As the proud owner of four full bathrooms, I often insist to my children that there’s no reason to wait for their brother to come out of the shower, because there are plenty of other facilities available.
But they all just gravitate to one bathroom in the entire house, and no reasoning will sway them. All the boys prefer the basement bathroom and shower. It’s newer, redone after Hurricane Sandy, and they’ve made their mark in that bathroom, much to Alana’s chagrin.
Now that Rosie is fully toilet trained, she’s taken a liking to my master bathroom, which really is less than ideal, as far as I’m concerned. She’s got a way about her, being the only girl in our family, and the youngest.
She throws doors open with gusto and makes herself known, always. Since she started school, she’s become more and more verbal and I delight daily in her ability to express herself so well.
I watch her thinking of the words before she says them, and know how proud she is of herself when she articulates, knowing it makes sense and that I can communicate with her.
Shortly after candle lighting, she throws my door open as I’m getting dressed, not caring what state she will find me in.
She announces that she needs to use my bathroom, and instead of trying to reason with the tyranny of a 3-year-old, I pray that she does what she needs to do and leaves before surveying my room and deciding that a few minutes after Shabbos would be the perfect time to
- Start brushing her teeth (with my toothbrush).
- Apply makeup (which she’ll insist I remove immediately after painting her face with crazy colors)
- Remove all of my shoes from their shelves and insist I try them all on for her.
I see her out of the corner of my eye as she formulates the words in her mind and then she speaks a sentence I didn’t expect to hear for at least a few years:
She says, “Mommy, I don’t have a daddy.”
It’s said matter-of-factly and without any trace of sadness because she’d have to know she had something in order to miss it, right?
These are words for her and I know they’re coming from some thought, but can a 3-year-old recall something that happened more than a year and a half ago, when she was a baby? What does memory feel like for a toddler?
I’d venture to think that’s way too young to grasp the concept of losing a father. But at three, she’s surmised that there is something called a “daddy” that other families have and ours does not. And she can tell me so.
I walk over to her in the bathroom and sit down. I feel emotional when I try to respond to her statement, and I know that if I start crying, it’ll be met with a different reaction than my other, older kids.
Which is why until now I always felt so safe letting myself cry in front of her. She’s not afraid of the grief that’s evoked when she makes a statement like that; she’s never felt it, and can’t anticipate it yet.
With my other kids, I’m more careful. I can allow them to see a certain amount of my own pain, but I don’t want to burden them with it on top of theirs. It’s my job to hold space for their feelings, not the other way around. I want them feeling safe and as if things are going to be OK, even when I don’t really know for sure myself.
Her older brothers are well aware that their father isn’t around and hasn’t been for a while, whereas this seems to be a new finding for our little Rosie.
“Rosie, who told you that?” I ask her.
“My teacher,” says Rosie. “I don’t have a daddy, but I have a mommy and an Alana,” she responds proudly.
“I have a Dovid and a Nison and a Yosef and a Gavi, too!” she adds.
I smile, flooded by amazement in her innocent natural ability to take something so sad and heavy and pivot to something so happy and positive.
To acknowledge that she lost something she never knew she had, but then immediately refocus on what she does have, that she loves and appreciates. Profound gratitude lesson from my preschooler.
My son Dovid has been working on himself for the better part of a year, trying his hardest to answer people who might, unknowingly, inquire on the whereabouts of his father. I wish I could protect my kids from these moments, but I can’t; they just need to get used to responding and managing their feelings as they come.
I know it’s so triggering, specifically because he knows what he had; it was a sophisticated relationship, and he misses it desperately every day now that it’s gone.
I know that my way is sometimes meeting hard-to-answer questions with a little humor. Even the really tough subject matter that we’ve become accustomed to addressing.
And so, while in the beginning of this journey, I might have stressed about having to raise babies on my own, and how I’d answer the toughest questions, in a way the easiest part of dealing with the loss were my little ones being too little to know what was happening.
Or how sad they should have been.
Or crying from the memories of their father and knowing all they’d have were those things to call upon when they missed him so much.
It just goes to show how perspectives change so drastically when something life-altering happens.
The gratitude and blessings in your life that you think won’t be as present or take precedence like they did before are still there and they mean more than ever before. The resilience of my children, and the thousands of other reasons, big and small, to remain happy and hopeful.
Rosie is so little, too little to even understand the gift she gave me in listing the reasons that she’s still so happy, despite the recent hard times, but in a way that’s what makes it so precious. That simple reminder that I can know Moshe’s gone, and still, not only despite but because of it, deeply appreciate who is still here, because of him.
Healing is a long process, and I’ve gotten in the habit of looking for lights along the way. One day, when my daughter is old enough, I’ll thank her for this gift, the moment where I got to look at our world through Rosie-colored glasses.
Malkie’s husband, Moshe, a’h, passed away at the age of 40. She has been sharing her thoughts and emotions with readers on her Instagram page @Kissthekoshercook. We are privileged to share her writings and reflections with our readership. May Moshe’s memory be a blessing for Malkie and her beautiful family.