Can we talk about the “should we celebrate American holidays?” bit? Um unequivocally, yes, yes and yes!
Why? Because Judaism is my religion. It’s spiritual, heartfelt, a life guide and feels like coming home. At the same time, being an American describes my life, my choices and is also about coming home, for sure.
So does my family celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and the December 31st version as well? You bet we do! And while we have different memories and customs for both holidays, this year we made the connection between the two days for our kids and for ourselves.
In September our family brought in the Jewish New Year with caramel apples, honey cake and a tashlikh walk. This is a custom that we cherish where we “throw away” events from the past year that we are not proud of.
Our family goes to the same spot every year. We take a walk along a trail, trek down to the moving water and throw bread crumbs to symbolically “cast away” regrets. This year we talked to the girls about apologizing for wrongs and not repeating mistakes (easy). We also tried to model the same for ourselves (harder). We brainstormed ideas for them such as ignoring us or hitting each other (easy). And they brainstormed ideas for us like raising our voices and saying no (harder). Sigh. This is definitely a humbling experience, but rejuvenating for the heart and soul of the family.
For a few weeks after tashlikh we all seemed to be on our best behavior. Apologies were made and bread crumbs were thrown after all. But as time passed, I will admit that we have each fallen into some bad habits again. Well, lo and behold we now have a chance for a “Mid-Year Check-In” with another New Year.
I do realize that it’s not exactly half a year between September and December (I’m not THAT bad at math!), but a “A-Several-Months-Later-Check -In” just doesn’t have the same ring now, does it? So this week as we found ourselves preparing for New Year’s Eve with balloons (for the 7:30 PM kids’ version balloon drop), appetizers and decorations, we decided to talk to the girls about resolutions.
We made the tashlikh connection upfront. We wondered if they’d remember what we all threw away; they did. Vividly. (Humbling is good, right?) We talked about how it was going, where we’d improved and what we’d still like to work on. As we discussed this over dinner, a common thread pulled from all of our ideas about listening, being calm, being gentle. It really is all about being a good person. We’re all a work in progress and our “Mid-Year Check In” just gives us a chance to refocus and keep at it.
Chloe, Jason and I will all be working on being calm. Taking a deep breath before we react to bad parenting moments for Jason and I and not being a hurricane in our home for Chloe. Kayli’s plan is to be honest. She has been doing the “little white lie” thing lately. And while it’s certainly age appropriate, we wouldn’t mind nipping it in the bud. We had an incident the night we discussed resolutions (“The picture frame just suddenly fell! I didn’t do it!”) that was apparently still on her mind so we went with it.
Can I find the humor in three of us working on staying calm? Definitely. Let’s just face it, we all have moments that we’re not proud of as parents. All we can do is learn from those moments and move forward.
Because as a family we want to help and support each other, we decided to have a “code word” to help any one of us if we’re struggling with our goal. Marshmallow. The word we picked is Marshmallow. And while I have a two little kids that I could pin the word choice on, it was Jason’s idea. 100% Jason’s idea. Again, sigh. We now have a family goal to help each other work on one part of ourselves that we’ve chosen to improve. And a silly word to help us when we struggle through it. I already heard “marshmallow” yelled in the girls’ room tonight. It was followed by giggles and no major meltdowns, so I’m taking it as a win.
So for Rosh Hashanah tashlikh we each picked one trait to get rid of and for New Year’s resolution, we each picked one attribute to add. It seems to me that the two holidays go hand in hand as a perfect fit as we strive to be good people ourselves and to support our kids in being the same.