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Weekly Inspiration from Chana

Weekly Inspiration from Chana

Weekly Inspiration from Chana.
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THE (IM)PERFECT PARENT

PARENTING.  Whew! It’s a loaded word!

A great quote from Dr Koslowitz, an acclaimed parent educator and licensed psychologist, in a parenting article I recently read:

“Parenting isn’t linear. When you bake a cake, if you put in the correct ingredients, in the correct measure, in the correct order, and bake at the correct temperature, you’re likely to get the same results each time. It’s a linear process: A+B=C. Linear processes are not scary because they’re easily controlled and easily corrected. If your cake flops, you know what mistakes to look out for. Was the yeast dead? Did the oven get to the correct temperature? Did you accidentally substitute baking powder for baking soda? Once you figure out your error, you can bake the cake again and get different results. 

Parenting is not like that though. The correct ingredients for one kid might be the exactly wrong ones for another. The temperature that worked for you might be way too hot or way too cold for your child. In raising children, the answer to most questions that arise is ‘it depends’.”

This lack of linearity makes it impossible to be a Perfect Parent. All we can be is what psychologist D.W. Winnicott called “good enough” mothers. Only a cake can be perfect. In raising children however, so much is about “it depends”. Which means that we constantly have to reflect, tweak, adjust, mess up, mess up again, and even after we think we’ve got it right, we come to the recognition that so much of parenting is beyond our control. Each of our children are complex and unique little worlds, each on their own unique journey. The journey will meander through the beautiful as well as the difficult, and more often than not, that’s the only way to get there. It is how our children build resilience, inner strength, positive character traits, and faith in G-d, and most importantly- in a way that affords them the opportunities to make these attributes their own.

Yet so often in our attempt to be everything to our children, we strive to be the perfect parent. We fail to acknowledge that so much is beyond our control. As Dr Koslowitz notes at the end of the article: “There is a certain cultural imperative that we have learned about being perfect, and it’s one we have to actively combat”.

And I believe that bringing HaShem into our parenting careers is a critical ingredient in combating this cultural ideal of perfectionism in parenting.

Here’s why:

The Talmud explains that that there are three partners involved in the creation of a child – the father, the mother, and G-d. And that partnership continues into the child-rearing years as well. And hey, if I had to choose a third partner, having G-d join the partnership is a pretty good deal, wouldn’t you say?!

 I try to live with a recognition and appreciation for this partnership from the day my babies are born. I could never do it without G-d as my partner. Not even for a day. I have come to recognize that parenting is about something so much greater than the finite capabilities of two limited human beings. To create a child is to step out of the boundaries of time and space; to touch the Infinite.  We connect to the Divine energy where “Ayin” (nothing) becomes “Yesh” ( existence). And from that place, a child is created, birthed, and raised. 

This recognition inspires me to give G-d a prominent role in my parenting career. After all, this is about something so much greater than just me and my husband. We merited to touch a realm beyond the physical in order to bring a holy soul into this world; a soul with a mission to make this world a holier and more G-dly place. And so, I strive to imbue my home with Torah values and Mitzvot. As I sing the Shema with my kids from the youngest of ages, recite blessings over food, light the Shabbat candles, serve them kosher food, read Torah Bedtime stories, point out the wonders of G-d’s Creations on a nature walk, or give Tzedakah with them each morning, I feel myself bringing HaShem’s presence into my home and into my children’s lives. 

And with each of my kids’ milestones, joyous occasions, and even a cute remark, I strive to turn to G-d in genuine gratitude. He is my Partner. He orchestrates it all. He deserves my thanks.

And with each temper tantrum, difficult discussion, sibling rivalry episode, loss of patience (on my end😊), or time that my child struggles with a challenging emotion, I strive once again to turn to G-d. Yup, He’s my Partner in all this after all. Even and especially now. This was and never will be just about me and my husband trying to raise our child. It is about a mission that my child’s soul has in this world. We are simply the lucky ones to serve as the conduits and facilitators for it. And therefore, no, it won’t look or feel like baking a cake. So much about this child’s journey is beyond what I can know and understand. All I can do is my very best to provide love, boundaries, values and inspiration. After that, I lift the burden off my shoulders and place it in G-d’s Hands instead. “Please G-d”, I say “they are your children too. You have a Master Plan at play here. A journey you have intended for my child, one that is beyond what I can fully comprehend. Guide them. Watch over them. Help them along their journey. So that they may know You and feel You with every fiber of their being. So that the choices and values they embrace are aligned with Yours. Because HaShem- as you know, I can bake (almost) perfect cakes- but as a mother, there is no perfect. I can only do my best and the rest is in Your Hands. This is about You and Your Master Plan.”

So my dear friends, keep baking perfect cakes (and share the recipes with us😊) But for the recipe of child-rearing, don’t expect perfect. Don’t expect to be able to do it alone. Bring HaShem into the recipe instead”.


