Monday, July 17, 2006

She who laughs, lasts?

It is in moments like this that the memory of that smug bastard surfaces.

At a September 2001 break-the-fast party, I talked to a friend of the hosts, a Conservative Jew who didn't do too much to hide that he found my life a bit odd. The party's hosts were East Coast Jews of a type I knew well: educated, urban, cynical and funny. They were more religious than I, but that isn't saying much. Their friends were an observant couple with two young children. The father Jonah was a self-satisfied but chatty guy with whom I did not find much in common, but around whom I felt too polite to walk away. (It may be an artifact of my life as a secular Jew that I feel somewhat uncomfortable around Jews who make no secret of their greater religious observance. It makes me feel unauthentic, like I don't deserve my claim to Jewishness.)

In my memory, Jonah has become more intense, more observant, more self-righteous than he probably was. Jonah was probably just this guy with an unfulfilling job and a fulfilling family and God. In any case, he'd asked me about family. Did we want kids? We we trying? I told him our plan, that we'd be trying soon, so that we could have a baby a few months before we moved from Rhode Island. Jonah looked at me, smiling.

"Do you know how to make God laugh?"

I played along. "How?"

"Make plans."

If I had not already been feeling uncomfortable, this would still have pushed me over the edge. I don't remember how I got out of the conversation, but I didn't think too much more about it. Once our attempts to conceive went on past six, past nine, past twelve months, I started to think of Jonah and his dim view of my desire to plan. I think of him a lot when life with Ada makes planning difficult. Saturday was one of those days.

Lately Chris and I have been struggling with Ada's erratic naps and have put off going places while we waited for her to tire and sleep. Friday night I decided that I wasn't going to do that on Saturday. I'd get up with Ada when she woke up at 6:30 or 7. We'd eat breakfast and I'd quickly get her dress and out the door. That way I would be sure to get to the farmer's market before she needed a morning nap, if she needed one. Great, except Ada woke up just before 5 am. By 7 she was zonked, and went down for a two hour nap. Jonah and his smug God-humor sprang immediately to mind.

After a nap of my own and some Ada-free morning time, I reassessed. When Ada woke up we went to the farmers market for raspberries and peaches. We ran into friends and played in the grass. After a second nap we went out to a street fair to visit with more friends, dance in the street and eat gelato.

So yes, Jonah is right that as a parent I can't always have things the exact way I plan. But that doesn't mean I can not make plans. I can, and I do as long as I am flexible. Making flexible plans lets me leave the house and doing fun things in the city without forcing my child into a schedule that doesn't work for her.


  1. First. I HATE that saying.

    And second, the naps have and always will rule our lives.

    It's the only thing that I am a stickler about. Naps must occur.

  2. What the hell? Why would you ask someone a question about their life's direction, and then ridicule the idea that they have a plan? Was he expecting you to say, "Oh, it's in God's hands" or was he just trying to use his "funny" line?

    I think perhaps God laughs at self-absorbed jerks who use Her as cocktail party humor. Then I hope She smites them, just a little.

  3. first off, jonah sounds like a pompus jerk. second, the key is to bend. have a path, but bend. and who the hell really cares how to make god laugh? we mere mortals are too busy to worry about stuff like that.

  4. To me the purpose of being religious is to seek understanding of God and then try to emulate the divine.

    I don't think it is bad advice to be ready to laugh when you have to adjust your plans. But my God isn't smug (something I still have to work on.)