| I of the Storm |

I of the Storm: Chapter 10

If this ain’t a message from Him, my inner voice pronounced, then what is?



I was soaked. Again. Just give up, my voice of maturity intoned. You’re not leaving this pool dry.

It was hydrotherapy session #1, and I still couldn’t believe I’d pushed myself to do this. My oldest childhood friend, who now works as a pediatric OT, had been urging me for months: Get this child intensive sensory stimulation.

I knew she was right. Even the cashier at Kosher Mart had picked up on Shira’s irrepressible craving for sensory input: “Wow, ma’am, your little one sure likes huggin’ you hard,” she’d noted sagely, watching Shira press her body into mine as I struggled to maneuver the cart.

It became a pattern: I’d consider occupational therapy for a millisecond, then my defenses would kick in. I work full-time! I attend play therapy weekly, I have a full day neurologist appointment next month, I go to the park three times a week, and I’ve got three other kids who need my attention. How much more can I push myself?

But it wasn’t just the lack of time. I didn’t want to admit it, but I’d become resentful of the energy I had to invest in Shira. Spending time with her was emotionally draining; it was hard. The thought of adding another item to the list made me want to…take a nap.

But one unseasonably warm Sunday, my carefully constructed, oh-so-valid wall of justifications crumbled. My sister-in-law Judy and I took our crews to a mini water park. Within sixty seconds of entering the enclosure, Shira scrambled up the massive water slide ladder. Swoosh! A squeal, a splash, a howl of delight. Then again.  And again. And again.

Judy and I squinted in the sunlight, openmouthed. Watched this seven year old go up and down the gargantuan slide no less than seventeen times in ten minutes. From there, it was on to the trampoline—she jumped 20 minutes straight—and then the pool, where she leaped in and out, in and out, beaming.

Judy shook her head. “I’m exhausted just watching her.”

I grunted in agreement. “I knew she needed this…I just didn’t know how bad.”

That night, a thunderstorm broke the heat. “Mommeeee, I’m scared!” Tali whimpered, watching the sky streak up with lightning.

Shira gazed wide-eyed through the window, mesmerized. “I wish it would thunder all day long,” she shared. “I like BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!”

If this ain’t a message from Him, my inner voice pronounced, then what is?

The next morning, I phoned the hydrotherapist. I’d have to miss more work, get a babysitter for the kids, and forget about a hot dinner, but my conscience gave me no rest: Your child is desperate. Don’t deny her the help she needs.

“I hate the babysitter!” Dahlia shrieked, as soon I informed her of the arrangement. “It’s not fair! You’re always busy doing special stuff for Shira!”

My heart sank. Why doesn’t anyone tell you about this before you become a parent? I fumed. Your child needs speech therapy? So do it! A reading specialist? Take care of it. How simple! No one tells you about the million other elements in the picture: strained finances, resentful siblings, disgruntled colleagues, and an exhausted mother unable to be much of a wife.

“It’s really upsetting, I know, sweets.” I put my arm around Dahlia, trying to summon up the right words. “Everyone has things that are hard for them. I bet you noticed that Shira has trouble staying calm, or controlling herself when she wants to hurt you—right?”

Dahlia nodded forlornly.

“So children like Shira need extra help to teach them how to be strong, to stay calm even when they’re angry. Hopefully this activity will help Shira. And you can choose a special game to play—just me and you—when I get home.”

So here we were at Hydrotherapy 101. Shira—a vision of ecstasy, embracing the water like a dehydrated fish. Me—drained, wet, and racked with guilt.

Hashem, please make this hishtadlus be effective, I pleaded, blinking to suppress the overwhelming wetness in my eyes. I’m a rubber band about to snap.

That night, Shira was calmer. Nothing drastic, nothing dramatic, but an observable decrease in fights and slaps.

“Mom, I feel good,” she said thoughtfully, after I tucked her into bed.

It was a hug from Above. I reveled in its warmth.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 476)

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