Sad Event at Baby’s School.

One of the teachers at Baby’s school (aka daycare) was killed in a car accident last weekend. She was much loved at the school and has a daughter who would have moved up to Baby’s class in the next week or so. (That child is safe with her grandma, out of school right now.)

While I’m thankful that Baby is too young to comprehend this loss; my own confusion on how to react has me thinking about his confusion when situations like this–death–arise in the future. Death, unexpected or not, is confusing enough for adults and adults of one faith. How much more so will it be for Baby as he grows, when he’ll be dealing with two faiths? While he’s being raised with a Jewish identity, half of his family is not Jewish. Plus, we live in the Bible Belt, where most people assume you’re like they are and that words like “He/she is safe and at peace with Jesus now” will give you as much comfort as it gives them. How will we help him navigate the well-meant condolences of others, and offer his own? How will we help him understand (far, far in the future, G-d willing) that we’ll sit Shiva for Bubbe and Zayde and Grandma and Grandpa D, but not for Granny and Popi or Grandma and Grandpa G? (Or, wait, will we sit Shiva for Granny and Popi because they’re Daddy’s Mommy and Stepdaddy, even though Granny and Popi aren’t Jewish? See? Confusing!)

Probably people are going to tell me not to worry about these things yet; that there’s lots of time to figure it out, and they’re probably right. I HOPE AND PRAY they’re right. But as time and this blog goes on, you might discover I’m a bit of a planner. And while this is hopefully very long-term planning, it’s still something I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on. How would you/have you handled it in your own families?

(Author’s note: I promise to not post such “downer” topics all the time. This is just something that, sadly, has been on my heart since I found out Monday.)

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3 thoughts on “Sad Event at Baby’s School.

  1. What I have learned, is that if you are ok with it, the kids will be ok with it.  The situation, while requiring a relationship roster is confusing, it is the way that it is, and the kids will think it is normal.  Just like my kids thought the underwear container was normal, or the fact that their stuffed animals have very elaborate back stories,or…

  2. First, I want to say how sorry I am for this loss! It must be a terrible blow to everyone who knew the teacher, and I wish peace to everyone who is hurting because of her loss.

    We’ve actually had to handle this quite recently, since my kids (who are being raised exclusively as Jewish) lost their great-grandmother (their non-Jewish dad’s non-Jewish grandma) in July.

    Luckily, he was okay with the kids praying kaddish for Grandma at temple, and we talked with them about how we’ll light a yahrzeit candle next year to help us remember her and how much she meant to us. The kids went to the memorial service held at the funeral home so they could hear others talk about their memories, which I think helped them to realize that they weren’t the only ones who were missing Grandma.

    Mainly, it’s just important to keep talking about how different traditions strengthen those who mourn. As far as handling others’ condolences: as tempting as it can be to correct everyone who talks about finding comfort in Jesus, etc., sometimes it’s easiest and best to just smile and say thank you. If they persist, then that’s the time to do a bit of explaining. I’m from the Bible Belt myself so I know how daunting that can be, but I’ve found that the majority of folks will be respectful if I am respectful as well.

    Hopefully, you can reach a similar compromise of observing parts of both sets of customs: praying kaddish & remembering the yahrzeits of non-Jewish family members, while respectfully attending their non-Jewish funeral rites as well.

    Wishing you & your family every blessing, and hoping that you won’t have to put any of that in practice any time soon!

  3. I imagine that this will evolve as Baby gets older.  I have found that children like to categorize things and people (my daughter used to regularly ask people if they had a penis or a vagina- good times). While it may seem confusing to you, Baby may find it absolutely normal to divide his relatives into Jewish and not-Jewish. In our family, we explain to our children that we celebrate Christmas or Easter in a secular way with my husband’s family. They understand that our home is Jewish.

    We have fortunately not had to deal with death and the different rituals religions have surrounding death, but I think we’d approach it in a similar way. Like any other tricky topic (sex and puberty being a big one), I think we respond to questions based on our children’s ages. It really is true- children do not want every single detail all at once. In my experience, my children have only asked what they are ready to hear, if that makes any sense. Answer questions simply; if they want to know more, they will ask. Ask them what they think about an issue, and you may find out that what you thought they needed to hear is not what they were asking at all.

    More specific to death customs, I think what M. Borer describes is just lovely- her children want to honor their great-grandmother with Jewish rituals even though she wasn’t Jewish. I also agree with her about simply smiling when someone offers comfort in Jesus. You can explain to your child that this is a statement that Christians find comforting, and that we can accept their comfort with grace, even if it doesn’t fit our beliefs.

    wishing you the best on your interfaith parenting journey.

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