Parental Choreography- Goodbye Trouble by Ori Lenkinski
*originally published in Hebrew as part of the Parental Choreography blog on Haaretz
Six weeks after my first child was born, I did my first post-birth interview with an artist who happened to be a choreographer I greatly admire. She has a child who is exactly one year older than mine. Before getting into a talk about her new creation, we discussed our newfound parenthood briefly.
“Does it get easier?” I asked her. At that point I was still in shock by the whole baby thing.
“No. It doesn’t get easier, the difficulty changes,” she replied.
In time, I experienced her words. Breastfeeding, diaper changes and stroller woes were replaced by pacifier rehab, language challenges and the emotional rollercoaster of phasing into nursery school. Then those were replaced by social hurdles, body awareness and the school system.
Raising children constantly meets us with new challenges, with situations we don’t understand and must fashion an approach to quickly. It is an ongoing growing process and it requires a great deal of patience, ingenuity and growth.
Now, as anyone who knows me will attest, I am not one for sugar-coating. In fact, I have suspended friendships upon feeling that I was being nudged in too positive a direction while trying to rant. Once, in a particularly dark moment in those first few weeks, I confessed to a childhood friend that I was in the weeds. “Really? Those first months of parenting were so blissful for me. I can’t imagine it being difficult.”
I didn’t speak to her for about a year after that.
That said, I do think that it is important to stop and recognize when an old difficulty has passed. We are often so focused on grappling with and decoding the newest hardship that we forget to mark the end of an old one.
A few nights ago, I woke up in the middle of the night. I instinctively glanced at the baby monitor to check if I was awake because of a noise coming from the camera end. The little one was fast asleep. I got up and peered into their room. Both were sleeping soundly, splayed out on their beds.
As I returned to my room, I realized that the nights had become much easier recently. Where weeks before I was woken up every two hours or so, suddenly we turned a corner and were roused once a night if at all. Wow. What a change. After months, years, of longing for a quiet night of sleep, I got it. And, had it not been for that one moment of awareness, I doubt I would have taken the time to recognize that things, at least sleep things, had gotten easier.
When I was studying dance in New York, I used to attend open classes at Steps on Broadway, a sun-washed multi-studio complex above a Fairway on the Upper West Side. It had the feel of a Degas painting.
I enjoyed taking class with one ballet teacher in particular, even though she scared me a bit. Her name was Peff Modelski. She was tall, in her 60’s, had frosted blond hair that was always coiffed in a 1920’s bouffant and arrived each day with her Bichon Frise. She was very old school in her approach but had these incredible jewels of advice that she would dole out between pirouettes and high jumps.
One hot day, we were moaning about an exercise she had demonstrated. No one could get it right.
“It can’t all be hard, you know. If nothing’s easy, you won’t know when something is actually hard,” she said.
Her advice can be applied to so much in life. It has been useful for me as a dancer and useful for me as a parent.
It isn’t about being an optimist or a pessimist. Maybe it’s about being in the moment, celebrating progress as much as we worry over our trials.