Monday, November 16, 2009

Losing My Religion

Twice a year I start to think about my kids’ religious education, or lack thereof. It usually happens in December, around Chanukah/Christmas time, and in the spring, near Passover and Easter. I was raised Jewish, but not very religiously. We celebrated most of the holidays, knew the stories, but we never went to temple or Hebrew School. My siblings and I all had Bar Mitzvahs, but they were performed by my father, not a rabbi, and were more about family and tradition and less about the Hebrew (my father wrote out my Haftorah phonetically for me). My husband is an atheist, although he was brought up Catholic. When we got married by my uncle, a Justice of the Peace, we never had a conversation about religion as it relates to the kids. When our first child was old enough to understand what was going on, we decided to light the menorah for Chanukah as a family, and go to my mother-in-law’s house on Christmas for tree decorating. In the spring, we travel to my mother’s for Passover.

But as the holidays get closer, I always regret that I’m not giving them more. Should I enroll them in Hebrew School? Should we go to temple so they can meet other kids who celebrate what they do? I end up giving in to the guilt - taking them to our local temple for the holiday celebrations. Each time, I find that I’m a fish out of water. I don’t know the songs, I don’t know the routine, and I don’t know any of the stories. Last time, my two year old stood up and yelled at the Rabbi to “Stop singing!”. I leave feeling completely overwhelmed and realize that being there doesn’t feel right for me or my kids.

Am I short-changing my boys by not giving them an official religious education? Maybe. But for now I’ll stick with the route my parents took - teaching them myself about the stories and traditions as it relates to our family - without professional help.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

With a little help from my friends

My first glass of wine since December 2007 - $8.  Mahi Mahi with pumpkin sage ravioli in a Vermont maple cream sauce - $17.99.  Spending a couple of hours with some friends after two tough weeks in the trenches of motherhood - priceless.

The dinner plan was hatched while trick or treating.  My husband and I took the boys out with two of our friends and their families.  We walked around having grown-up conversations while the kids ran from house to house. At this moment I realized that I needed an evening out.  My friends were enthusiastic, and our husbands, to my surprise, were more than encouraging.  "I wish she'd do more of that" said one of my friend's husbands.  "He told me last week I needed to go out more with my friends" said my other friend.  The date was set for the following Friday, and I spent the whole next week looking forward to that night.

We picked a restaurant that was not kid friendly on purpose.  We ordered wine and toasted to "ladies night out" -  not mom's night out -  because for those few hours we were just three women enjoying an evening together, and not there just because we were our kids' moms.  We talked about town politics, religion, and our parents and grandparents.  We debated about which job we thought was harder - the stay at home mom or the working mom - and the pros and cons of each.  And of course we talked about our kids,  but not in the context of the every day  "my kid is sick" or "my kid is driving me crazy", but more in the global context of how to raise good kids and how to be a good mom without compromising your own beliefs and values. 

We talked in a safe, judgment-free way that only friends can.  No topic was too controversial because we were there to support each other and not pass any judgment (ok, we did judge the parents of the kids at the table next to us because, really, who takes their three year old out to a fancy dinner past 8pm without expecting a constant meltdown?)

The hours flew by, and before we knew it, the wine was gone, the decadent chocolate pie was almost gone, and it was time to go home.  The conversation continued in the car and ended with the "we have to do this again soon."  I walked into the house feeling like a different person.  For the first time in two weeks, my panic attacks were gone.  The anxiety and overwhelming exhaustion I had been feeling were non-existent. It was my own personal therapy session, but instead of unloading my fears and issues to a psychologist on a couch, I was sharing my anxieties with my understanding friends at the dinner table.

Upstairs, two out of three kids were asleep, and I got to tuck Griffin in while he told me how he had finished "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory".  I was able to sit and listen to him with renewed energy and enthusiasm.  Tim told me the kids were well behaved and he was glad that I was feeling better.  I can't thank my friends enough for spending the evening out with me. All I can say is : when is the next "ladies night out"?
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