The Saturday Dilemma

Shabbat meals are ready.  The house is far from clean.  I have pretty much given up on preparing the whole house for Shabbat now that we have a baby.  Once a month, we have budgeted in for a cleaning lady.  I will have to wait one more week until the entire house will feel sparking and beautiful for the Shabbat Queen. 

My husband has learned to enjoy the holiness of Shabbat.  He comes home from work, and the Shabbat candles are lit, there is a beautiful meal ready to be served, and his wife seems a bit more relaxed than other days. 

In recent years I have increased my level of Shabbat observance.  I don’t drive, I don’t answer the phone or use electricity.  I want the same thing for my son.  My husband, who is not Jewish, isn’t required to keep the laws of Shabbat.  I know he isn’t really interested in fully observing anyway.  I worry sometimes, though, how that will affect my son. 

Before I go on, I want to say my husband is 100% supportive of my Jewish spirituality.  There are just certain things he can’t or won’t do himself though.  I get it. 

I know my husband likes his Saturdays for his man-cave time.  He tinkers on whatever needs to be worked on.  For him, Saturday is catch up day.  Or a day to run off with the boys for a mountain bike ride or a ski.

I have discussed with him on many occasions that right now, while our son is still young and mostly unaware, he can do what he wants.  But soon, probably way too soon, our son will be more in tune with what is going on in his house.  No doubt, he will want to be with Daddy, do what Daddy does.  Why would he want to stay home with Mommy and go to shul if Daddy is running off doing something fun like biking? 

I think about these kinds of things a lot.  I want my son to appreciate and enjoy his Jewish spirituality.  I wonder how to balance all of this.  Let my husband keep his cave time while educating our son. 

What do you think?

Bedtime Routines

Baby’s bedtime routine is pretty typical: bath every other night, pjs, possibly a little playtime (depending on how organized we are that night), some cuddle/wind-down time with Mommy and/or Daddy on the couch, then upstairs. If Mommy’s putting to bed that night (Mommy’s and Daddy’s put-down routines differ slightly), we go upstairs, read one or two books, sing songs, and then it’s night-night.

Lately, I’ve been letting him pick out what books we’re going to read. (He’s got a veritable library to choose from – that’s what happens with an English-major-nerd-type of a Mommy and Grandma.) For quite some time it was Dr. Seuss’ The Foot Book or a Mother Goose compilation followed by Goodnight Moon. For Christmas, my Aunt Lyn (or, as Baby learned to call her, “Gate At Leee”) gave him On the Night You Were Born and Llama Llama Red Pajama, which quickly became favorites, even ousting Goodnight Moon. (Truthfully, Mommy was a little sad at that, because I love Goodnight Moon.)

But you know what he’s picked, almost exclusively, for the last week (which, let’s face it, in toddler-time is basically a lifetime)? My Shabbat, a soft shapes book by David Brooks. At first I thought Baby just liked it because the shapes come out, so it’s like getting to do a puzzle during bedtime stories. And I’m sure that’s one of the reasons he likes it. But I’ve noticed the last couple of nights that once he gets the removable shape out (or in, depending on whether we started with the pieces in or out of the book), he sits very still as I stumble read through the blessings (full disclosure here – I use the transliterations; I’ve not mastered Hebrew in my “spare” time). Now, I know he doesn’t understand yet, and that he probably really is reacting to the rhythmic sounds of the blessings, but I have to admit that I like it (and remember, I’m the non-Jewish parent). I also like that he now asks for his two night-night songs – the Sh’ma (which he calls “Sam-ah”) and “La La Lu” (also known as the lullaby from Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp”). I hope that these routines are, in some small way, a step toward incorporating more Jewish traditions in his daily life.

What do your children’s nighttime routines look like? Do you try to incorporate Jewish prayers/thoughts/traditions into those routines, or at other times of the day?

A few thoughts as my son naps

My son, thank G-d, was born September 13, 2011.  Eight days later was his Brit Milah, his circumcision.  He was so good.  He slept.  I cried. 

