This weekend is Joanie’s baby naming ceremony, a Jewish tradition in which a baby girl (usually newborn, but obviously not always) is given her Hebrew name along with blessings by a rabbi and her loved ones. We chose a Hebrew name, Hephzibah, that honors her Grandpa Herb, Drew’s dad, who died six months ago, and that means “our delight is in her.” And it is!
This morning, I was walking Jackson to his spring break camp, a trial run before we commit to summer enrollment, carrying Joanie in the ergo, when a white-haired woman walking a white dog struck up a conversation with us.
“I have two boys,” she said after Jackson introduced himself and Joanie flashed a smile, “But they’re grown and have kids of their own now.”
We chatted a little more before we went our separate ways, and, as we parted, she said, “Enjoy them. It goes too fast!”
Of course, that isn’t the first time I’ve heard that sentiment. When you have young children — and especially a baby — you hear it all the time. When Jackson was much younger, long before Joanie came along, I used to get mildly upset when someone would tell me to “enjoy every moment.” Didn’t they realize that so many of those moments included cleaning up multiple body fluids, dealing with endless screaming fits, being told I’m mean, and doing it all on little to no sleep?
And then Joanie came and Jackson matured and a lightness enveloped our family. Joanie has a buoyant spirit that has acted as a salve on the postpartum blues and tribulations I carried from my earliest years of motherhood. She has helped to soften me and helped me to love more patiently in a way I wish I’d been doing all along. She is making me a better mother to her brother, whose spirit, if not as buoyant as hers, is wonderfully complex and deeply kind.
The rabbi has asked Drew and me to write our wishes and blessings for Joanie that we’ll share at her baby naming this weekend. My ultimate wish for her is that she will continue to shine and carry her lightness with her everywhere she goes for the rest of her life. It will illuminate the shadows that give home to fears, protect her from darkness that looms in unexplored corners, and, I hope, attract the light in others.
My wish for her is that she will balance her lightness with a strong sense of self, fierce independence, and a fine-tuned bullshit detector that saves her, not from a broken heart or a bruised ego, but from ever losing faith in herself, the power of compassion and forgiveness, or the belief that good can prevail.
As the white-haired woman with the little white dog told me to enjoy every moment, I looked at my kids and then said to her something I never say because it sounds so cheesy. But I’ve realized, cheesy or not, it’s true, and maybe, contrary to what I’ve thought in the past, it’s even cordial to acknowledge sometimes.