Tikkun – How My Children Repaired Me

42

August 21, 2014 by Katia

When I was a child I really believed that the grownups in my life knew everything. Now I suspect that it’s the other way around.

***

tikkun

Our children are put on this earth to teach us,” said my best friend. Not being the type for clichés, she immediately added “and to keep our egos under control.” We were having a long distance transatlantic heart to heart and she was bottom lining it. We had just finished discussing being unintentionally “called out” by our kids on different accounts. That’s when my friend delivered her bottom line reframing our kids as life coaches.

As grownups our overly saturated brains are set to “sift through” rather than “absorb” mode and there is so much that we tend to overlook, like the fact that our kids may be the closest people to us on earth, but that doesn’t make them privy to our inner dialogue. Oblivious to our denial, they will matter of factly deliver the most self-esteem crushing blows when they call out the wrinkles on our forehead during a game of “I Spy” and walk away blissfully unaware, leaving us to handle that truth bomb all on our own. So we do it humbled, feeling heavier and lighter at the same time for facing the truth. For standing corrected.

Tikkun* is the Hebrew word for correction.  It’s also a Kabbalistic term implying repair work to be done on one’s own soul. That repair work, it is believed, is the reason for our existence.  Having been born and spent most of my life in Israel, Tikkun was a term that came up quite often in conversation. It would be mentioned just as casually as my five-year-old’s accidentally delivered truths: “This thing I hate just happened to me yet again. It must be my Tikkun”. Tikkun, as in the repair of one’s soul through challenge, through confronting and doing what doesn’t come naturally, through — to put it in post new age terms — stepping outside of your comfort zone.

My soul has been under construction for a few years now. There is possibly too much repair work to be completed in just one life time. Do we start by strengthening those loosely hanging Will Power beams or shall we tackle the poorly laid Assertiveness foundation first? But wait, what about the Pursuit of Unwritten Rules termites and Fear of Self Imposing asbestos? I wouldn’t know where to begin. Thankfully, life always takes the first step when it comes to tackling your Tikkun.

I embarked upon my journey to self-correction unintentionally. Ironically, I was on my way to fix someone and something else, my unborn children’s future, by moving countries. The next thing I knew, I was diving headlong into my Tikkun. Immigration seemed to awaken one of my biggest hang-ups, the pursuit of unwritten rules. I’ve lived a life of spinning my wheels in attempt to identify the “right” way to do things, believing that there’s always A Rule which everyone but me is aware of and adhering to. During the first months of immigration my brain was a fuming volcano, constantly put to the task of identifying The Rule according to which Canadians all around me were behaving and trying to align myself with it. Confronting so many new and unknown rules at once almost broke my brain and spirit, but it was the very same thing that brought about the correction. Repair began taking place and I’d started realizing there wasn’t always a single one-size-fits-all Rule.

Then came the kids and the three of us formed a peculiar combat force where driven by the soldiers’ needs the commander charges into battle against her own crippling fear of self imposing by making small talk on the playground, initiating play dates, putting herself out there for rejection and occasionally getting rejected. When it didn’t work out, I’d feel embarrassed, avert my eyes whenever I saw THAT mom across the street, pretend not to notice her, chase the thought of failure away whenever it struck me.

After having your first child you often find yourself in chasing mode. You chase after answers on endless developmental milestones, chase after sleep, chase your kid and chase after socialization opportunities for you and them. You chase after their future. After what feels simultaneously like forever and a single  moment comes a magical tipping point when you’re able to cautiously, selectively sit back and observe while all of a sudden time makes things fall into place. You realize that sleep is an ever shifting pendulum and that your kids have friends you didn’t have to hunt for yourself. That’s when THAT mommy who didn’t call you back stops being so important and you start greeting her on the street, realizing that she has a lot on her plate, that mommy, or maybe she’s just not that into you and it’s okay. You’ve stepped up to the challenge and tried.  And another wrinkle is then removed from your soul.

