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Early Riser
Mom with a View

Early Riser

Sometimes the best opportunities for growth are standing right in front of you.


You've been there, right? It's one of those early mornings where you just can't sleep. Hoping to put a positive spin on the situation you get out of bed and decide to do some work -- a little housekeeping, a little paid work, a little learning, perhaps even a spiritual accounting (It is Elul after all!). It's dark and quiet; you have some of that rare and treasured privacy. You're alone as the house sleeps. Maybe getting up at five isn't so bad after all. Maybe it's worth trying on a regular basis.

And then you hear it. The pitter patter of little feet. The "Mommy I can't sleep" or "Eema I had a bad dream" or "It's too hot in my room." Deflated, you resign yourself to extra hours of child care instead of the imagined quiet thinking and growing space. You turn to your child with a warm smile and a hug, "How can I help you sweetheart?"

Did I get the scenario right? It's what occurred in my home one recent morning -- almost. Everything except that last line. There was no smile, warm or otherwise, no hug, no pleasant greeting. I was annoyed and frustrated. "What are you doing up?" "Get back into bed." "So read a boring book." "Then just shut your eyes and lie there." A new response for every interruption. I tried to recapture the earlier moments of focus and peace but to no avail.

What had happened to my learning time? When was I ever going to fit in that spiritual growth?

As I sent a tired, grumpy child off to school, I faced the obvious. The Almighty had a given me an opportunity for spiritual growth; I just hadn't recognized it. I had blown that one big time.

My child's early rising was not a distraction from my goal; it actually offered the possibility of its fulfillment. I could have been patient. I could have been kind. I could have been loving. I could have lifted out of myself. Could have and should have.

Words and classes about the month of preparation before the High Holidays are empty without practical application.

Real spiritual change is evidenced by how we behave, not by how much we read.

I could have put my thoughts about growth into action. How could I fall back on my child's interruptions as an excuse not to? There will always be interruptions. There will always be excuses. That's part of the challenge.

I'm embarrassed by how quickly I slipped into familiar unproductive patterns, how easily I allowed all thoughts of character change to slip from my mind as I nudged and fussed and complained.

I feel foolish thinking that I needed to ignore the real life learning experience in front of me in order to read about growth in a book.

Real spiritual change and accomplishment is evidenced by how we behave, not by how much we read (even if we highlight it in various colors).

Although I didn't take advantage of this morning's opportunity (to put it mildly), I'm heartened by the thought of tomorrow. It's a new day and I really plan to do better.

September 13, 2008

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Visitor Comments: 6

(6) Jessica Blanks, September 18, 2008 3:31 AM

Thank you I needed that

Well, I was up this morning at 4am with a very alert and active 4 yr old and I happened to open the Aish website for a little lift. My annoyed feelings have changed to thankful ones as I think about the special time we can have together. Thanks

(5) Emes, September 16, 2008 10:15 PM

The first step is admitting the truth

Well, I think an important part of Teshuva - repentance - is of course saying that you are not perfect and made an error. By doing this you improve the chance of not repeating the error and also ensure that you will remember it. Usually a person remembers his mistake extremely well (How does a guy remember his wife's birthday? Forget it once). We usually learn from mistakes...that is if we are wise enough to learn from them. Thank You for the thought provoking article.

(4) ruth housman, September 16, 2008 2:30 PM

"rising" to the occasion

You are so right about opportunities missed and how, in retrospect, what WAS important, was taking the time to be with the children, or for whatever help you could give, to bring a little light into a problem situation. We all act and react and sometimes, the meditative act, brings us to our "higher" purpose. You have learned an important lesson. We all fall down, sometimes.

(3) DaJoy, September 16, 2008 12:02 PM

so true. this happens!

Thanks so much for such an honest story, and real reminder! Life isn't about when I get "alone time kollel" for me, its about doing mitzvot and derech eretz, including with my own family.

(2) chaya Leah, September 16, 2008 11:56 AM

real change is in the seemingly insignificant things..

this article really hit it off for me! i was feeling- like it's ellul and i feel like i am not doing anything inspiring but then I tell myself that my job as a mother and wife is to be at home and not running to every speech in town to feel inspired. I can inspire myself by just being the best person that i can be by just doing my role properly. It's funny that we tend to think that we can only connect to our inner spiritual thoughts and to H-shem when we are alone and without any distractions - i've learnt that I can incorporate H-shem into every moment of my life. From asking Him that my morning go well and that no one throws an unexpected tantrum and that everyone gets ready on time for their buses and carpools and doesn't leave anything behind at home, or that my shopping should be successful or that the cake or supper come out good or to help me park well into a squishy spot.. it's endless but if you become accustomed to inviting H-shem into all your daily activities you'll not only feel more connected but you'll begin to see hashgach pratis in all your actions and become more of an appreciative person - and hakara hatov breeds good feelings and closeness to the H-shem -the Source of everything.

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