This post has the possibility to become a little...high handed? Divisive? I'm not sure. But I had some thoughts stemming from the recent holiday services, and this seemed like the best place to share them. So know that they're coming from a good place.
As many of you know, we're raising Thatbaby Jewish. It was my marriage dealbreaker. As in, anyone who wanted to marry me had to agree to raise our children under the Jewish faith.
As you may or may not know, the past two weeks were the High Holy Days in the Jewish religion - Rosh Hashannah, the New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Both are marked by services the evening before and the entire day of the holiday. And so we brought Thatbaby to services.
This isn't a new thing. Typically we bring him to the high holiday services, but usually at Thatmom's synagogue. This was our first time bringing him to synagogue at our new synagogue. And he was the only child there for all the services. After each service, we had multiple people come up and commend us on his behavior, telling us how impressed they were. While I acknowledged each praise gratefully, the encounters left me with a strange feeling.
Of course Thatbaby came with us to services, why wouldn't he? He is
part of our family, and we want him to know about his faith. I grew up going to services with my family, there wasn't another option. And we weren't the only ones. There were always children running around services. In fact it was something you looked forward to as a kid, seeing your friends at synagogue. I don't mean this to sounds specific to Judaism, but in my mind, if you are practicing a faith, then your children should be involved. They should attend services with you. If you want to teach them about faith, you do so by including them.
It bothered me a little that the synagogue doesn't provide childcare, or a space for parents to take children and still be able to take part in the services (They called it the "crying room" at our old synagogue - a soundproof room with a window into the sanctuary and speakers piping in the audio.) Speaking to other parents, it seems that they either skip services, or trade off with each other for who attends the various services.
Thatbaby is not a model child. He is not winning behavioral awards on a regular basis. There is nothing special about him in regards to his ability to sit through services. He is a stereotypical 3 year old, full of energy and attitude. And so we prepare accordingly. We pack a bag with lots of quiet activities, like lace-up sheets, sticker books, and coloring books. That way he can sit quietly through services and still be a part of the community. We also are very flexible with his needs. He knows he needs to be quiet inside the sanctuary, but if he wants to be loud, all he has to do is ask and we take him outside. (He asks to "go outside and sing.") Giving him the option of where he wants to be takes away many behavioral issues. And he often chooses to be inside. Watching the people, singing the songs, taking part. After all, this is his community too.