It was about a year ago when our lives were turned upside down by the addition of our sweet Matan to our world. Duncan and I had planned for his arrival; we prepared ourselves as best we could for the inevitable changes that would come as we welcomed a second child in our lives. In particular, we tried to make things as easy as possible for Matan’s older sister Shiri by reading books to her about becoming a big sister, role play with baby dolls, play dates with friends’ babies, and anything else we could think of to help create a smooth transition for her from only child to sibling.
As other parents of multiple children already know, this planning went well until the planning became reality. Sprinkled in with the moments of joy and blessing of the new baby came many moments of anxiety and insanity. There were times we all – including Shiri – wanted to run and hide. (Three-year-olds need private space too.) It turns out you can plan all you want, but bringing another child into your home and into your lives is anything but easy.
This week we read Parshat Vayera, in which Abraham and Sarah contemplate the son that will be born to them in their old age; Sodom and Gomorrah fall as Abraham bargains with God to save Lot’s life; and Isaac is born, causing a rift in Abraham’s house with Ishmael. Abraham moves forward in making a deal with King Avimelech, and we end with the Akeidah, the test of Abraham as God asks that he offer up his son, Isaac.
Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael, and Isaac have the incredibly difficult task of trying to build a family after what must have been a crazy adjustment period. It could not have been easy to blend this family with one dad, two moms, and now two brothers all trying to figure out how they each fit in. Sarah, the new mother, appears to be at her wits’ end, attempting to protect her new baby when she insists that Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael away.
Now a year into motherhood with a second child, I know that feeling. It is overwhelming to balance an older child and a newborn while dealing with other family members, jobs, and everything else that comes with adulthood. I’m not saying Sarah was right to banish them, but I certainly understand where she was coming from as a mother.
On the face of it, this part of our story might be difficult to digest. It sheds a cold and rather harsh light on Abraham as a father. However, it also reminds us that being a parent means there are countless decisions to make, and not all of them are straightforward. Adjustments are hard, but resilience and adaptability are part of what makes us human. And perhaps no one teaches us that lesson better than our children.