by Amber Caulkins, Director of Rising Tide
“I love the mikveh. The water is so warm.”
These were the words of my five year-old daughter, Rebecca, as she sat at the breakfast table, a half-eaten bowl of cereal in front of her, looking at a picture she had drawn the day before. The picture, drawn while sitting next to the mikveh at Mayyim Hayyim, showed a girl at a desk holding up a piece of paper with squiggly lines running across it.
I hadn’t been sure what to expect when we decided to visit the mikveh as a way to celebrate Rebecca’s transition from preschooler to kindergartner. Having been to the mikveh myself, I knew what it meant to me, but how would a five year-old react? What would it mean to her? I willed myself to let our mikveh visit unfold, free from any expectations.
After a tour of the mikveh (and quick snack of animal crackers offered by our Mikveh Guide), Rebecca and I entered the preparation room and began to read through the Seven Kavanot for Mikveh Preparation. We looked at the pictures and recited the words, pausing after each step. I thought about what the words meant. With two other children, multiple pets, and a busy household filled with sports and activities, taking this time to focus on Rebecca and the beauty of her unique self was a welcome respite.
When we were ready, we sat next to the mikveh and I asked Rebecca to draw a picture of what starting kindergarten meant to her. When she was done, I asked her what she had drawn (she’s still a developing artist, after all, so it wasn’t entirely clear) and she said, “hard work.”
Hard work. The wheels started to spin in my mind—what does she mean by “hard work?” Is she worried about not being ready? Or maybe she is excited about the hard work? Does hard work scare her? Have we read enough books? Was her pre-school experience enriching enough? Thankfully, before I could explore any of these questions, Rebecca stood up, removed the owl robe wrapped around her, and said, “I’m ready. Can we go in the water now?”
So we did.
She didn’t look worried, or nervous, or sad. She was simply—excited. A pool of water beckoned (with the lights set to an inviting blue by our Mikveh Guide at Rebecca’s request), and she was ready to immerse. Standing next to her in the water, I let go and watched her sink beneath the water. As she came back up and recited the blessing, my fears and questions melted away, and I was able to be present in the moment, mine and hers.
In this shared, quiet time, I realized she wasn’t the only one who was making a transition. I felt the waters embrace me too, along with my own fear, uncertainty, and excitement that I imagined my daughter might be feeling some version of.
I don’t know exactly what feelings may have been churning for my daughter as she immersed, but I do know this: her first experience at the mikveh was one of joy and excitement. She asked questions, opened doors, and pressed buttons. Our Mikveh Guide helped my daughter to experience the mikveh in a way that encouraged curiosity and wonder—allowing her to touch, explore, and ask questions. And really, what better way is there to experience the mikveh—and our lives?