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Parenting A tree in OUR house?!?!

By Hannah M

Parenting Through a Jewish Lens…. See, we kind of thought we had it all figured out. We had taken a class on interfaith relationships and families prior to having our (now 5.5-yr old) girls. We are both therapists. I mean, how hard can it be, right?! But PTJL was eye- and mind-opening beyond what we thought possible.

One of the trickiest times of year for us, and for many interfaith families, is December. Except that I didn’t think it was tricky. Until Ranjeev mentioned wanting a tree. An issue I thought we had long-ago resolved. As in, we are raising our girls in a Jewish home, no we will not have a tree. “But why, Hannah? I can support you in this but I need to understand why” was the response. I was totally stymied. Because that is what my family did when I was growing up? Why WAS this so important to me and what did it mean? And why was it so important to Ranjeev and what did that mean?

We had talked about this before marriage, before kids and after kids. And every time I got stuck. I said no and then would withdrawal from further discussion. And Ranjeev would back off, until the next time it came up. In November we discussed it with our PTJL group and wonderful facilitator. I still said no. But like that notable Menorah, this question refused to burn out. And we continued to discuss it. And you know what? We had a tree in our house this past December. And it was lovely. We went fake because I didn’t want to deal with all of the mess and allergens of a real one (although there is something very cozy and inviting about the smell of real pine). But the girls got to help Daddy decorate it with lights and ornaments. And apparently they are still Jewish. Just like I am still Jewish after years of decorating a tree with my cousins at my grandparents’ house. And Ranjeev got his tree and his lights. And, most importantly, he got to carry on, and share with our children, a part of his family’s tradition. Say what, Tevye?

In an interfaith and multicultural family there is a lot of learning about the unfamiliar practices of another, discussion and sometimes compromise, pushing up against edges and finding new levels of comfort (or manageable discomfort), and creating new rituals and traditions that are unique to your family. My knee-jerk “NO” was couched in fear and my own inability or unwillingness to stretch my imagination and see things from a different perspective. Now I am glad I did. And who knows – maybe a Star of David will crown our tree next year.

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