Last night when the boys were taking a bath, I reminded them that it was Yom Kippur. On Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, we ask God for forgiveness for our wrong doings. There’s a lot more to say about this holiest day of the year for Jews – about fasting, praying, and other rituals – but I don’t dare enter territory with which I’m not familiar. Let’s just say, I recognize the significance of the holiday, and I want my children to understand it, too.
Back to the bath. We talked a bit about the meaning of the holiday, and I asked the boys what they’d like to do to be a better person in the year ahead. I looked to Dylan – the older, wiser brother – first. His response was, “I’ll watch The Avengers.” I reminded him that Yom Kippur wasn’t about movies, that it was about him and the people he loves. He revised his answer. “I’ll play with toys.”
When this happens – when Dylan doesn’t get it – I get frustrated. I distinctly remember last year, when Dylan was asked at school about his wish for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, it took him several days to come up with one that didn’t involve buying new toys.
After some additional prodding last night, Dylan said he’d be nice and not kick in the year ahead. Not bad, but the thing is that he is nice and he doesn’t kick. He’s almost six years old, and I wanted more from him. I wanted him to think of something tangible, something real, like I want to be a good big brother or I’ll clean my toys. As I scrubbed shampoo in Riley’s hair, he said, “I’ll wash Riley’s hair.” Really? “You mean, you want to be a better helper in the year ahead?” I suggested. He said, “Yes.”
These are the regrettable moments when instead of appreciating Dylan’s unique mind and way of processing the world around him, I get irritated. This feeling was only amplified when Riley’s response to the same question was – without any help from me – “I want to sleep…in my own bed.” Amen! He totally got it. At the age of three, he displayed an understanding of himself and the holiday that I wished Dylan had been able to do.
When it was my turn, I told them I wanted to have more patience. I wanted to yell and say “no” less. I wanted to have more fun. Not surprisingly, I raised my voice (and said “no” at least a few times) when they were getting dressed after the bath because they were, well, lunatics. I do want to have more patience with my busy and loud (they’re so loud!) boys who have a desire – a need, actually – to unbuckle themselves and play hide and seek in the car (in the car!) every time I turn off the engine, but what I really want is the strength to accept them without judgment for the exceptional human beings they are. I love my boys the same, but by golly, I love them differently, too. In the year(s) ahead, I hope to find it within myself to appreciate their individual gifts without getting lost in worry or frustration about their differences or letting a strength in one define a weakness in the other.
It’s not appropriate to say “Happy Yom Kippur,” (there’s nothing happy about fasting and repenting). Instead, it’s proper to say, “Have an easy fast.” On this important day, which is also a day off from school, Dylan woke up at 5:30 a.m. Getting up that early wasn’t easy, especially since I took Nyquil last night because this cold just won’t quit, but today isn’t supposed to be easy. I just hope it goes by fast.
To all who observe Yom Kippur, wishing you an easy fast.