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Jan 29 2013

How Jewish Teachings Helped Me Be a Patient Parent

By at 9:36 am

Patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to parenting.

My most recent journey into impatience came last night as my 2-year-old daughter twirled and sang her way into the wee hours of the night.

I had been trying to put her to sleep for three hours, and it just wasn’t working. Given the fact that she had experienced a transatlantic flight, and we arrived in Israel a few hours before (and that she was excited about being in a new place, and sharing a room with her older brother and being out of a crib, and and…) I had to cut her a little slack. But my ability to empathize and (what seemed like) the Herculean task of mustering the patience I needed had grown thin.

I am sometimes so conscious of all the “right” ways to react as a parent (some of these parenting books are best buddies with my bedside table) but there are many times when reality intrudes. I was exhausted last night, and after the fifth time of my daughter needing the potty, or a glass of water, or whatever, enough was enough. So I raised my voice to her and mandated that she fell asleep. Not the most effective, but what else could I do?

When I was reflecting on it the next day (with a very strong cup of caffeine in hand), I realized some lessons that I learned from Musar (Jewish ethical) teachings on patience. Patience has to do with endurance. Even the Hebrew meaning of the word can attest to that–savlanut (patience) has the word sovel or to suffer/endure at its root. Being patient is about “bearing a burden” as Alan Morinis writes in his book Everyday Holiness. Musar teaches that impatience is born of something deeper than simply waiting for things to happen (in this case, that my daughter sleep); it connects with our sole attention to things happening my way, on my schedule. Morinis writes, “We all tend to see ourselves as the prime actor in a drama that swirls around us…we are neither so central nor independent as all that… and we don’t control many of the factors that have a role in shaping our lives. Least of all can we expect to rule the timetable according to which life takes place.” Rule # 1 of parenting, “it’s not all about you.”

These teachings help me put my need in its proper place. While my sleep is crucial (to me at least!), helping my daughter sleep and giving her what she needs is as (if not more) important. So bear the burden, I will. And hope that tonight will be different.


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