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Oct 10 2013

The Jewish Prayer That’s Never Let Me Down

By at 2:16 pm

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Parenting has been compared to many things. I like to compare it to playing darts while wearing a blindfold. Because so often, it really does feel as though it’s just a stab in the dark.

Except when it works.

Some theory you have or some tactic you use works. And then, for one moment, you feel like a freakin’ parenting expert.

Which is exactly how I felt when I overheard the following conversation between my kids Lilly, age 10, and Jacob, age 6.

Jacob: I’ve never gotten hot lunch before. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. So I am going to stand in line with [my friend] Luke. He’s got a lot of experience.

Lilly: Oh, I remember that. Everyone’s scared the first time. After I got my lunch the first time, I said that prayer to myself. Remember, Jacob? The Shehechiyanu?

Oh. My. God. It worked. It really, really worked.

***

As a brand-new mother, I was at a loss when I nursed my son for the first time. I had read (and heard) about how difficult it was and was truly blown away at how my little baby knew what to do. [Flashforward: it turns out that it didn’t come so naturally to either one of us and we would make many trips to the lactation support group for help. But I was completely ignorant of that in the first (hormonal) blush of motherhood.] I felt like God’s creative partner as I birthed and then nourished my son and yearned to express my awe and wonder. I reached back into our tradition and recited these words:

Barukh Atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melekh haolam shehecheyanu v’kiy’manu v’higianu laz’man hazeh.

Blessed are You, O Eternal our God, for giving us life, for sustaining us, and for enabling us to reach this amazing time.

***

And so it began. Each time my children would accomplish something for the first time or reach a milestone, I would recite the Shehechiyanu. First solid foods. First time sleeping in a big boy or girl bed. First lost tooth. First time going alone to a public bathroom. First bra. First shave.

All of those firsts in the lives of my kids. All of those times that I responded with the Shehechiyanu. They really were listening. And not just listening, but internalizing the message:

When we do things for the first time, they might be exciting but we might be nervous. Or scared. Or anxious. But those feelings are OK. Because we are not alone when we are doing these things. Even when mommy and daddy aren’t with us.

Jacob has gotten hot lunch twice now and he still likes to stand in line with his friend. But he now knows that he is capable of that. And so much more.

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