My children and immigration are forever interconnected as reason and outcome. To me, they are two parts of the same entity, challenging me in very similar ways, both requiring total immersion of myself into a completely foreign unexplored territory. Both inviting and expediting repair. You already know that life takes the first step when it comes to achieving your Tikkun by sending us signs, but you also know that as grownups we often don’t notice. We frequently talk about the many hats we get to wear as parents and the many new roles we assume.  But what about our kids? Theirs are no less important. Would my Tikkun happen if it wasn’t for them? Probably not. After all, it’s so hard to find good life coaches and repair agents these days.

  • Pronounced Tee-koon.

***

This was a Finish The Sentence Friday post on the topic “When I was a child, I really believed…”. Please visit our hosts, two wonderful women that I’m proud to call my friends:

Kristi at Finding Ninee

Stephanie at Mommy for Real

42 thoughts on “Tikkun – How My Children Repaired Me

  1. LOL I was wondering how you pronounced Tikkun. I pronounced it Tickin and it might always be that. I remember reading about Kabbalah and how the 7 years bad luck broken mirror superstition came about. Apparently, the mirror is a reflection of our soul, and to see your soul broken in a mirror means your soul is broken, and it takes 7 years for the soul to heal. I felt like that was an accurate time frame because it really took me about 7 years to make peace with my father’s passing. I never really thought about the wrinkles though on my soul. Good post. I’ll be pondering it for a while.

    • Katia says:

      Thank you so much, Michelle!

      I’m glad I could help with the pronunciation🙂 The way I transcribed it is the way it sounds in the original language. Kabbalists in the United States might be pronouncing it differently.

      My turn to thank you for teaching me something. Can I tell you that even though I am terrified of mirrors breaking, I had no idea this originated in Kabbalah? So interesting! I remember reading a post of yours about your father. I could tell how deeply you were affected by his passing.

  2. ftmguide says:

    Such a nice post and I have my first kid who is 2.5 months old and you’re so right. I feel like i’m constantly chasing the things you mention in your post. I’m constantly trying to find things to stimulate me and the baby and hopefully as you say one day it will all fall in place. Thanks

  3. I once read an author say: The majority of “Adults” aren’t grown-ups (as if some glorious goal has been achieved), but merely atrophied children. It is within the creativity of a child’s uninhibited mind – we all should hope to strive for.🙂 Good post – as a side note, our Pastor also has taught us that in Jewish culture, a “child” isn’t considered a fully functioning adult until 30. I like that!

  4. I’ve never heard of Tikkun, but I like the concept. I don’t know much about Kabbalah, but I’ve always been curious. And I think we all need a little word on repairing our souls.

    • Katia says:

      I don’t know a lot about Kabbalah either (scratch that, I actually don’t know anything…) but that concept resonates with me deeply. Thank you so much for stopping by and reading!

  5. Yvonne says:

    Katia, I totally agree with you that we learn from our children. I love the idea of Tikkun being repair work done to the soul. I do see that over the years my children have been a window to everything I’ve been afraid to see in myself – both in what I’ve seen reflected in them that I’ve tried to deny in myself and in the way they’ve challenged me to look more deeply at beliefs I’ve held onto as if they were true. (They didn’t always challenge me directly, more often it was in just not doing or being what I’d expected.)

    When my girls were still quite little I used to go to a meditation instructor. Often I hadn’t had time to do the recommended length of meditation in that week, and my instructor said her guru believed mothers were doing much of the work anyway, so it was fine if you couldn’t do the allotted time. Motherhood is a meditation – if we allow it to be!

    I can relate to your feeling “attempt to identify the “right” way to do things.” I have tussled with that a lot in life, and such a lot when my daughters were small. I came to the same conclusion as you – there is no one-size-fits all way.
    Great post!

