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Helen Fell on Her Head and I Prayed to Jesus, Sort of

Helen fell on her head. In case I didn’t think I deserved the “worst mother award” before, I pretty much bolted a trophy to my mental wall the day Helen accidentally slipped off of the kitchen chair. I know what you’re thinking; I’m being too hard on myself. Well, most mothers are too hard on themselves when an accident happens. Thank goodness it wasn’t a serious fall. But, I blame Play-Doh. Let me explain.

Helen and I do arts and crafts at the kitchen table. There are several reasons for this. First, I am able to control where the crayons are at all times. This means no drawing on the walls, no drawing on the furniture and no drawing on new baby sister, Alma. The second reason has to do with space. Adrian and I live in a small one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. We are a cozy family, but there is no room for an actual arts and crafts table in the living room. Our kitchen has become a place of eating, coloring, painting and gossiping. Play-Doh also has a reserved seat at the kitchen table.

My mother introduced Play-Doh to her grandchildren a few months ago. My nephews make excavators, trucks, cars and airplanes. Helen makes two things: mustaches and ghosts. I’m not so sure how that came to be. It might have something to do with the fact that I love scaring the pants off of my children by hiding in the bathroom with a sheet over my head and yelling, “Boo!” I’m not sure where the mustache came from. Adrian doesn’t have a mustache so maybe Helen just really likes the 1970s mustache and polyester look.

So, there we were making pink mustaches and purple ghosts. Adrian was just about to leave for work. He came in the kitchen to say goodbye and Helen jumped up on the chair, slipped and fell back onto her head. Yes, her head.

I would like to admit up front that I did everything wrong in this situation. For starters, I screamed. Then, I lifted her right up off the floor without assessing whether or not she was OK. After Adrian held her for a good five minutes, I offered her a cookie, the iPad and a new toy. Ummm…What is wrong with me? The one thing I did do right was check for bumps and then I observed Helen to make sure she didn’t fall asleep. The fall was more painful for me than it had been for her. Twenty minutes later she was serving Peppa Pig tea from her Eloise tea set and talking to a wooden duck—and that’s a normal occurrence.

The fall got me thinking about a lot of things. It feels like I had nothing to lose before I became a mother. With children, I have everything to lose. This brings me to my faith, Adrian’s faith and how to teach faith to our children. Now, I’m not saying that any form of prayer is going to alleviate the falls my children will take in their lives. I’m not that kind of a believer. However, there is comfort in prayer. There is a weight lifted when I can speak to something that is bigger than myself.

Two faiths exist in my household. They do not collide. Instead they intertwine and they grow. Adrian prays sometimes too, though I never see him when he does—prayer is that private. As soon as Helen fell off the chair, her Play-Doh mustache flying one way, her ghost another; I prayed. Actually, I think in that instant I went against my own religion and shouted, “Oh Jesus!” But, that’s OK, I can borrow Jesus from Adrian’s Catholic background for an occasional worried shout. Prayer is often a comfort. I know because when things calmed down after the fall I closed my eyes to say thank you.

This got me thinking how I will teach Helen about prayer. We are not so religious in my house as we are spiritual. I am a traditional American Jew and Adrian is a traditional Mexican Catholic. This means that we celebrate every major holiday but it doesn’t mean that we always go to church or synagogue. It also means we have religious knowledge about the vastly different worlds we both come from. But, I picture it like this: When I pray in my house to say “Thank you for keeping my daughters safe from harm,” I imagine Hashem (my Jewish God), and The Virgin of Guadalupe (Adrian’s revered Saint of Mexico), sitting at a table playing backgammon and saying, “You have double the faith in your house and double the protection.” This probably isn’t true, but it is a scenario that often plays itself out in my head. I’ll skip the part where I invite them both over for dinner and ask if I should make knishes or quesadillas.

Part of praying is giving thanks. Thanks for a roof over our heads, food in our bellies and a warm place to sleep. In my house, we are grateful for these three things. We are also grateful that we can live in a home with books that coexist on the bookshelf together in Hebrew and Spanish. We are grateful that when our daughter falls off of a chair, we have a statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe and also a hard copy of the Chumash (the five books of the Torah) that we can use as a comfort. This is what I want to teach Helen and little baby Alma. Let us thank God, or both Gods, for safety and kindness.

Anna Keller

Anna is a writer and teacher who lives in Brooklyn with her family.


Author: Anna Keller