Investing in Eternity

 INVESTING IN ETERNITY

My grandparents have never celebrated a Passover Seder alone. Each year found them surrounded -thank G-d – by their children, then grandchildren, and soon after by great-grandchildren. This Passover- with all the COVID restrictions- was the first. The thought of Bubby and Zaidy celebrating the Seders alone from an apartment across the street from my parents, left us children and grandchildren feeling like we needed to do something to brighten their holiday.

Through collaboration and team effort, we were able to put together a gorgeous “Haggadah Accompaniment” filled with pictures of their over 50 children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren enacting the different steps of the Seder. We included humorous memories and meaningful anecdotes from our past Seders together.

Then, at the point in the Seder when the Ma Nishtana (The 4 Questions) are recited, my brothers came over from across the street and stood by my grandparents open apartment window as they asked the 4 Questions to their dear Bubby and Zaidy through the window. My grandparents’ Seders were thereby uplifted and brightened in a profound way.
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I have a dear friend, older than me, who waited many years to get married. As a religious Jewish girl, this was especially difficult. Most of her friends were married in their early twenties, leaving a big void in her life. In what could have been a period of feeling understandably very sorry for herself and unmotivated to connect with friends who were living the life she so yearned for, I watched in awe as her joy and love for her friends only grew. She genuinely and wholeheartedly joined in each of their Simchas; she was there to help, hug, and share in the joy as her friends got married, gave birth, and celebrated each of their kids’ milestones.

Well thank G-d she did get married! The joy of her family and friends knew no bounds. That is, until about a month ago, when her husband contracted COVID-19 and had to be placed in the ICU in critical condition. Now her family and friends, to whom she had been so loyal and connected throughout her many lonely and difficult years, rallied behind her. We prayed, we took on new Mitzvahs, we encouraged and supported her in every way possible. We tried to envelop her in the cloud of love that she had shown to each of us. And thank G-d, with the help of the Merciful and Compassionate One Above, her husbands condition has improved. May he have a speedy and complete recovery.
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One of Chabad of Cary’s larger donors has generously supported us over the course of the last ten years. As the owner of a small start-up, a successful one, yet fraught with risk and financial challenges, I would often ask him how he so joyfully kept up his generous donations even during challenging times. Without hesitating, he replied: ‘I am well aware that while I have seen much success in many areas of my business thank G-d, I can just as easily lose it all tomorrow. But the Tzedakah (charity) I give, will never be lost. It has been bound with a Mitzvah; bound to that which is lasting and eternal.”

Well, he did lose a lot of his business in the recent COVID -provoked economic downturn. And he is as happy as can be. Because in truth, he did not really lose everything. He invested in that which is lasting and eternal. Nothing and no one can take that away from him.
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3 COVID stories.

3 individuals in my close circle, who were negatively affected by COVID.

Yet, their blow was cushioned. At those trying moments in time, they found themselves enveloped by the authentic love, security, and inner peace that only a connection to that which is eternal can offer.

I have been contemplating the source of that cushion. In what merit it was there for them when they needed it most.

I’ve concluded that each of them had expended time and effort to acquire the gift of foresight.

I view “Foresight” as a special gift. We are sometimes afforded the unique ability to look at our lives from the vantage point of “Hindsight”-with all the wisdom contained therein- yet with the chronological positioning to be able to let that wisdom influence the choices we make today. To let that wisdom inform and shape the way we live our lives in the present.

These individuals did just that. They did not just live in the here and now. Rather, they made themselves cognizant of life’s fragility. They contemplated the temporal nature of this physical world. They distinguished between the “stuff” of life that is finite and fleeting, and that which is everlasting: relationships with family, friends, G-d and His Holy Torah.

And they invested in it. Blood, sweat, and tears. At times when it was excruciatingly difficult.

I witnessed all that my grandparents invested, often more than they had, to nurture their large family. And now, their family enveloped them in love as they navigated what could have been a very lonely Passover.

I witnessed my friend invest in her loved ones, giving and caring from a place of authentic love, despite the gaping void within her. And now, her friends enveloped her in love, prayer, and support as she navigated the life threatening illness of her husband.

And I witnessed our dear Chabad donor invest in the Mitzvah of Tzedakah even at a time when he was struggling to pay his own bills. And now, his Mitzvah enveloped him in the security and inner peace of knowing that all was not lost, and with the belief that his Mitzvah would only serve as a vessel for future business success.

These individuals created dozens and dozens of eternal moments in an otherwise temporary existence. And a bond with the eternal is… ETERNAL! It is there in the form of love, connection, security, and inner peace here in this world, often during our most challenging moments, and continues with us into the Next World, after we shed our earthly existence.

I too hope and pray for the ability to live with a little more Foresight in my life. To take to heart the lessons I have learned from these role models. Because to invest in family, friends, Mitzvahs, and Torah study is to plant seeds that will continue to bear fruit for eternity. I hope to ask myself a new question from time to time: “What percentage of your life, Chana, is eternal?” And I hope that the number with which I respond, continues to increase in size over time.

Feel free to join me on this journey😊.

 

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