For our new series #selfreflectionsunday I'll be publicly posting a personal inner thought/journal entry because why not bring a little more of a personal touch to my business life? Ali's Wagon has been knitted so tightly with my family life since the very beginning, so I want to take a minute every week to let that connection shine through. Hope you enjoy!
Before the kids were born I was really able to dig into the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur. I wrote Jewish New Year cards and we went to many hours of services; I fasted on Yom Kippur and as the day came to a close Nat prepared a Break the Fast meal for friends.
Fasting on Yom Kippur was a real way for me to connect to a day that was meant for self-reflection and to set my intentions for the year ahead. Things went on like this until the year that Lily was born. When you are pregnant or nursing a child you are supposed to forgo the fasting part, and now that I look back I can see that was sort of the beginning of the end of Yom Kippur as I knew it. I first suspended fasting when I was pregnant with Lily and as my migraines have become worse since then I never went back to this observance.
Losing the practice of my fast in itself isn’t what has made me feel distant from the holidays, but it represents my turn into keeping a holiday in a way that puts the kids at the center of it all. Holidays with kids are about maintaining the day as if it were the routine of any other day, the complete opposite of carving out a day to reflect and regroup. It’s been that way for the past 12 years and though we no longer rush home from services for nap times, even the prep for the Holidays is set around what’s happening with the kids. Shopping for our Break the Fast meal this year was squeezed in between a doctor’s appointment and swim practice, and I was consumed with making sure the kids had the stuff to wear to synagogue. It’s been at least a decade since I wrote Rosh Hashana cards. Even after this cycle of putting the kids’ needs ahead of my religious practices has repeated itself many years over, I didn’t fully recognize the toll it had taken on me. It wasn’t until last year when I attended a program for parents of kids in our synagogue’s religious school, and a mom stood up and stated that having kids had really hurt her spiritual life. It was so obvious, once I heard it said out loud, that creating holidays that work for my kids is not what I would choose for myself. We recently even changed synagogues purely around the kid’s insurmountable disdain of the religious school they were in. I so much wanted them to love being Jewish that I left a community that I was perfectly content to be in, which is really a metaphor about parenting.
Sometimes it matters to take care of yourself first, like on an airplane, when they say to put on your own oxygen mask and then take care of a child who is in your care. I have maybe never been more impressed with a friend’s parenting than when a neighbor friend banged on our door and thrust her toddler at me, proclaiming that he’d had a playground accident and that his leg was broken. She asked us to watch him for a few minutes while she got their stuff together to go to the ER. In the anxious, emergency parts of parenting we often race through fear, and I remember thinking that in this same situation as my friend was in I would probably have just jumped into a cab and forgotten my insurance card and snacks for the inevitable long ER wait. My friend put on her oxygen mask first so she could be really ready to care for her son and he was fine to wait just a few more minutes in our care. But in repeating life situations, like holidays, my needs aren’t quite being met and that’s hard to swallow sometimes. I love the new rituals that we have made as a family, but sometimes it’s still jarring to me that the practices I once embraced have been replaced by more family-friendly ways of observing sacred times. It doesn’t work for us to sit at services all day long on Yom Kippur, but just when we finish the leftovers from our Break the Fast meal it’s time to start taking out the materials to put up our sukkah in observance of the holiday of Sukkot. And that’s a ritual I enjoy doing with the kids, but it’s more of an art project than a spiritual practice.
The road we travel at Sukkot is one that any parent would recognize; there’s the bickering between the kids about who gets to use the glue gun next and the bargaining between Nat and me about who should walk the dog because who spent more time getting the parts for the sukkah out of the basement. And so, another year has gone by with us squeezing our religious practices into the rat race of back-to-school-time. I can’t say I am coming out of Yom Kippur feeling spiritually recharged, but we do have an awfully pretty sukkah!