Soon it will be Yom Kippur. But I’ll probably be eating a scone with my morning tea as usual. I want to say: this year I won’t be fasting because my husband is away for a week and I’m already in a survival mode alone with two kids. Food is my sustenance and one of my comforts. I can’t afford to give it up right now. It feels good to say this. I imagine a small crowd of understanding non-Jewish individuals nodding their head in support and understanding as I explain to them, that THIS YEAR I’m not fasting.
But, who am I kidding? I didn’t fast last year or the year before that. Or the one before that. In fact, I can’t remember the last year I fasted, but I have a suspicion it was many years ago.
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When we find out that the local primary school to which we are about to send our son is affiliated with a Christian Methodist church, we begin to worry what it will do to our child’s malnourished Jewish identity.
The school has a friendly atmosphere, claims to be tolerant of all religions and views, and aims to raise kind, liberal and open-minded children.
But still, the Christian aspect is inevitably there: in the daily worship and the weekly assembly in church, the reciting of prayers, the Nativity play every December.
We are concerned. Since we don’t observe traditions at home with any regularity, if the only religious input he gets is from school, how is he even going to know that he is Jewish?
My seven-year-old pours some vinegar into a mixing bowl, follows with a good squeeze of ketchup, some cracker crumbs, a few tablespoons of flour, and a sprinkle of dried thyme. Adds a dash of vanilla, some leftover canned beans and the discarded crust from his breakfast sandwich still lying around on the counter. Mixes it all with a spatula with the confidence of a seasoned cook. Pauses to smell the mixture, then adds a glass of water and mixes some more.
“I’m ready. Can we bake it now?”
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Figure out the length of the pause. That was my main challenge in the first couple of months. The pause between the moment somebody asked my son a question and the second I began to answer it for him. Wait too long and it could mean risking him unnecessary embarrassment (as well as putting the asker in an awkward position). Respond too soon and it might deny him the possibility to answer for himself, narrowing the chance that at some point I might hear his voice in social situations.
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He went on that ride with his Dad. At first I was sure he wouldn’t go. I stood behind the fence and watched them get seated and strapped in, watched the guard lower the safety restraint on them for extra security.
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I don’t limit screen time. I don’t give out stickers for good screen time habits or take them away for bad ones. I don’t impose rules like you must do 10 push-ups, 25 minutes of physical activity, 15 minutes of creative work, and 20 minutes of educational activities before using any digital devices. My son, at 7, uses his tablet on his own terms and on his own schedule.
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I wake up to a steady and dull thump-thump-thump outside. I look out of the window: grey sky and a heavy wall of rain. It’s Saturday morning. I breath a sigh of relief.
I put my head back on the pillow, close my eyes and take in the comforting sound of pouring rain for a few more minutes. Saturday indoors? No pressure to get dressed, get organized, and go “do” things? The complete guilt-free permission to stay inside and let the day spontaneously unfold, guided only by our minute to minute desires? What could be better than that? I know, just as I lay there listening, that somebody else in my house is relieved too. Martin, my 7-year-old son, like me, is delighted at an opportunity to spend a weekend indoors.
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