Every year, I arrive at the High Holidays out of breath. Not just because this is the craziest time of year for a rabbi, but, ever since I had children, their lives are also at their busiest in September. Between starting school and adjusting to a new routine, and meetings and mountains of paperwork, it can feel challenging to wade through the day, let alone take time for the deep spiritual reflection and heshbon hanefesh, an accounting of the soul, that this time asks of us.
But when I stop to think about it, there are parts of my life, especially as a parent, that could use some work, and I don’t want to let this opportunity race by at top speed. So this year, I am going to try asking myself one question each day, in the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Some days I might share the answer with someone, and some days I might just think about it (maybe in the shower, if I ever get to shower in peace), but it is my hope that, by working through these 10 parenting questions, I can arrive at Yom Kippur a little more ready than I was when the season started.
1. How have I connected with my child today?
2. Am I able to give my child, partner, child’s caregiver, or child’s teacher the benefit of the doubt when they make decisions that I don’t agree with?
3. This past year, or in the coming year, did I push my child to do something that makes them a tiny bit uncomfortable?
4. Have I done something for myself, completely separate from my identity as a parent, that nourishes me?
5. How can I see the image of God in my child when they are exhibiting their least God-like behaviors?
6. Do I yell too much?
7. What makes my child the happiest? Have I allowed him the space to do that?
8. Have I held my child back from something because I was afraid?
9. Have I taught my child the difference between need and want?
10. Have I allowed my child to pursue a dream, even if it is not what I would have dreamed for them?
I know that answering these questions won’t magically transform how I parent, but I hope that it will give me a couple of minutes to focus on the kind of parent I want to be. These are my questions; they may not be yours, but even if they are not, I encourage you to think about what questions might help you develop an intentional practice in this time.
Whether you can find one moment or 10 over the High Holiday season, I’ll be doing the best I can, right along with you.