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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mothers and Daughters

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Today, I received a real gift -- special time with my youngest daughter.

Beit Natan sponsored an outing for mothers and daughters. My eldest was too busy -- she works as an assistant teacher in gymnastics on Wednesdays and she had a rehearsal for an upcoming play. My youngest was happy to come, and even missed her gymnastics class to spend the time together. She really loves gymanstics, so this is a BIG deal!

About twenty mothers and daughters met in the Aminadav Forest and participated in a program run by Etgarim. Two years ago, as part of Beit Natan's Summer Retreat, I participated in the Etgarim program for the first time. It was very challenging for me on multiple levels. In particular, it was the first time that I really came face to face with the physical limitations that cancer has imposed on me. You can read more about my experience here.

I had a very different experience this time.

Our first exercise was to cross the "rope bridge" (one rope to walk on and one rope to hold with both hands). Unlike two years ago, when we crossed alone, this time we would cross the bridge together with our daughters.

My daughter led the way, slowly, weighing down the rope just enough to make is easier for me. She stayed just a pace or two in front of me and really worked with me. I already knew how to guide her, and she took the instruction well. Once or twice I did need to ask the madricha (counselor) for assistance, but mostly we managed on our own. I don't think my daughter realized just how much she helped me.

It amazed me how naturally my daughter took to the ropes. She was completely comfortable and unafraid. She could travel and turn around on the ropes with ease. Towards the end of the bridge, she decided to have some fun and started bouncing up and down on the ropes. This was not fun for me. She thought that was very funny. I told her she was mean. She thought that was funny too. We had a good laugh together!

Afterwards, there was a group activity, on a different set of ropes. These ropes were set up such that one person was lifted to a top rope by two groups of women and girls, pulling two ropes from opposite directions. Then one group of girls had to pull extra to bring the person who was lifted to their side. This activity required the group work together as a whole.

At first, the madricha said there would not be time for more than one person to be lifted. All the daughters really wanted to be lifted, including mine. Several of the women were also interested, including me (no surprise there). My daughter, who is usually so quick to be mevater (acquiescing), told me quite strongly that she wanted to do this even more than she wanted to do the previous activity. So I joined the chorus of mothers who were appealing to the madricha to at least give all the daughters a turn.

In the end, all the daughters did have a turn to be lifted by the group and I was lucky to have a turn as well.

During both exercises, participants wrote notes to be dropped in a bottle at the end of the exercise. The first note: what we wish for ourselves during the coming year. The second note: what we wish for our daughters/mothers for the coming year.

What I wished for myself: health, less fear, an organized home, serenity at home, and energy.

After we finished the exercises, we sat in a circle for a short summary session. During the discussion, I noticed that many of the daughters had "run ahead" of their mothers while traversing the rope bridge. My daughter was really exceptional in that she really traversed the rope bridge along with me. She could have easily run ahead of me, but she did not. She chose to cross slowly, at my pace, so we could do it together.

I also realized that "crossing the bridge" is an analogy for children living with a mother with cancer -- some parts are easier and some parts are more difficult. During the difficult parts, we have to stick close and work together. During the easier parts, the children feel freer to go a little wild (like jumping up and down on the ropes).

It was a fun activity with a meaningful message.

Afterwards, there was a delicious Bar-B-Q dinner. The food was really good and I ate more than I have eaten in a while!

We sat with two other mothers and daughters (15 year olds). A journalist, who was there to cover the event, joined us. I found it fascinating to hear my daughter's answers to her questions.

My daughter's insights and maturity were impressive for one so young. She answered questions thoughtfully and openly; she is not usually so candid about how she experiences my cancer. For me, this was perhaps the greatest testimony to the power of this event.

I think it was also good for her to hear the answers of the other girls.

After dinner, the group gathered for singing. I love singing, but I could not stay. I had to leave early to get to the aseifat horim (parent's meeting) at my eldest daughter's school.

To my surprise, my daughter decided to stay. She did not know anyone before we got there. Yet she chose to stay for the rest of the program. One of the girls from our table (and her mother), promised to make sure my daughter got on the right bus to go home.

And then off she went. My baby. Finding her own way.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,


Staying Afloat said...

How amazingly wonderful. What a gift of an opportunity! May you continue to enjoy her and be close for years and years to come.

When I was younger, we also did rope courses for team building. I always wondered what it was about ropes that brought people together. Reading this post, I remember a show on which I got to see a demonstration of how one makes rope- you twist a bazillion strands of twine tighter and tighter, and eventually the composite is strong enough to move mountains. That sounds like relationship building to me.

Mindy said...

I read this year's and last year's posts on your Etgarim program and I am sitting here with tears in my eyes. What a life-building experience. My youngest daughter was only three when I had my first round of thyroid cancer. She has grown up nuturing me; at times taking on the role I didn't have the strength to do. I have purposed to try not to let it bother me, it is making her a more thoughtful, caring, need-meeting young lady. It seems your daughter has those same instincts and I am thankful for that blessing she was to you.

After my first treatment I turned 40. I went water-skiing with some friends, something I hadn't done for about 25 years. I got up the first time and skiied for a short time until I thought my arms were going to pull off. When I was done I sat on the back of the boat and wept. I wept with joy that I skiied, but wept with grief that it was so hard.

So will our lives ever be.

toby said...

Wow! That was really powerful.