I’m Jewish. I’m spiritual. I’m a big fan of family rituals and traditions, but I’m not as enthusiastic about organized religion. Mike isn’t into religion at all, but he grew up with a mixed-religion family and had a little bit of Hanukkah and a lot of Christmas. With the holidays upon us, there’s a menorah, I mean, Hanukkiah, and a Christmas tree in my living room, and I’m deep in thought about how to simultaneously instill a sense of identity, a moral compass and the freedom of belief in our children. As you can imagine, this poses a lot of questions and no easy answers.
Yesterday, an answer came. (One is better than none.) I brought two apple fruit squeezers on an epic excursion of errands and doctor’s appointments with the boys. At one point, Riley had one and then asked for the other. I looked over at Dylan and he said (with a whine), “No,it’s mine.” Then, after abreath, he said, “Riley can have it. Christmas is about being together and helping one another.”
The line is from “Wonder Pets: Save The Reindeer.” We’ve been watching the episode over and over for a few weeks now, and Linny, Tuck and Ming-Ming’s wise words have apparently made an impression.
(Side note: Did you think Linny was Winny like me? Nickjr.com confirms that it’s Linny. Who knew!?)
“Wonder Pets: SaveThe Reindeer” has a Christmas story line, but you could just as easily say,“Hanukkah is about being together and helping one another.” Or, “Friendship is about being together and helping one another.” Or, “Life is about being together and helping one another.”
More than anything, I want my boys to be good human beings. I truly believe it’s possible to raise children to be giving, caring, and compassionate, and to know the difference between right and wrong with or without religion. If I close my eyes, I can hear my (Jewish but not very religious) father saying, “My job as your parent is to teach you the difference between right and wrong.” The apple didn’t fall far from the tree. I say this to Dylan and Riley all the time!
About a week ago, Mike asked Riley what he wanted for Christmas and Riley’s reply was, “A dreidel.” Around the same time, Dylan asked Mike if he was Jewish and Mike delicately said, “No.” Dylan responded by saying, “I don’t want to be Jewish either.” Clearly, we have a lot to sort out here, but being together and helping one another is a good starting point.
We had a beautiful family Hanukkah celebration last night that included lighting the Hanukkiah, singing the three Hanukkah blessings, eating brisket and latkes, opening presents, and being together.
Today, Dylan, Riley and I made Hanukkah cookies (and a mess) together.
On Saturday night, we’ll celebrate the fifth night of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve together, and on Sunday, we’ll open gifts and share another delicious meal with our family. As long as we’re together and helping one another, I’m confident we’ll find the answers we’re looking for about God, religion, right and wrong, life and death, and any other big questions we bump into along the way. Just in case, we’ll keep watching the “Wonder Pets.”