Parenting Bringing in new traditions and a sense of wonder

By Cathryn Freid
PTJL- mother and son

Parenting Through a Jewish Lens is the first parenting class I’ve ever taken. I was raised in a congregation, but not affiliated in my adult life before this year.  As a new member of Temple Shalom, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had some trouble imagining how the parenting and “through a Jewish lens” parts were going to be combined, especially as an interfaith family, where I am Jewish and my wife is not.

As my son gets older, it’s felt increasingly important to help him feel like he is part of a bigger community, to explore the Jewish part of his heritage while at the same time, helping him to feel equally part of both parents’ religions and traditions without diluting either of them. He’s 5 now and started kindergarten this year. He has started to have more and more questions or rather, harder questions (he’s always been an inquisitive guy), like about life and death (questions that always, coincidentally, seem to come up right before bed). I thought maybe this class would help me figure out a way to answer some of these questions, for my son, myself and my family as a unit.

This parenting class provided me and my wife a space to discuss things about parenting such as promoting resilience and spirituality that we may not have made time to discuss otherwise. It gave us a chance to figure out how to create new family holiday traditions that capture our shared values in a way that feels meaningful to us – such as choosing a night on Hanukkah to vote on a charity to give Tzedakah to as a family. It was reassuring to see other families asking the same kinds of questions and sharing traditions that have been meaningful to them.

I actually think that I came away from this class with more questions than answers. This class was a good reminder that having questions is okay, and in fact, a valuable part of the process of parenting, that there is no “right” answer for how to parent I also realized that something that works for one family may not work for another, or that something that works right now, when my son is 5, may not work the same way as he gets older.

Along these lines, I think that my favorite lesson was the one about parenting mindfully. During this class, we read a text by Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg called “Kids Live on the Wonder Channel”. This text really resonated with me, as Rabbi Ruttenberg describes the challenge of staying in the moment with our kids. My favorite line is the last part, as she is describing her son being distracted by a stick while they are trying to get somewhere. She says “And sometimes, on alternate Thursdays, or at least when we can, we can try to remember that having that whole long fight about how ‘it’s time to drop the stick and get going, no, really, I meant that now, please,’ usually takes about as long as it does to just have a little damn wonder”. I think of this lesson a lot, especially during the morning rush to school, when, inevitably, my son just wants to do “one more thing” before we leave the house or “finish this song” in the car although we have already arrived at school. Some mornings I am more successful at this than others, but it has been helpful to know that others (even Rabbis) are working on this as well.


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