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May 02

Religious Crisis

Sometimes, often times, for me, I make parenting decisions that make sense.  That are well thought out, carefully considered and, in the end, I still feel, are the right decision at the time.  Then I run into the obvious consequences, and feel as though I’m blindsided – like I never saw that coming.  And it throws everything into question for me, and I have to circle my way back around to the original decision, and (usually) conclude that it was the right decision, I just have to wait thru the negative parts to get to the good stuff.

Case in point – Sam’s preschool.  It was a seriously agonized over decision, to pull him out of preschool.  But he wasn’t ready.  And at four, I wasn’t ready to push him to go, and I did the research, I knew that he’d be okay academically, by the time a child hits third grade, any benefit to preschool has disappeared and you can’t tell which kids went and which ones didn’t.  What I didn’t think about was that he’d be behind in kindergarten.  Why, I don’t know – it’s right there in front of me, but still, I was shocked by it.  I haven’t fully gotten to the point where I’m forgiving myself for the original decision, because right now, things are HARD at kindergarten and there’s a huge part of me that feels enormously guilty about that.  But I think, in the end, I’m going to conclude that it was right.  He was too little to go to preschool.  Sam is a different kind of kid, and he needed that extra time at home.  And I don’t regret it, not really.  He’s so much closer to Julianna, he got that extra time home when Marc was unemployed – and, in the end, he’ll catch up.  He’s a smart kid, he’s got good genes and a good home environment, he’ll catch up.

And I’m facing a similar debate over religion.   I knew from the beginning that I wanted to raise the kids within an organized religion.  I feel really strongly that having a base, a foundation for spirituality makes it easier later for them to be able to form their own ideas.  There is no organized Church of Melissa (although if there was, I reluctantly conclude I probably wouldn’t join it, as I get itchy around organized religion) and since their father, and my husband, my partner, my buddy, is Jewish – it was an obvious conclusion.  We’ll raise them Jewish.  But you can’t just unilaterally decide to raise children as Jews if you (as a mother) are, in fact, not Jewish – so we formally converted.  And I still think that was the right decision. Theologically, Judaism is as close as you can get, really, to my own personal theology.  Plus, their dad is Jewish, they are Jewish as well.  He’s as much a part of who they are as I am, it simply doesn’t make sense that they wouldn’t be considered Jewish because he’s their dad and not their mom.

So I converted and converted the kids and am raising them Jewish.  And only just now realizing – that means they’re growing up as part of an organized religious belief system and it makes me itchy.   Because organized religion – it’s so easy to not think about it.  To just do what you’re told to do, to mindlessly go thru life without ever exploring the bigger questions.  My kids kept kosher for Passover this year, not because they had thought about it, and carefully considered the meaning behind it, but because that’s what you do when you’re Jewish.   That freaks me out.  But they’re five and nine.  That’s okay.  And I need to come to grips with that.  Their spiritual path is not going to be the same as mine.  In the end, even though Marc is Jewish as well as they are, their paths are not going to be the same as his either.  Because they are going thru a completely different type of childhood than either of us did.  And I need to ease back.  I need to stop panicking because I’m living a very “organized religion” sort of life, and remember that I chose this for a reason.   I just have this aspect of my personality that rebels against joining – and the older the kids get, the more and more pressure I feel to join the larger Jewish community.  I was able to convert because it was mine.  My spirituality, and it’s intimate and personal, and it didn’t matter that I didn’t like going to services.  I knew what was right for me.  But my kids love services, they love the ritual and the community and the rules and tradition.  I have to just grit my teeth and get thru it.  At this stage in their lives, following rules is what they do.  There will be time for independent thought, and one aspect of Judaism that I really love is that they are going to get that encouragement.  To think, to explore, to develop their own personal relationship with the Divine.

I just need to step back and know that I made the right decision.  Even if it’s hard now, it’s the right one, and I’m not going to regret it.

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