Community Blog Bigger Than Ourselves: Finding a Foundation for Our Family
We have been raising our two children (ages 3 and 5) as part of the Jewish community for the past several years. I have intended to convert to Judaism for many years, but as the kids are becoming more and more engaged in Jewish life, it has become much more important to me. As part of my conversion process, my husband and I signed up for Parenting Through a Jewish Lens. It has been such a great experience to share with other families in our community.
While I feel confident in our parenting capabilities, I also feel a very deep responsibility to strive to be better. Our children are truly the treasure of our life. I’m sure we could be doing something better at all times. During the course of this class, we have finally had the time to think about and have conversations about our responsibility as parents. It is not often that we have free time to consider this important topic. Also, my conversion process has largely been an individual journey. I have loved sharing part of it more directly with my husband.
When recently reading Wendy Mogel’s “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee,” I was struck by the notion that our children are on loan to us from God. What a beautiful thing to be a part of something so much bigger than ourselves. What a huge responsibility we have to teach this context to our children and to give them the tools they need to live fully.
Early in the class we discussed what we want for our children. Each of us had similar things in mind. I want to set our children up for success. I want them to have a strong moral compass, to be kind, to have empathy for others, and to take responsibility to make the world a better place. As we discussed key themes in the class such as respect, trust, ritual, and loss, I realized that our fellow parents want the same things that we do and face many of the same challenges. We all want to model the best behavior, and yet none of us is perfect. We all want to teach our children to perform acts of kindness. We all struggle with finding the right balance in our lives. We all want to incorporate more Jewish routine and ritual in our parenting, but many of us settle for more regular daily rituals like bath and books before bed.
And that is where I find my key learning from the class so far. We are all starting in the right place. The daily and annual routines and rituals we have now with our children, no matter how small, are building the foundation for a full Jewish life in the future. By being more deliberate in some of the things we are already doing, we can enrich our children’s Jewish lives even further.
Here are a few examples.
Every night before bed I ask my daughter what her favorite part of the day was. After taking this class, I would like to incorporate the Shema in that goodnight routine to more thoughtfully ground us in Jewish values as we recall our blessings.
Each year I donate to the charities about which I feel passionate. After taking this class, I am going to talk about this more with the children and bring them into the process – even if it’s just putting the stamp on the envelope. I’m also going to have them decide where the money from their Tzedakah boxes goes when full.
While most nights are too challenging for us to eat as a family, many Friday nights we try to have a family dinner. After taking this class, I would like to make a concerted effort to really celebrate Shabbat during those dinners, to talk about and emphasize the meaning of Shabbat.
By participating in Jewish ritual and community I really believe we will be giving our children strength, security, closeness, and a moral compass. We will help them to realize that we are a part of something so much bigger than ourselves.