It's been nearly a month since my father passed away, and life is hard. Unmanageable, really. I don't have patience for the rivers of apple juice flowing across the dining room table, and when the lock on the front door finally breaks, locking me out of my apartment at dinnertime with three starving children, one of whom was recently toilet trained and desperately needs a bathroom, I feel like sitting down on the floor and crying with them. I don't, of course, because I'm the mom.

"Wow, it sounds so hard," my friend comments. "How are you managing to keep a smile on your face for your kids?"

"I'm not," I admit. "And I don't think now is the time to be smiling for my kids. Parents are allowed to be real. And right now they know that Mommy is really sad." I'm careful, of course, to explain why I am sad in terms that they can understand. And especially to explain it in a way that prevents them from feeling blamed.

"But Mommy is more sad, because he was Mommy's Daddy"I tell my six-year-old that Mommy is sad because Grandpa was Mommy's Daddy, and he was the one who used to give her piggyback rides just like her Daddy gives her. She tells me that she is sad too, because Grandpa used to listen to her count to a hundred when nobody else had time to listen. She thinks about it for a minute, and then she tells me, "But Mommy is more sad, because he was Mommy's Daddy."

Her insight is on the mark, and it is one of the most selfless comments she has ever made, one of the first times she has been able to see beyond the limits of her own experience and into the world of another. I am proud that she has made this distinction. And I am sad that already at six-years-old, she needs to.

Her comment comes from a realization that Mommy does not only exist to fulfill her needs. It shows a maturity, an ability to distinguish between her self and her world. And it shows an awareness of degrees of pain.

There's a part of me that wishes I could protect her from this awareness for a little bit longer. But my father's death has forced me to confront the reality that it is simply not in my ability to protect her from certain types of awareness. I can help her cope. I can be her sounding board, and hear her out. But I can't choose the terms of my parenthood, whether I will parent her in sickness or in health, in boundless happiness or in a year of mourning.

Those of us who live in Israel are constantly forced to confront this question. Death crouches constantly on the edge of our children's awareness, and, sometimes, like when a terrorist penetrated the sanctuary of a boy's school this past March, death enters the house. How much do we tell our children? How do we react when someone else takes that decision out of our hands and informs them of details we would have left out?

In my father's case, this decision whether or not to expose my children to death as a reality of life was taken out of my hands because I sat shivah in the living room amidst the building blocks. Those who came to pay a ritual visit of comforting the mourner wound their way through a maze of toys, as down on the floor the business of playing and building towers continued uninterrupted.

The door swings wide open, and it is not in my power to close itI sat shivah as my children watched, and now as I move into middle-stage grieving the first month after his passing, I am aware that they are watching me still. My friends' question came from this place. She too shares this wish to protect, and make perfect the conditions of her children's childhood.

This is perhaps the most difficult reality of being a parent, that our most private battles are taking place under the stark and unforgiving appraisal of our children. I struggle constantly for privacy and grace, but I am aware, that at certain moments, such as when I first received the news, or when I sat shivah in my torn shirt, the door swings wide open, and it is not in my power to close it.

Yet in my father's death, I have found surrender, and an understanding of the essential reality of parenthood. I am not in control. I cannot set the stage, nor illuminate the shadows his death has cast upon our life.

My children will know their mother was sad, and went on living and loving them. They will know what it means to have real feelings, and live with authenticity. I am not advocating for parents to be exhibitionistic, and abandon all attempts to contain the passionate chaos of adult life. Rather, I am acknowledging that sometimes this is not possible, and in those moments when Mommy or Daddy are exposed as fully human, it's okay too.

Dedicated in loving memory to Yaakov ben Hirshel who passed away on April 28, 2008/23 Nissan.