A woman visits her rabbi to ask his advice on how to handle her family’s cramped living quarters.
“Rabbi, we only have one small room and my husband and children and I are always bumping into each other. It’s so noisy and chaotic. What should I do?” The rabbi asks, “Do you have chickens, goats and a cow? Bring them into the house.” The woman is confused, but faithfully goes home and does as the rabbi says.
A week later she returns, even more overwhelmed and in distress. “Rabbi, the house was small before, but now with the chickens, goats and cow, I can hardly think or breathe. What should I do?” The rabbi’s solution: “Send the animals out. Now you’ll appreciate how peaceful and spacious your home is.” And sure enough, she did.
Sending the kids back to school today after having them home for 10 days, I felt like the woman in the parable. While there certainly were many moments of joy and merriment, spending the week without our usual routine was tougher than usual.
I know I’m not alone. It can be a challenge for many special needs families, especially those with kids for whom routine is essential. In my case, my son’s attention span is so short and his independent play skills so limited that it’s difficult for him to be alone without tearing the house apart. (He might be small and seem pretty angelic, but he can find a lot of cabinets to empty while I run to the bathroom.) To spend a week at home with him is to completely surrender: my expectations, my agenda, even my inner thoughts. Email and texts pile up, along with laundry and toys. My patience was tested. Often it failed miserably.
Luckily, the intensity ebbed and flowed. We did have some wonderful moments watching Tintin, at the community pool, taking the subway into the city. I appreciate that they were only possible because we were out of our routine.
But today, alone in a quiet house, with the most urgent to-dos from the past week completed, with my six words strung together, with my clean hair and matching socks, I am filled with a warm gratitude to the predictable banality of our everyday routine that, I realize now, works. Not perfectly, but it works. Cheers to you, same old, same old!