Yesterday I picked up my eldest grandchild from her ballet class. She is 7 and she is about to be in her first concert with her class of 8 little girls. She wasn’t quite finished when I came and she invited me in to watch her rehearsal.
She is tall and lean and leggy, and she has been learning ballet for only a few months, but she really looks the part with the white leotard and pink slippers and little crossover cardy. I don’t think that I will spoil anything by telling you that her dance is to ‘I want to be where the people are’ from The Little Mermaid, and she isn’t Ariel. She was tippy-toeing and wafting her arms around in the chorus and doing little jumps and knee bends (we used to call them petits jetes and plies and porte-de-bras, but I guess they don’t anymore) and I did what I usually do every time I see little kids trying so hard to do things that the teacher wants; I cried. I am such a sook, and anyone who knows me will think I am making this all up. After all, my own kids used to call me Mr Spock, for my lack of emotional demonstrativeness and my tendency to intellectualize away everything. And the other thing I used to do, which I deeply regret, was to be critical. I always felt that it was dishonest to gush over every little thing and that it would be more instructive for the child to know that, say, the piano playing wasn’t that great and it wouldn’t be great unless more practice was going to happen. Or the toe wasn’t pointed properly and the arms were a bit stiff. Here, do it like this! (I did ballet and tap for 6 years, from age 6-12, even though I was a heifer. RAD training, exams and medals and everything. But then I really was too fat and embarrassed to continue. Yet your body never forgets.) What I should have done was realized that my kids, in fact, most kids, are unlikely to actually become ballerinas or concert pianists, and they should just enjoy what they were doing, and I should stop trying to live my thwarted dreams through them and just praise, praise, praise. But even back then, put me in the audience and put a bunch of little kids on stage and get me the Kleenex box.
So the ballet chorus comprised little girls of different heights and sizes and abilities, and they all looked like little pure angels, and they were enjoying themselves, and I was sniffling away trying not to look like an idiot- this whole thing took not more than 5 minutes- and I got a bit of a quizzical look from my granddaughter. But she took it all in her stride and we went home and that was that.
Today I accompanied my daughter with her new baby to have his 6-week-old immunizations. He is Baruch HaShem, a lovely plump baby with beautiful smooth olive skin and dark eyes, and he is just starting to smile and coo; he is, in short, adorable. Sure, he kvetches a bit and burps and farts like a navvy, but that’s to be expected.
I preface the next comments with a statement of the fact that I am strongly pro-vaccination. I have engaged in many an argument about vaccination and all I know is that I won’t change the mind of anyone who is strongly on the other side of the fence; maybe I have encouraged a few of those mums who are sitting on said fence to have their children immunized. Most vaccines are so effective that we have forgotten why we use them, because we just don’t see tetanus, diphtheria and polio anymore. We don’t see much measles or mumps, either the misery of the diseases or, more important, the complications and post-infective syndromes, such as encephalitis or sterility. We hardly see epiglottitis due to Hemophilus anymore, and that was a shocker. We don’t see many rubella-affected newborns, and the disaster that this is. I don’t intend to list every vaccine-preventable disease here. Yes, some vaccines are better and some are worse. Better approaches to pertussis immunization of carers means fewer unimmunized newborns are dying of whooping cough.
Anyway, I’m not on a crusade here, that’s not what I’m writing about. I’m writing about how I wanted to grab the baby and run. And how the sight of the needle sinking into the plump little thigh and the absolutely affronted protest from the baby- twice! 2 jabs!- made me want to leap the vaccine fence and head for the hills. But I didn’t. He cried for a few seconds, had a bit of a breastfeed and fell asleep. He is fine. He will be fine, please G-d. He has been through worse, when he had his Brit Milah, and I am NOT NOT NOT going to get into any fights about that with anyone, not today, not tomorrow and not again. He is a beautiful Jewish baby and he will not die of tetanus or diphtheria or polio or any of these nasties. This is a lesson in the way of the world; there is Chessed- love, kindness- and there is Gevurah- strength, boundaries, discipline. It’s a balance. Through the Gevurah of the needle, he has the Chessed of the blessing of good health. That’s how I see it. You can choose to disagree.
So I got teary at a ballet concert rehearsal and I had a subdued panic attack at the doctor. This grandparenting caper ain’t for sissies.