The Mohel included my husband in the ceremony.  We recited a beautiful prayer, asking G-d for help in parenting, for helping our son live a wonderful life and of course thanking G-d for our son. 

My husband gave a beautiful speech after the ceremony.  He explained how he had asked his mom, on her death bed, that she ask Hashem (G-d) for a bit of help as we were having trouble conceiving.  He said he learned that when you believe, good things can happen.  I know he was talking about Hashem, G-d.  I have to say my husband has a strong belief in G-d, he always believed we would have a child, even when I was ready to give up, even when I stopped keeping Shabbos, my husband kept saying, “don’t worry, you’ll see”. 

I am so grateful for my son, and for my husband. 

Shabbos candelighting is in a few hours (so early!) and now I continue to pray for guidance in parenting.  For patience.  That my son have a beautiful, long, healthy and safe life.  And I thank G-d for my son.  I really should also be thanking G-d for my husband a bit more.  My husband, even though he isn’t Jewish, has taught me a lot about what it means to have Emunah and Bitachon in Hashem – Faith and Trust in G-d. 

Good Shabbos. 

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – no – not Christmas and not back to school – but back to Hebrew School.  Remember that amazing Staples commercial from a few years back with the dad dancing through the store while tossing school supplies into the cart with the song playing in the background?  Well that’s how I feel now that it’s back to Hebrew School for my almost 7-year-old first grader.  My family joined a wonderful Reform synagogue in our area last year, just before my son started Kindergarten.  He had been at the JCC for daycare and preschool since he was 10 months old, so on a weekly and daily basis he got all of the loveliness of being at a Jewish school – Shabbat, challah, Jewish holidays, songs, crafts, PJ library books, Shabbat box, etc. I also work at that JCC so we got plenty of opportunities to participate in Jewish activities.   So when he wasn’t going to be getting that from school we felt we needed to step up to the plate and choose a synagogue and choose to send him to Hebrew School on Sunday mornings.

I don’t have particularly strong or happy feelings about my own Hebrew school days and my husband is Episcopalian so his Sunday school was completely different – although probably similar in many ways – holidays, bible stories, music, prayers.  We both wanted our son to enjoy his time at Hebrew School but wasn’t sure that was going to happen based on our own experiences.  Many people I know have said, “Well, I went to Hebrew School, so now my son/daughter is going to go – whether they like it or not”.  In our case, I think the “liking it” factor has definitely gone beyond my son – I actually like it.

I like it because he gets to spend time with other Jewish kids on a weekly basis – solely for the purpose that they are all Jewish and that their families think it’s important to have a Jewish education.  I like it because he gets to learn more about the holidays, prayers and Hebrew than I am able teach him.  I like it because it gives my husband and me another Jewish community to belong to.  I like it because the families there are all Jewish, yet all different in their own way – whether the parents are both Jewish, intermarried, gay, single parents or adoptive parents.  I also like it because our temple invites the parents to join the service every Sunday at 11 am.  I am able to see my son listening to the rabbi, going up on the bimah to lead songs and see his Jewish education in action. 

The best part for me is that I really enjoy the service myself – and I am not one to go to temple on a weekly basis on my own – no regular temple go-er here.  I love the songs and the sign language that the rabbi and cantor teach the kids.  I love connecting to Judaism through music and the absolute best part is the last song of the service.  It’s Tefilat Haderech by Debbie Friedman z”l and the rabbi asks everyone to “hold someone close to you” – and simultaneously all the kids put their arms around their friend’s shoulders and join in singing.  It brings me to tears – almost every time – to see this and to see my son grab his friends swaying in song.  It brings me back to my days at Jewish sleep away camp – which hold a special place in my heart.  It also brings to mind my dad, who passed away 2 years ago, and how proud he would be of me and my husband for choosing this kind of education and Jewish path for our family.

I also have to be honest and say that I also like having two hours to clean the house, go to Trader Joe’s and Target, go to the gym or spend quality time with our 2-year-old son.  I’m not going to lie – its pretty great.  But I mostly look forward to the 11:00 hour when I can be in the sanctuary and be an active participant in the Hebrew school service.