Rachel Wool, our Family Engagement Manager, wrote this stellar, insightful piece about being home with her young children during this time.
It started with a new obsession about building bridges. Then our four-year-old son wanted to make lists of who was in charge of protecting people. Finally, when he wanted to know if a sword could fight germs instead of the usual bad guys, I realized we had not been doing as good a job of shielding him from the current state of affairs as we thought. Just two weeks ago, I was worried that the Purim story was going to be a little too much for my four-year-old, and now I am sitting here pondering how much and how little to share with him about a virus causing our entire system to come to a crashing halt.
In the past few weeks we have had two villains introduced in our home, Hamen; a historical figure that has graced Jewish kids story times for decades along with his very identifiable pointy hat and Coronavirus; a brand new and completely faceless threat. I cannot help but connect the two and try to weave a narrative that makes sense for my tiny but very perceptive little person. One of the biggest takeaways I pushed with the Purim story was that Hamen was afraid of people that were different and why that resulted in him missing out on fun. Now, we are sitting at home afraid of something new and different. However, unlike Hamen, we can make the choice to embrace the community around us. What we learned from the Purim story has helped us navigate our way with this new villain.
I am thankful that my son is still young. I know he will not remember the fact that we haven’t made it through the entire lesson planned by his amazing school. He is more forgiving for the fact that I cannot make up for his talented, and likely more patient, teachers. He does not mind that we do not follow our scripted schedule. However, because of his age I know he cannot understand why we are quarantining and why he has to miss the places and people he loves. My fear is that this period will build a trepidation of the unknown that will cause him to retreat from the community.
What we have done is focus on how we can bring joy to the people around us without them knowing it was us! I am learning to be grateful for this chance to teach gemilut hassadim (acts of kindness) and kehila (community) in a fashion that is fitting with the current climate.
Yesterday was a difficult morning for him because he was missing his friends so we crafted a plan to be “sneaky sneakers” and color rainbows that we could hang with some crystal prisms around the neighborhood telling people to spot the rainbows created by the light. My work was pushed back a few hours, we didn’t finish any of his “class work,” but we created some joy. Maybe more importantly, we quelled a little of his worry and helped him see a world beyond ourselves.
At the JCC I help oversee the Jewish Baby University course and one of my favorite lines delivered each session in JBU by Rabbi Kaye is “Judaism can help you go beyond the how of parenting and provide the why”. I don’t think I ever fully understood what he was saying as much as I have this week when I realized we needed to step away from the daily structure and activities we have relied on in the past and just focus on the needs and emotions of the present. I am leaning on the lessons that I have learned through our rabbi, my community, literature (thank you, PJ Library!) and more to help me craft strong and resilient people in the face of something that feels so ready to deconstruct all we have created.