Last year one of my kids told me a secret he’d been harboring for a while, all alone. While it didn’t surprise me, but you couldn’t have paid me $5 billion in 1995 (adjusted for inflation) to tell my parents such a thing.
So why did he tell me?
I’ll answer with another story first. ?
This same teen came home around midnight after a Motzei Shabbos pizza run with friends last week. My husband and I had just (read: finally!) hit the pillow. Lights were out. We were exhausted from a day of entertaining and a night of clean up.
“Hey, Mom, wanna’ talk?” came our 17-year-old’s voice from the other side of the bedroom door.
“Sure,” I said, lifting my body out of bed.
“What’s up?” I asked, nonchalantly, sprawling across the empty bed in his room.
He shared a few funny moments from the night and asked a scheduling question about the coming week. We didn’t talk long – he had to wake up for yeshiva bright and early. Ten minutes later, I was back in my bed.
Those 10 minutes — when I was tired, had zero interest in spending quality time with any human being, and when said teenager didn’t even have much to say — are the chief reason he shares with me when it counts.
Trusting relationships are built in the small moments.
It’s on the 20 minute drive to the airport (you could have easily sent them in an Uber), the walk to a playdate just a few blocks away, the lunch you had to reschedule a meeting to take them to, the moments you’re dozing together on the couch Shabbos afternoon, that those random but super deep questions about how babies are conceived (Challenge: How long can you kick that can down the road?), are born.
Yes, you’ve got to be present at the Shabbos table with a d’var Torah, you’ve got to show up for PTA conferences, you’re needed to cheer at the Sunday afternoon soccer game and you’ve got to pick up their carpool from the class birthday party. Those “musts” are the foundation and backbone — the wallpaper, if you will — of parenthood.
Next level relationships, though, are built in the small moments when you least expect it, but only arrive there because you put in effort to make them happen.
There’s something about the sweat you’ve put in at that moment — or maybe it’s cumulative over time — that sends a message to your kid’s brain: They get me. It’s safe to share.
I’m writing this on a flight to Israel, as I chase those same small moments with my married daughter, son in law and son learning there. I’m pretty confident the connection I’m craving won’t happen over our expensive dinner in Mamila, but instead on the hot, sticky walk to the Kosel on Shabbos afternoon at the precise moment I’m questioning my judgement in walking vs. taxiing there Motzei Shabbos.
But, by all measures, the cost of cleaning a sweat-dripped sheitel will have been worth the priceless relationship we both gain in exchange.
Start sweating the small moments. They’re the ones that count.
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