I have seven children. (You might have picked up on that by now.)
Five of them are of one mold. Of course they have their differences. Of course they are each their own individual “soul print” on the world, with unique traits, quirks, strengths and challenges. But five of them look so much alike it is almost eerie. Those five get similar report cards, feedback from teachers, and I hear consistently “they are all just like your husband. They look like him and act like him, it’s amazing.” They have their ‘Ima moments’, but they are their Abba’s children.
One of the other two is my stepson. He actually looks more like his Abba than all the rest. Many of his differences from the other kids are an interesting playing out of nature vs. nurture. But genetically, I cannot claim any likeness in form or substance. He did claim he got his singing voice from both his Abba and me when he was much younger….as flattered as I was, I can only claim influence.
But then there is my six year old. She is built like me. Her report cards read like mine did. She is the child my mother “blessed” me with. She is more like me in every way than the whole clan combined. This makes her the easiest and hardest child of the bunch for me to parent – for all of the same reasons. I understand her in a way that I never will my other children. At the same time, a complaint of her behavior can feel like a criticism of my six year old self, still dwelling inside. I constantly work at letting her blossom into her own being without expectations that she will do what I would have done. As much as I see the similarities, I don’t want to fall into a trap of a self-fulfilling prophecy. She is already miles ahead of where I was in so many ways.
When I give her what she needs, it is redemptive for me. Because I am giving her sipuk, but I am also giving my childhood that sipuk – oftentimes sipuk I didn’t get the first time around. I can’t advocate for my own misunderstood little self, but my advocating for her, my understanding her is more than parenting… it is a tikkun.
Sipuk is the Hebrew word for satisfaction, although I understand it to mean the satisfaction of our soul’s needs. Stunningly, if one removes the yud and vav, both of which are associated with Hashem/Godliness, one is left with safek – which means doubt. Tikkun means “repair” in Hebrew, but the concept of repair, again, is an idea of repairing our souls, and in doing so repairing a piece of the world. So when I get it right (occasionally) with this particular little one of mine, I am nurturing her, nurturing me, fixing our souls, and fixing the world.
One of my daughter’s unavoidable and unfortunate similarities to me, is her hair. Hers is much lighter than mine ever was, but the fine, thin baby hair that oils faster than everyone else’s and is impossible to brush – yup, it’s the same. And she is the only one of the bunch to have inherited it. The rest have the beautiful, thick hair my husband
has had. As for eventually losing it? They are doomed on both sides of the genetic aisle, so I hope they enjoy it while they can.
I tried to grow my hair as a child and the tears and fights weren’t worth the locks that just didn’t grow in nicely anyway. I tried to grow it out as an adult — and it still caused me tears to brush out! I was actually rather gratified to learn from our hairdresser that it isn’t me; it’s the hair. That my daughter’s similar lack of cooperation in the hair department is with good reason.
It means that she, like I, is destined to a life of pixie cuts, Dorothy Hamil styles, and little bobs. And like me, she will probably be quite grateful to finally cover it when she B”H gets married.
This week, my six year old and I both cried defeat on trying to grow her hair for the second time. She knew she wanted and needed a short cut, but she came to me “worried that children will tell me I look like a boy.” Her worries were that little child inside of me talking again. I was mistaken for a boy often as a child, and it hurt more than I ever let my parents know – at least until this very minute. ( Being flat chested until 16 years old didn’t help, I must say.)
So I offered her that which had been [understandably] forbidden to me. I asked her if she wanted to pierce her ears the day after we chopped her hair. So the Ima who doesn’t like makeup and jewelry on little girls went off to the mall to pierce her ears. With girlie little pink rhinestone studs. I have rarely seen her so incredibly happy.
And you know what? My six year old self is jumping up and down right alongside her.