Last week, early in the morning, we were helping our children get ready for school. My son (the first grader) was having a difficult time waking up, getting himself out of bed, getting dressed and brushing his teeth. He was moving very slooooowly, and we all HAD TO GET OUT OF THE HO– USE and get him onto his bus.
I was losing my patience. I was feeling a lot of pressure to get everyone out on time. While I was helping the girls get ready, my son was taking his sweet ‘ol time getting to the bathroom. He closed the door behind him.
I had to get into the bathroom to get the hairbrush for my daughter and in an effort to respect my son’s privacy, I knocked on the bathroom door.
Again, no answer.
I had no more time to waste.
“Noam, I’m coming in.”
I opened the door – he felt embarrassed, burst into tears and started kicking and hitting me.
“Noam, what is going on?!” I asked in a stern voice. (It was really challenging to keep my cool.) “I know something is going on and I want you to tell me about it.”
Kids know when we do not have any patience for them. They can hear it in our voice. My son knew that I was in a rush – that I was not really ready to sit and listen to him in that moment. And he was right.
Luckily my husband had just come home from Shul. (Here he comes to save the day.)
“Robbie – Noam is angry – can you please talk to him while I get everything else ready?”
Robbie took Noam into his room and helped him get ready for school.
“Abba, you know why I’m angry? Because Ima walked in on me while I was using the bathroom and I am so embarrassed!
“Okay, Noam. I’m sure Ima didn’t mean to embarrass you.”
“And you know what else?”
“School is too long. I work so hard every day. I am the only one in my class who speaks the least Hebrew. It’s just too long. I also miss you being around in school, in S.A.R. (the school he attended in Riverdale, NY – Robbie worked in the school.) I want to be in S.A.R. with you.”
Robbie’s heart broke.
“It’s hard for me too. I also miss working in SAR and being in school with you. But I also feel very lucky to be living here in Israel. We love you and we are here to support you. Thank you so much for telling me how you are really feeling. Ima and Abba care about you very much and we will help you get through this.”
When Robbie shared the conversation he had with Noam with me later that morning, my heart sunk.
Everything Noam expressed touched upon all of my own questions and fears about whether or not we made the right choice about our son’s school. Was this the best choice? Would he be happier somewhere else? Would he enjoy learning more in another school?
I could not wait for Noam to come home from school that day. It was a long day and all I wanted to do was give him a huge hug.
When it was time for him to come home, I met him outside with a big smile on my face. He had a big smile on his face too. I asked him how his day was. He said it was ‘good.’ I mentioned that he did not have school the next day because it was Erev Rosh Hashana. He was ecstatic.
“Woohoo!”, he shouted.
“Noam, are you happy in school?”
“Yes, but I am happier that we don’t have school tomorrow.”
“Oh. Yeah, I was thinking about it and I realized that you work really hard every day, translating everything from Hebrew to English in your head – and back from English to Hebrew. Your brain must hurt.”
“Yeah Ima, I need a day off.”
We laughed as he skipped home.
Reflecting on all this later that night, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, I felt sad for my little boy who was making such an amazing effort every single day – to learn, to make new friends, and to stay away from the boys who hit.
On the other hand, I was full of gratitude that he was able to express to us how he was really feeling.
My husband took the time to be fully present with him (I taught him well!); to let him know that he was there to listen to him. He took the time, and Noam felt encouraged enough to tell Robbie what was really going on.
Without knowing how he was really feeling – we would not know how to show him support.
Without making the time for him to tell us – we probably would have seen him as an angry, kicking, hitting, and screaming little boy.
I am so thankful Rob came home when he had.