    • Katia says:

      Motherhood is a meditation is such a beautiful sentence and so profound! I have to think about this some more, or maybe you could (it would probably be so much better if you do and put it in writing than any potential “scratch the surface” analysis I could come up with). It’s comforting to realize that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all way to doing things. I have to keep reminding myself of that, as some situations seem to necessitate that way of thinking (starting a new job, etc). It’s also comforting to realize that I’m not alone in that, as it always seems like such a lonely place to be in.

  6. I absolutely love this concept! Rules have always been my comfort and my nemesis. I’m at a point in my life where I’ve given up on the concept of one-size-fits-all. When I keep an open mind (and heart) I find lessons in the most unexpected places. It’s amazing to me how my kids can be a mirrors, mountains, tunnels, quicksand, pillows and teachers. I wish I could see clearly how I was all those things to my parents. You might see this in a a post I’m dreaming up. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Katia says:

      Oh, please let me know when that post is written! And you should use this phrase: “It’s amazing to me how my kids can be a mirrors, mountains, tunnels, quicksand, pillows and teachers”. It’s just gorgeous and so profound, I had to pause and think about each part. Beautiful.

  7. As always, insightful and beautifully written!

  8. On of my favorite Jon Kabat-Zinn quotes is that our children are “live-in Zen masters.” In fact, I just finished writing my post for Monday about it. You know what they say about great minds, right?🙂

    I just love this — that life is an opportunity for growth and recognizing those growth opportunities in the most mundane of places…

    • Katia says:

      This means a lot to me, Sarah. I was kind waiting to see what you will have to say about this subject. I love the idea that life recognizes our “areas for improvement” and presents us with constant opportunities to work on them. Now I just need to remind myself of that when I’m living, as opposed to writing🙂

  9. Kristi Campbell - findingninee says:

    This is beautiful as always, Katia. Incredible, really, and it really makes me think about my soul, and my journey, and how changed it’s become because of who my little boy is. Never in a million years, would I think that I’d be working on what I’m working on, but I think it’s my Tikkun for sure (I love the word and the concept so much and really appreciate you sharing it). It’s so true that our children teach us and humble us. Love love love.

    • Katia says:

      I love your comment, Kristi, and makes me think about a post you had up on Our Land. I think it was the first guest post where the author spoke about speech delays not as something which is “wrong” but rather as the world’s way of telling us to slow down and listen. You are so Go-Go-Go, maybe your Tikkun is slowing down. It’s not a bad one🙂 I love you, thank you so much for the beautiful comment!

  10. Oh I ached for you when I read about your challenges upon first moving here. Ouch. And yes, you are so right about the woman across the street and how her challenges affect us. So glad you’ve been able to put her behind you. I think it’s Tikkun for sure. I remember those “kid socialization” days so well. My mind positively reels when I pull out the calendars (yes, I need to do a little chucking out around here, thank you) and see the zillions of entries. “M to Celia’s 1:00, H to skating and then Dylan’s after. Take brownies. Both to B’s 3:00. Ben and Millie here for dinner. Check to see if Ben still doesn’t eat cheese.”

    • Katia says:

      Thank you, my kind-hearted, friend!🙂 It was a bit of a challenge at first, but I do feel much less fragile in certain respects having gone through it. The forced socialization wasn’t easy, but now it’s so organic and natural and it brings me so much joy to be around moms who face similar challenges.

      P.S. I’m impressed with your calendar-keeping. Most of our social engagements are impromptu. I’ve never been very organized…

  11. Natalie DeYoung says:

    Reading this felt like you had cracked open your heart for us to see, and its insides are quite similar to mine. Finding the “right” way to do things. The soul under construction. The self-assertiveness battle. I am so glad to find a word for the work I’ve been doing. Certainly different life circumstances have sparked it, but life and God always finds a way make it happen.

