh, come here, Emmy. Its ok. Sometimes it is just hard for mama to pay attention to you AND to baby brother. That’s why I ask you to cooperate. Thank you for apologizing, Emmy. I love you.”
It was the first time Emmy had apologized to me on her own accord, with complete awareness of what she had done to make me want to pull my hair out of my head. I mean, sure, she had been behaving like a complete BABY five minutes prior, but in her post-meltdown moment of self-reflection, she was behaving like such an ADULT.
Later in the day, when Dada got home, he and I wanted to go to the store to buy a window fan. Em was busy having fun riding her tricycle around in our basement (it was raining outside) and seemed very UNinterested in joining us on our expedition.
Usually the threat of us leaving the house is enough to motivate Emmy to put down whatever she is doing so she can run towards us, screaming “I’m coming! I’m coming!”
Not this time.
“Emmy, Dada and Oren and I are going shopping. Do you want to come with us?”
“I stay here,” she said.
“Are you sure?” Dada and I asked. “You don’t want to come with us?”
“No, that’s ok. I stay here and ride my tricycle.” She continued riding around in circles. “Bye bye! See you later!”
C and I went up the basement stairs. Emmy didn’t budge.
“Em, we’re leaving! You SURE you don’t want to come with us?” we asked.
C even shut off the light to the basement to see if THAT would motivate Emmy.
“I’m ok,” Emmy called. “I not scared of monsters. I stay here and ride my tricycle in the dark.”
Who WAS this child?? Was she two and a half, or had she suddenly become a sixteen year old, eager to have some time in the house by herself, without the ‘rents and her annoying kid brother?
I ALMOST started going down the stairs to start further negotiations with Emmy when she decided that riding her tricycle around in a dark basement by herself wasn’t totally thrilling, and she announced that she WOULD honor us with her company on our trip.
“I can’t believe she called our bluff!” C said to me, as we got everyone into the car. “We are going to be in such trouble when she’s a teenager!”
I looked into the back seat, where our pint-sized girl was staring out the window, looking very much like a toddler.
All I could think of was that song “Sunrise, Sunset.” And yeah, I teared up a little.
Parenting with imagination. Or at least trying.