It Sounds Better in Yiddish

Last week I didn’t post anything. Here’s why: I asked my younger daughter, who was celebrating her birthday, if I could write about her. She’s an adult, so I wanted to get her permission, and she gave it. However, when I told her I was proud of her accomplishments, she stumped me by saying, “You’re proud that I’m a year older?” 

I realize now that I misspoke. It’s not pride, but nakhes, which translates to pleasure or satisfaction. I’m so pleased that she is an independent, kind, resilient and smart adult.

This week she completed her coursework for her B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. During her third year, she started a project to address her frustration at having to take several literature courses in which the syllabus was filled with dead white men. Her blog, The Crooked Canon, is a rich resource for bringing diversity to the literary canon.

Next week she will graduate. She has applied to graduate programs so she can earn a Masters in Library and Information Sciences and work as a school librarian. In the afterschool program where she now works, she started a book club with the elementary school students. They read and discuss chapter books she loved as a child, and she encourages them to take turns reading aloud.

In Yiddish, the expression nakhes fun kinder, literally, joy from children, means the joy or pleasure a parent experiences from being a parent. Now that my children are adults, I have a deeper understanding of this expression. My heart feels like it will burst, unable to contain the joy, when they call to chat; ask me to read something they’ve written; offer me feedback on my work; recommend a book or podcast or Netflix series; report they’ve spoken to each other or met each other for lunch. They are adults that I enjoy spending time with, even when they’ve come home to hang out with each other. Especially when they come home to hang out with each other.

Believe me: it’s not, heaven forbid, that their father and I take credit for their achieving adulthood. 

We know we made mistakes, and we recognize they are wonderful despite our parental failures. We did our best, tried to be our best selves. 

The nakhes, the joy I describe, comes not from being parents of children, but from being parents of adults.

I don’t know how to say that in Yiddish. I’ll have to ask my dad.