    • Katia says:

      This is so touching. Thank you so much for such a beautiful comment, my newly employed friend. I can tell that we experience things in a very similar way, which is why I both regretted that we didn’t spend more time together and kind of didn’t really feel that we didn’t, you know what I mean? I feel like I know what’s going on inside you🙂

  12. Loved it, Katia.
    I am glad you corrected how to spell tikkun…lol

    I agree kids are like angels until they don’t start demanding…lol

  13. lrconsiderer says:

    I felt like my heart resonated when you described tikkun – I have SO MUCH to do. I guess we all do. But what a wonderful idea. And I love the attitude which goes with it🙂 Such a positive thing.

    I would BORROW children to have a play-date with you and yours, Katia🙂

    I might even STEAL them, to do so…

    I love how beautifully you write, and how wonderfully your mind works. And that you’re passing these incredible ways of thinking down to your sons is lovely🙂

    • Katia says:

      😀 I suspect that even without someone’s borrowed children, a play date with you is something that not only my kids but I would enjoywith you hiding in a closet…

      Summer and all the uncertainty in my life are really wearing my patience thin and I feel like a bit of a fraud when I’m complimented on my motherhood skills, but thank you for this outpour of kindness!

      • lrconsiderer says:

        Wait, why are we hiding? That sounds fun🙂

        By this end of summer it’s perfectly explainable that your patience is wearing thin, and fear not – school will be BACK SOON! You’re not a fraud, because your motherhood skills are still there – they haven’t gone away or become unrecognisable. They’re probably just a bit ‘up to here’ with things. Which happens and is FINE, by the way.

      • Katia says:

        This is true kindness. You’ve made me feel better about me. xoxo

      • lrconsiderer says:

        It’s just truth, my friend, just truth *hugs*❤

  14. sara says:

    Tikkun – what a beautiful concept. I am forever engaged in Tikkun – it seems to be my reason for living🙂 And yes, my biggest growth by far has been over the past 10 years, coincidentally the same 10 years that I have had children😉 Children don’t know everything, which is why they don’t run my house🙂 But, boy, the stuff they know, they really know it xo

    • Katia says:

      I agree with you, I think that it’s such a beautiful concept. I’ve always been curious about but never really sat down to ponder it. I should probably read more about it. Thank you so much for your comment, it made me🙂

  15. Hi Katia: thanks for connecting Tikkun with Yeledim. I’ve never really thought about how our children can help to heal us and repair us. But now that you bring it up it seems so real and natural. I can completely see how immigration can create a need to “repair” your life and reconstruct all of the connections that make one’s life meangful. It’s wonderful that your kids were the agency for that repair!

  16. […] Please check out Laurie’s post Legacy and Katia’s post Tikkun – How My Children Repaired Me. […]

  17. Stephanie Sprenger says:

    Well, you know I love everything about this piece- it is exquisite. Beautiful, insightful, so well-crafted. I love it. And I’m thrilled that you incorporated it into FTSF- you tied it in so perfectly. This has made me think so much about the ways in which my children have repaired me already, and wonder about the ways in which they will continue to do so…

    P.S. Sorry I slightly paraphrased in my tweet- I was trying to fit your quote into 140 characters.🙂

    • Katia says:

      You know how much that means to me, my dear. The repair is definitely a work in progress. I don’t think it ever stops, but it’s definitely interesting to stop and ponder it.

  18. Liz says:

    I’d heard of the magazine Tikkun but I never knew what the word meant. I feel richer for having learned this. Fascinating as always. I especially loved the construction and repair imagery. You’ve given me a lot to ponder.

  19. MarsEl051914 says:

    This is so true… As a new mother, I’m constantly chasing things and worrying and second guessing myself, especially when I feel like other moms have better motherly instincts than I do!

    • Katia says:

      I know. It’s a constant chase, for not so new parent as well. We always compare and second guess. With time we just do it more selectively and remember that no one holds the key to this, we’re all just figuring it out as we go🙂

  20. I thought this line was beautiful. “My soul has been under construction for a few years now.” But I suspect that we get just the amount of construction we need for this lifetime.🙂

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