Tonight My Daughter Will Celebrate Her First Passover
As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in my car outside my daughter’s day care. No worries, there’s no crying here, no major trauma. I’m trying to check things off my list while waiting for the start of “El dia de Primavera,” a celebration of the first day of spring.
Three months ago, after 36 hours of induction, 22 hours of labor, two hours of pushing and minutes of surgery I met my daughter – and my whole world turned over. I know it’s a cliché, but it is really true that motherhood changes things. But I guess we have clichés for a reason; they are so often true.
Tonight, we will celebrate her first Passover. She won’t taste this year’s menu – the latest selection from my father’s exploration of the global Jewish culinary traditions. She won’t remember the songs or be able to search for the afikomin. Odds are she won’t be awake past the second cup of wine. She is like the fourth child in the Haggadah, the child who is silent and doesn’t even know to ask. The Haggadah reminds us that it is our duty to tell this child the story of Passover and how God freed us from slavery. I was once the fourth child. When I was 18 at my first Sedar I didn’t even know enough to ask. But I learned this story of freedom and for me that freedom meant the liberty to discover my own path. That was the great gift my mother gave me.
As a mother, I get to teach my daughter about her rich and varied heritage, help her discover new worlds, and be there to guide her. I get to help her discover her own path – even if that path is away from the one I chose. I’m getting really ahead of myself here, I know. The poor girl doesn’t even sit up on her own yet, but I’m learning that this job of mother is a much bigger, tougher, and more terrifying than I could have ever imagined.
After all, I’m still getting used to my new identity. Those first several weeks were rough. Low milk supply, colicky baby, depression, anxiety, all while recovering from major abdominal surgery. More than once I seriously contemplated getting in my car and driving until I could drive no longer.
Going back to work was a relief. A relief that felt so forbidden. What kind of mother was I to be happy to have someone else take her daughter for hours a day? Turns out caring for a baby is really tough. There are people who go to school to learn all about how young children grow and develop, what is best to promote their development. They have actual skills in this area. I am highly trained in policy analysis, political organizing, Jewish organizational leadership, and project management. Nowhere in that extensive education did anyone teach me about tummy time, feeding routines, or how to sooth a colicky baby. It was all on the job training – and that job was not fully explained when I signed up for it!
But somehow we made it through the winter of my post partum discontent to arrive at the glowing spring of my daughter – my daughter who is more of a person every day. A daughter who smiles and roles from her tummy to her back, who laughed for the first time two days ago, and who can go to sleep in her own crib. Her personality is beginning to shine through and it is as bright and warm as the Texas mid-March sun.
Now that we’ve survived those first overwhelming and terrifying months, I’m starting to worry again. How do I help guide her formation as a person? How do I help her find her identity? I’m Jewish and Mexican-American. Her father was raised Catholic and his family is typical European-American mutt. My family is small and close knit and always in each other’s business. His is enormous and sprawling, and they only see each other a couple of times a year.
I was raised to learn and explore and was given the choice on what faith I would follow. Having chosen Judaism and lead my family into that rediscovery (which is a topic for another time) I made a promise to raise Jewish children. How do I do that, especially since I was never a Jewish child myself?