Friday, August 10th, 2012
Like many Jewish families, we usher in Shabbat, the Sabbath, by lighting candles, saying the blessings over the wine and challah bread, and blessing our children. Or at least we try to. Our older one has tried various forms of resistance over the past few months and seems to see her weekly blessing as some sort of, well, curse–or, at least, a babyish practice that she should have grown out of.
The blessing itself takes all of 10 seconds. My wife and I place our hands on each child’s head one at a time and recite in Hebrew the traditional blessing for girls: “May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah”–the Jewish matriarchs–followed by three short verses from the Bible. (Numbers 6:24-26, in case you were curious.) To me, it is a beautiful and moving custom, one that is deeply meaningful and makes me feel a special connection to my children every week.
Adira, who’s 5, begs to differ. A few months ago, she started running away from us when it came time for her blessing. We’d follow her into her playroom or elsewhere in the house, hands reaching out to bless her as quickly as we could, often on the move while we did so. We didn’t want to push her too hard and turn what’s usually a beautiful moment into a weekly power struggle. (Lord knows we have enough of those already.) We later started insisting she be at the dinner table for these few moments, but as a concession in the lengthy negotiations that followed, agreed to bless her without touching our hands to her head.
I can live with that.
Recently, however, she’s been asking when she will be old enough not to be blessed, throwing out suggested ages when she feels this weekly torture should surely be past her. I proudly and emphatically tell her that at no point in her life will I stop blessing her. I usually launch into an explanation of the blessing and why it’s so meaningful, but by then she’s running off to play, after a quick pause to help us bless her younger sister.
We recently did agree that if she becomes taller than me–and it’s a toss-up at this point whether my very-short daughter will catch up to my very-short self–I will agree to let her forgo this bit of tradition, if she still wants to at that point. I’m betting that by then she’ll have come around and enjoy her weekly moment, or will have forgotten this agreement altogether. If not, somehow I think I will renege on this promise and find a way to keep offering her her blessing.
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Thursday, July 26th, 2012
Editor’s Note: In the first post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month. He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart from this series.
Children’s brains go to sleep as soon as school ends for summer vacation, and they can hibernate until after school starts again in the fall. While kids need rest and rejuvenation, structured and unstructured play, physically active and tranquil days, and homework-free evenings, the summer “brain freeze” (a.k.a. “summer meltdown” or “summer slide”) can last too long. When resting brains slip into vegetative states defined by TV, video games, Facebook, text messaging marathons, and MP3 hypnosis, it’s time for an intervention.
Fortunately, there is a cure: enrollment at Family Summer University (FSU)! At FSU, there is no tuition and no homework, but there are tests (more like friendly and funny family competitions) every night.
As Dean of FSU, it’s your job to set aside a little time each day to write the quiz questions. Tailor them to the ages and learning levels of your kids, but don’t be limited to school subjects. Instead, include a wide range of topics: celebrities, cartoon characters, favorite storybooks, sports teams, movies and TV shows, or any other topics that each family member will enjoy. Fun trivia about Justin Bieber and Jeremy Lin can help camouflage the educational lessons about hypotenuses, homonyms, and Hamlet. Mix and match questions every night from different subject areas or dedicate different nights of the week to certain subjects.
Look to brain teaser games, flash card sets, home versions of TV quiz shows, the library, the internet, and yes, your kids’ school books, to write your questions. But don’t overdo it — set a maximum of 20 questions per child per day, 10 questions if you have more than three kids! Remember, if you’re asking your 6 year old a tough question for his age, you should also be asking your 12 year old a tough one for her age.
Once your questions are written, gather the kids on the designated FSU campus (it can be the porch, patio, or another comfortable venue that’s preferably outdoors) and let the games begin! A great time for FSU to gather is after dinner because everyone is already together. Play every night or play a few days a week. Add bonus questions, musical prompts, and picture clues to make the game more interesting. Watch as scarce minutes with your kids turn into special moments.
After the answers are given, discuss them with your kids. Gently explain the questions they missed and have them explain ones they got right. Tally the correct number of answers for each contestant each dayk. At the end of each week, give a prize to the child with the highest score, and then start scoring from scratch the next week. This way, no one falls so far behind that they have no chance of catching up. Good “prizes” can be letting the winner choose the DVD on family movie night or the theme for a special dinner night. At the end of the summer, have an FSU “graduation” ceremony with cardboard caps, bed sheet gowns, and colorful paper diplomas. Then, make sure to go for ice cream!
Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).
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