On a frigid Shabbos morning, in that in-between time when the dreams are fading but not fully gone, I wake up to the sight of my daughter squinting at me while I rub the residue of sleep out of my eyes.
“Mommy, I want to go to shul today,” she says.
“To shul,” I repeat through the fog in the back of my throat.
She nods fiercely, and then tucks her hair behind her ears. “With Tatty,” she adds.
I struggle to focus. “But…why?”
I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all. Shabbos morning is our time and we do fun things like rest in bed, and rest on couches, and daven, and set the table, and then rest some more. It isn’t the most action-packed part of the day, but sitting on a hard plastic chair for three hours next to my husband, who won’t be able to speak to her for the majority of that time, isn’t very exciting either. She doesn’t realize this, and it is my job as her mother to explain.
So I tell her.
She listens and then says, “I’ll ask Tatty if it’s a good idea.” I close my eyes for a few blissful moments and communicate telepathically with my husband through a haze of semi-sleep.
There must be something wrong with the internal wiring because my husband does not get the message. He thinks it’s a great idea. He tells me to go back to sleep and enjoy my time alone.
I close my eyes again, but I do not sleep.
From my bed I can hear the clinking of breakfast bowls, the zipping of coats and my daughter’s excited chatter. I know it won’t last. It will take 20 minutes for them to walk to shul and her feet will hurt and she’ll be freezing, and then when they finally get there, she’ll have nothing to do but watch the men sway back and forth.
The minute they are gone, I am up and roaming in and out of the rooms of our house. It’s too quiet. I keep looking at the clock, wondering when the door will burst open to reveal a crying little girl, her harried father, and both of their regrets.
By the time they get back, it is after one p.m. and I am waiting at the door. My daughter launches herself into my arms, and I carry her to the couch.
I look from her to my husband.
“How was it?” I ask.
They are both talking, but I’m too busy assessing to focus on their words. My daughter’s cheeks are freezing. So are her toes. Her hat dangles at an odd angle over one ear. There’s a small backpack on her shoulders, and I gently ease it off. It’s heavy. I look inside and find a water bottle, her siddur, some cut-up fruit.
I look up at my husband hovering near the couch, telling me how nicely she behaved.
I wait for a pause and then start talking. “Did she really carry this thing all the way to shul and all the way home? And what’s up with her hat? And her shoes?”
I take a breath, stopping myself. “Wait. So tell me more. What did she do the whole time?”
My daughter places her hands on both sides of my face and turns it back to hers. “I went to the children’s program! By myself!”
My eyes widen. I look suspiciously at my husband. “She went by herself?” Another more pressing question forces its way out. “Wait. A children’s program? Where is there space for a children’s program?”
My husband starts pulling off his own layers, and his voice is muffled from inside the coat closet. “It’s a new thing. They do it in the garage.”