Mindfulness, Parenting

How to be a happy fool

The Buddha never said this, but it’s the noise of parenthood that propels me to appreciate the quiet. This is probably the greatest lesson I’ve learned so far in the 11 and a half years I’ve been mothering.  This is also why I wouldn’t use time travel to go back and change being a parent because these little butterflies that look almost nothing like me have had an active and passive role in shaping me; both the parts I like and the parts I don’t. (For the record, I’d use time travel to visit late 19th century Vienna like in The Little Book or watch my husband play in a park in Herzliya when he was a child.)

They don’t tell you before conception that noise is an occupational hazard of parenting, especially when you are me or you are my husband, both of us easily startled. It should be obvious, I know, but nothing is obvious until it sleeps with its stinky feet flush up against your nose. (The Buddha didn’t say this either.)

To appreciate the quiet, I arranged for an overnight away last week during one of Tel Aviv’s loudest nights to celebrate my husband’s milestone 40th birthday. Dan Panorama Tel Aviv made it easy to find quiet by upgrading our room in the hotel to a VIP suite on the 17th floor far away from the characteristic Thursday night noise and with an incredible view of the sea.

view from dan panorama tel aviv

Knowing in advance it was my husband’s birthday, they also sent us up a complimentary bottle of wine and other goodies (travel tip: always tell the hotel when you are celebrating a special occasion. They want you to feel special.)

Taking advantage of Tel Aviv’s annual White Night, we headed over to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art to explore. Nothing like a few hours of mindless meandering and contemplative staring to help you completely forget you have children (also helps that I completely trust my kids in the care of their grandparents.) We spent a lot of time in David Nipo’s “I Returned and Saw Under the Sun” exhibit of figurative-realist paintings; astounded by how real his figurative-realistic paintings come across. It was difficult not to touch the canvas to confirm the images were created from paint and not photography.

The next morning after a fantastically enormous Israeli breakfast buffet, my husband wanted to ride bikes. I wasn’t so eager because we were in the middle of a heat wave — even at 9 am near the beach the air felt oppressive. But I humored him and was glad in the end.

Husband on Bike. Photo by Jen Maidenberg
Husband on Bike. Photo by Jen Maidenberg

We rode up the beach and then through city streets, stopping at a vintage shop where I bought a record (which I can’t play) and a set of books on tape (which I can) and then headed back through the city to the Dan Panorama to clean up before checking out.

I noticed as I was dressing that I was dressing for life with children. The previous afternoon I wore my strapless dress with nothing underneath (nothing but underwear, dirty mind!) I wasn’t worried about having to bend down to pick up a crying child, nor was I concerned said child would want to grab me, as my children often do, without thinking what gravity will do to a strapless dress when it meets with a tiny clutched  fist.

I can’t say I didn’t want more — more time dressed like the woman who didn’t need to worry about the elements. More time meandering off schedule. More time listening without paying attention. I wanted more.

But as the Buddha did say: “A fool is happy until his mischief turns against him.”

There is a time for mischief (for desire, the Buddha might or might not say) and there is a time for responsibility.

I hope that in my next parenting chapter, I learn better how to blend the two … and more often.

jen and avi reflection june 2014

Because I believe it’s at the intersection of noise and quiet that we are most joyful.

Even those of us easily startled.


13 thoughts on “How to be a happy fool”

  1. We travel a lot with and without the kids. You’re right, both are really different experiences and both types of travel are so important. As we speak, I’m on a plane with my son to Palm Springs. We started the day with a melt down, actually.

    Happy Anniversary, my friend.


  2. Jen, I hope your husband enjoyed his very special 40th birthday celebration that you created for him. It sounds lovely. I, too, remember when I only had “mom” clothes. I’ve made a concerted effort to change that the last year, and I’m so much happier for it.


    1. Thanks, Estelle. Hopefully for my birthday in August someone will buy me a fully coordinated outfit because as much as I like to look sleek and stylish, I still dress myself like a college student. A semi hip 1990s era college student …


  3. I’m coming to Israel in the winter and again in May – and now I know where I want to stay in Tel Aviv! I hope you and your husband enjoyed Layla Lavan!


  4. Very nice piece. Next step…..going from being a happy fool (freshman stage of parenting) to becoming a wise fool (sophomore ) as the Greeks would say. Learning to be a wise fool and integrating your children into your life, instead of you into theirs is a far greater challenge. Ultimately, they will desire to be you and be like you, if you are lucky.


  5. Wonderfully written post, Jen! My son is old enough that I can dress for me these days, but the listening without having to pay attention, and the silence/ability to focus on something other than stories about Lego/Rainbow Loom/Pokemon/why-I-need-an-iPod/etc are two luxuries I need to try to weave back into my days-with-child. The hotel, and even the hot bike ride, look like a wonderful experience. Happy birthday (belated) to your husband 🙂


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