More and more I notice myself feeling that life is going by too quickly and our kids are growing up too fast. Not that life is passing us by – we are living our lives very fully and completely – I just feel that I want to reach out into the vast beyond and stop time or at least slow things down. We are immersed in the college process with our high school junior and watched our “babies” go off to their first high school formal, causing us to speculate about how different our lives will be in just four years, when all three kids are in college.
While I am in such a nostalgic mood, fondly remembering the days and events of yesteryear and noticing myself telling lots of stories about when they were little, I thought a nice topic for this month’s column would be to reflect on the things we might have done differently in the Jewish aspects of our lives. Perhaps something will resonate for those of you with younger children, and you can do some of these things now, so that you can avoid these “wish I had…” feelings.
First, I would have encouraged our children to read more Jewish books. Not books teaching them about Jewish people, places and things, but Jewish fiction, stories and novels. We always read beautifully illustrated children’s books about the holidays at the time of each holiday, especially Chanukah, but we never went to bookstores or libraries to find Jewish fiction books for children. When I was a young girl, I loved the All of a Kind Family series, about an Orthodox Jewish family, but, by the time I thought about that book and got it for our kids, it was too young for them and they didn’t love it as much as I did. There are probably a lot of such books out there. I regret that I didn’t search harder for them.
Second, I think we should have tried harder to send our kids to Jewish sleepaway camp. Although our kids are very involved and connected Jewishly, and they go on three TALIT Nation Shabbaton retreats a year (our substitute for sleepaway camp), I think that they would have greatly benefited from the experience of three or four weeks away at one of the popular Jewish residential camps. It always seemed like there wasn’t enough time (especially with our short year-round summers) or enough money. Once kids reach high school, both things are even scarcer, and there aren’t any camp programs for the high school aged kids.
Finally, I wish had made it a priority to travel to Israel as a family when our kids were younger. We always felt that we didn’t have the time or the money, and we thought it was a trip that should wait until they were older and could fully appreciate it. But now that they are in high school and involved in so many different sports and activities, we are finding it hard to schedule short local vacations, much less a trip to Israel. Our kids will hopefully get to Israel before they are adults, on the Taglit Birthright trip , and there might be a conference-related trip to Israel for Marlon and me this summer. It’s still possible we’ll go one day as a family, but I it’s a family trip I regret not taking when the kids were younger.
Yes, I have a few minor “regrets…” for things we could have done, but overall, we have and continue to do a lot for and with our children to instill in them the values and traditions of being Jewish and to foster a desire for them to be connected and involved Jewishly. We celebrate Shabbat and the holidays, we have always attended synagogue as often as possible, they stay connected to the temple by continuing their religious studies past their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and being Madrachim in the classrooms, they regularly attend youth group events and they participate in other Jewish teen organizations such as TALIT Nation and BBYO. We can’t go back in time to do those other things, but, maybe there will be an opportunity with our grandchildren!