Community Blog Neither Vertical nor Horizontal, But at an Angle

By Robin Freeman

Robin FThere are certain moments of Jewish parenting that are so well-defined and ritualized that managing our way through them is, if not easy, at least clear. We are shepherded through life cycle moments like brit milahs and b’nai mitzvah with lots of congregational and rabbinic support. The Jewish playbook covers these situations explicitly – and we parents can feel confident in our response.

Unfortunately for most of us, those clear-cut parenting moments are the exception and not the rule.

As our children grow older, what they need from us grows more complicated, the parental ambiguity increases – and the playbook is not always so clear. These moments can be stressful, trying, and confusing – both for us and for our kids.

It is for precisely this reason that Parenting Your Tween Through a Jewish Lens has been a such blessing. Through my course this year at The Rashi School, I have found an amazing, supportive group of parents, led with kindness and care by Judy Elkin, who are all struggling with similar issues and are all seeking answers from our own Jewish tradition. It is a playbook we write together – with the empathy of the individuals and the wisdom of the collective.

One of the key themes that continues to recur for our group is the transitional state our children are in – no longer little kids, not yet teenagers. And they are starting to push back at our rules. They are no longer so easy to comfort or so easy to motivate (and just learning that I’m not alone in those circumstances is in and of itself worth the price of admission!).  We’ve had some amazing conversations about when we should allow our kids the freedom to make mistakes and when we need to stand firm about the values we expect from them, and how we find balance.

A few weeks ago, our class discussed a reading that explained the diagonal placement of the mezuzah – an orientation that was the result of a compromise between the conflicting ideas of two Talmudic scholars – one who believed the mezuzah should be placed vertically and one who believed it should be placed horizontally.  I had never heard this story before.

But now, I cannot walk into my home without thinking about the importance of compromise to a peaceful home. I now see, not just an angled mezuzah, but a cultural reminder that the opinions, feelings, and perspectives of my growing children need to be given weight and credence and respect.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve had moments of revelation like this as the result of nearly every session of this course. The readings, our amazing facilitator, and the fantastic community of fellow parents combine to provide some serious insight and wisdom into parenting Jewish kids through the rocky territory of early adolescence.

I’m so grateful that I found this group.

 

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