Minnesota Mamaleh: The Heart of a Family

Yad B’Yad, Nelech Beyachad Hand in Hand, We’ll Walk Together

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner and my parents’ anniversary today, I have love on the brain. My love, to be exact.
Judaism beautifully explains the idea of a soul mate. Bashert. The story goes something like this . . .
Forty days before a male is conceived, a voice from heaven announces whose daughter he will marry; quite literally a match made in heaven. Awww, right? While marrying your bashert doesn’t necessarily promise lifelong happiness together, it certainly seems like a good place to start.
I love the romantic notion of being predestined for each other and truly believe that Jason and I were  meant to be what we are today. Not the sleep deprived-sometimes grumpy-stretched to the max that we are today. But the happy-committed-still in love-together that we are today.
Jason and I met online over a decade ago. At the time meeting someone over the internet was gasp-worthy and new. We met in a “20-something” chat room. “jazz2nite” and “23sweetgirl.” Is that too much information? Or just embarrassing? Oh well. Now you know.

First weekend together. We were BABIES!

We connected online somewhere around Halloween 1999. I flew from California to Wisconsin to meet him in person in January 2000, and honestly? We’ve been together ever since. We stayed long distance for the rest of that school year, draining both of our wallets with monthly visits. And then I moved to Minnesota into a horrid, horrid apartment that July. Without a job. Without a car. Without knowing a soul in the Midwest. Besides Jason.
How’s that for a less than well thought out plan? I’m not sure what I would say to my own kids if they announced anything like…that. Put my foot down? Yell? Forbid? Bless my parents for not saying much of anything at all. A true feat for an Israeli Mamaleh, wouldn’t you say? They might have known deep down that I would have gone ahead with everything as planned no matter what was said (or yelled) because I knew without a shadow of a doubt that Jason and I were made for each other.
At the time, we had “tests” for prospective dates. Jason’s were spicy foods, chopstick skills and Star Wars. Mine were Thai food and “Tuesdays with Morrie.” Real deep, right? Little did we know, daily life naturally tests couples.

My favorite wedding photo

Shortly after our one year anniversary, we got pregnant with Kayli. And while we were thrilled beyond belief, I was worried about some things. Not about what I should have been worried about, mind you, like the tremendous responsibility we were taking on: another life, another soul. In our care. Nope. There were other, more pressing things on my mind. I was worried about sharing Jason. What if she wants to sit between us at dinner? Um, little did I know, she (plus two) would end up sleeping between us at night! I couldn’t imagine anything better than just the two of us and I was worried about the changes that having children would bring.
And the learning curve was HUGE. I was baby bluesy, Kayli was colicky, nursing was hard, we were both exhausted and in a very short time we went down to a quarter of the salary that we were accustomed to. Kayli was the first real test that life gave us and we felt good enough about the results to have two more kids. That’s a good sign, I suppose!
Today, it’s hard to really remember what our life was like before kids. I might miss a few little things. Like the spontaneity of going to a Sunday night movie.  Or sleeping in. Like the real 10:00 or later kind of sleeping in. Or dividing our money to meet two people’s needs, rather than five.  But in reality, our life, our relationship, our love has grown exponentially stronger by having kids.
Obviously,we have moments that we’re not proud of. Who doesn’t? We could each be a bit more thoughtful here. A tad more helpful there. More understanding. More giving. There’s always potential for more. But let’s call a spade a spade: we are truly blessed to be together. And realizing that and continually working on it is truly at the heart of our family.
Does it surprise you that I believe that? My kids are at the center of my universe right now for two reasons. The first is that they’re always there– as in when I eat, sleep and even go to the bathroom– there they are. How could I not focus on them? And the second reason is that the love and bond between a mother and child is overwhelmingly, shockingly…intoxicating. I had no idea that you could love anyone like this.
But in reality, being parents is just one chapter in our long life together. We’re creating our family unit and attempting to express, model and live what we believe and want to pass onto our children. Our own relationship is at the center of that tall order because after our kids are grown and out of our home, we’ll still have ourselves and each other so we need to focus on and love us, too! Nurturing ourselves and our relationship looks different than it did before kids. But it’s still just as important.

My happily ever after

Even though our life is indeed different, we still (try to!) follow some of the advice

And my parents’ happily ever after…35 years today! Mazels!

that we got at our wedding and honey-moon.
Always be kind. Say yes more often than no. Keep the conversation going even if you’re too tired to keep your eyes open. Take interest in each others passions.
I can talk Fantasy Football and Jason can pick out a scrapbooking technique with the best of ’em.
Laugh. And remember that you’re on the same team.
Actually, remember that you are the team. Jason and I were “discussing” something recently and after a particularly emotional reaction from me he paused for a moment and then said, “You’re difficult. But at least consistently difficult so I know what to expect.” Why thank you, my bashert. That’s exactly the kind of team I’d like to be a part of– one that knows me, understands me and loves me and is committed to us anyway.
Kids drain every ounce of absolutely everything that you’ve got. But somewhere amidst the wonderful mess that is a  family is you as a couple. Keep each other at the heart of your family to model a good relationship for your kids and to be that good relationship for you. You all deserve it.