During the holiday, our littlest one was showing signs of unease, not really able to calm down, over-nursing and then returning it too soon. And we checked the back of the neck for fever, asked about the diapers (I for sure thought it was too much matzah on the part of our daughter, but she claimed that she wasn’t eating that much to make her have a problem), was she pulling on her ears, and you know, the usual things you do to try to figure out why a baby isn’t happy. But it wasn’t getting better and we were all getting worried, so we dispatched ISHI to the neighbor’s. In the past, we’ve had to trek out to neighbors who live at least a half-hour away, when the kiddies were here and someone got sick over Shabbat or a Jewish holiday. But these neighbors have moved in recently and the wife is a pediatrician! Three houses away!!! Sure enough, the wife would be home soon and would be happy [the husband was sure] to come over to check the baby out.
And she did, stepping over the thousands of Legos and game pieces and food boxes and people and chairs. And she ever so calmly checked her out, ruling out basically everything. They retired to a quiet room and she (well, actually both she’s) eventually fell asleep and calmed down.
The neighbor doctor came back, a little while later, bringing a thermometer. We mentioned that we didn’t have one, so…
I never used a thermometer when my kids were little. I could tell hot from normal with my hand. Today, everything is digital. I understand.
Today, I went over to their house, bringing a plant and returning the thermometer. The husband had just pulled into the driveway (I actually tried to bring it over the other day, but no one was home), so it was good timing. He was happy to get the plant–he’s into gardening–and it’s around her birthday time, so definitely welcome. But please, keep the thermometer–they’re always getting free samples.
He was happy to volunteer his wife to come over, because that’s what community is. We help each other. And he was happy we thought of them and of course, she was happy to be useful, although she’d prefer that it not be for emergencies.
Do you hear the wistfulness in my words?
Before I walked over there, I had spent a little while raking the front yard of the leaves that had escaped in the fall. There was a young woman who walked by with her baby in the stroller and she marveled at the leaf scoops I was using. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her before. We did not exchange names, just suggestions for where to buy the scoops.
Before that, I said hi to my neighbor, who had just come back from a bike ride. We exchanged pleasantries about how nice it is to have our homes back to ourselves, now that our kids have gone back to their homes after the holiday, and we both knew we were lying.
Before that, I had been raking and thinking how much I will not miss this, when we move to Israel. I also thought about the Skype conversation we had with our daughter and her little one in Israel, the same little one who we had been worried about just a week earlier, who seemed to be finding the right mixture of good elements for their upcoming move there this summer. Housing, schools, jobs–hopefully, and with G-d and the villages’ help, they will be successful.
Because yesterday, I had seen (via Facebook) an article in the Los Angeles Times about the Kvetch Circle.
(Illustration by Wes Bausmith / Los Angeles Times)
Here are the rules. The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can kvetch and complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, “Life is unfair” and “Why me?” That’s the one payoff for being in the center ring.
Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings.
When you are talking to a person in a ring smaller than yours, someone closer to the center of the crisis, the goal is to help. Listening is often more helpful than talking. But if you’re going to open your mouth, ask yourself if what you are about to say is likely to provide comfort and support. If it isn’t, don’t say it. Don’t, for example, give advice. People who are suffering from trauma don’t need advice. They need comfort and support. So say, “I’m sorry” or “This must really be hard for you” or “Can I bring you a pot roast?” Don’t say, “You should hear what happened to me” or “Here’s what I would do if I were you.” And don’t say, “This is really bringing me down.”
If you want to scream or cry or complain, if you want to tell someone how shocked you are or how icky you feel, or whine about how it reminds you of all the terrible things that have happened to you lately, that’s fine. It’s a perfectly normal response. Just do it to someone in a bigger ring.
Comfort IN, dump OUT.
I know I’m combining themes here, but not really.
How do we effectively take care of people? How do we create a caring society? How do we let people have a clue? How I am grateful for a community where we do try to work this out.
But on the other hand, when people refuse to let themselves be truly cared for, that village is in trouble. When the inner circle is so tightly wound, you just might not be able to have real support.
Now what do we do about that?