I’ve never been a daily-planner kind of gal. I rarely mark upcoming appointments on my calendar or create to-do lists to get me through the week. Though no one would accuse me of being a neat-freak, I am oddly organized, at least within my own head. Somehow, I know when the dentist appointments are, when the school performances are, and which days I have carpool, without having to write it all down in some pocket planner.
Or at least I used to think that was true.
Now, out of nowhere, my son Tzvi decided to test my brain-space theory.
He used to be the kind of kid who was content staying at home and losing himself in the world of books. Keeping up with his daily schedule was easy: wave him off to school in the morning and greet him with a smile when he got back. But when he reached the age of 12, he suddenly underwent a personality transplant.
He still loves to read, and I need to call his name 77 times and swat him over the head with a broom handle if I want his attention while he is immersed in a book, but of late he isn’t content burrowing in the couch pillows and hanging out with fictional characters. Suddenly, he also wants to go.
He wants to join the yeshivah football league and the yeshivah baseball league. He wants me to drive him across town for the hockey game his friends are putting together. In a matter of months, I went from one Tzvi-related carpool to five Tzvi-related carpools, in five different directions, and at 57 different times.
It’s been impossible to keep track of where and when and whom I am supposed to be driving.
And just when I thought Tzvi and I had reached our carpool ceiling, he sprang a new on me: Could he please join a nightly learning program?
I could never say no to that!
But wait….Another carpool?
I had to hide my panic. I couldn’t let him see that I was anything but enthusiastic about his desire to learn, but as he filled me in on the details, I could feel my trepidation growing. Only he and one other boy from the neighborhood were joining. That meant I would have to drive at least one way every single night.
I decided to let him try it for a week.
Of course, Tzvi loved the program. And why wouldn’t he? The program is funded by some very generous balabatim. Not only do they pay the boys $1 every night just for showing up, they also provide a buffet of delicious hot food.
The program is self-driven – the boys learn if they want to learn, and they schmooze if they want to schmooze. There is no one supervising. There is no one making sure the boys don’t spend every minute enjoying the cholent instead of the sefarim.
On the last day of our test-run, I decided to ask Tzvi and his buddy a few questions, to see if the schlep was all worth it.
“So, how is the program going?” I asked. “Do you learn the entire time, or do you spend some time schmoozing?”
The boys glanced guiltily at each other, and two red spots appeared on Tzvi’s cheeks.
“Well, um, we schmooze in learning most of the time,” he admitted.
I hid my smile. “Schmooze in learning? What exactly does that mean?”
Tzvi’s friend cut in. “We talk about stuff we learned in yeshivah and, um, other things that happened in yeshivah.”
I bit my cheek. Other things? Like baseball scores?
“We practice our leining together too,” Tzvi added with a shy shrug.
I nearly laughed out loud. Tzvi was exactly one week and one pasuk into his leining lessons.
But was it worth the headache of another carpool if they weren’t really learning?
It was a tough call. But I realized something important.
When I drive Tzvi to baseball leagues, it’s not because I think he is playing major league ball. It’s because I understand that he is developing important skills: the willingness to be a team player, the ability to cheer on those who are struggling, and the capacity to win and lose with grace.
The same could be said about his new learning program. I’m not driving him every night because he is currently shteiging like a real masmid. I’m driving him because I know this program is another opportunity for him to gain an appreciation for our Torah values.
He may be there for the kishke, but he’s also absorbing the importance of carving out time amidst the chaos for Torah learning. That’s a lesson I hope he can take with him for the rest of his life.
So, as I weave through traffic, schlepping the younger ones in and out of car seats, I hope I am driving home a very important message to Tzvi and all of my kids: Your interests matter to me. Your personal development matters to me. Your Torah learning matters to me.
As I accept the Torah once again this Shavuos, I can appreciate that women sacrifice for Torah in so many ways. Some of us sacrifice by enabling our husbands to learn. Some of us sacrifice by doing yet another late-night carpool.
For me, my sacrifice this year is that I am finally (gulp!) buying myself a daily planner.
I may never have considered myself a daily-planner kind of gal, but it’s a small price to pay for what I know will be an eternal reward.