Guest Feature Holidays Parenting

How We Can Teach Our Kids That Being Jewish is Awesome and Awe-Filled

Parenting is hard. Raising Jewish kids is hard. And there are all sorts of common complications- emotional, logistical, and otherwise.

I am competent and confident in my knowledge and ability about Jewish text and tradition. I’m raising kids with a Jewish dad and two sets of Jewish grandparents, which makes it more straightforward than most Jewish American families. I have multiple graduate degrees in education and decades of experience working in early childhood environments. 

The struggle is STILL real, so I have a lot of respect (and awe) for the vast majority of folks doing it without the benefits of this kind of background.

Which is why I was thrilled to write a piece for Reform Judaism’s blog, which was created and maintained by the Union for Reform Judaism. The site is a treasure trove of exciting resources and materials about a wide array of topics related to progressive Jew-ish life.

In the blog, which reaches Jews from diverse communities worldwide, I share how I am growing as a parent and professional by acknowledging some of the moments and complications I encounter while raising Jewish kids. Of course, I’m honored when they publish my work and grateful that my work and ideas can reach a larger audience.

FOMO is very real

While typically connected to social media and grown-ups, FOMO (fear of missing out) is a very real phenomenon that can impact our toddlers too. As we move into the holiday season, our toddlers can become aware that their friends and their families will be celebrating Christmas and that they will not.

The following is an updated excerpt from my article, How I Teach My Kids That Being Jewish is Awesome and Awe-Filled, originally published on the Reform Judaism blog.

I felt a twinge of panic when my clever child suggested, “Maybe we can order some blue lights and candy “cans” (her pronunciation) so we can have a Jewish Christmas!” Perhaps worst of all, I had a visceral reaction when she matter-of-factly suggested, “Maybe we shouldn’t be Jewish if Jewish people don’t celebrate Christmas.”

My articulate munchkin suggests ridiculous things all the time, so dealing with her FOMO (fear of missing out) is pretty simple. The tricky part is recognizing my own emotional baggage and discerning appropriate responses in real time. For example, almost every night when she was younger, we read Goodnight Sh’ma as part of her bedtime routine. The last words of the book are “The Lord is one.” Now, we recite the words to the Sh’ma before I tuck her in. Recently, during this bedtime routine, she started saying playfully, “The Lord is three!”

Initially, I had to fight my gut reaction to launch into an explanation about how the oneness of God is a foundational concept of Judaism. Of course, that would be a ridiculous diatribe to share with a toddler at bedtime. Since this reaction would cater neither to her words nor her intention, I gave her another snuggle and asked: “Are you being silly?! That’s not how it goes!” and left it at that.

She tried it a few more times, but I calmly stuck to a response that affirmed the oneness of God, yet was appropriate for a toddler’s bedtime routine. It was good practice for when my kids get old enough to intentionally reject the beliefs that I’m carefully trying to pass on to them.

I identified a dynamic that has helped me participate effectively in our ongoing conversations about Christmas. I will continue to empathize with my daughter and acknowledge her disappointment, affirm or explain her observations, and try to make clear, thoughtful connections throughout our discussion.

Continue reading on the Reform Judaism blog.

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