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Jun 28 2013

Sleep Training with the Shema

By at 10:08 am

baby lying awake on bedSleep training. Like just about every other parenting decision, the controversy rages about how to get an infant to go to sleep. I’ve heard that some babies snuggle down for a night of uninterrupted sleep, and will even take naps during the day. But my 4-month-old daughter seemed afraid that if she went to sleep, she might miss something exciting. She thought that a nap meant resting on my lap with her eyes open for 20 minutes, and that sleeping from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. with a wake-up call for snuggles every two hours was “sleeping through the night.”

With such an overtired baby and no longer able to get through the day ourselves, my husband and I knew something had to change. Like many first-time parents, we had imagined a calm bedtime routine. She had her bath, got a short massage, read a story, nursed, and then was supposed to go quietly into her crib as we sang the Shema and Adon Olam. For a while, everything went according to plan, except for the part about going “quietly into her crib.” Instead, we would finish the routine with a baby who appeared to be well on her way to dreamland, but who, as soon as she was placed in her crib, began to cry as though she was being tortured. It wasn’t gas. She wasn’t still hungry. She had been sleeping in her crib by herself for several weeks, so it wasn’t a scary or unfamiliar place. She just did not want to go to sleep.  Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 10 2012

My Daughter Got Too Old for the Shema

By at 1:19 pm

bedtime shema“No, Mommy. No Shema tonight.”
“Why not?”
“Nobody else does it at bedtime.”

And so it begins.

We were on vacation last week, and my 3 1/2-year-old was overjoyed to be sharing a room with three other preschoolers. Every day, she would ask again if she could sleep with the “big kids” again, and every night she bounded up the stairs to the kids’ room, eager to get into the trundle nestled between three twin beds. At which point, she got to see how other families do their bedtime routines. The other families aren’t Jewish, so needless to say, they weren’t singing the Shema each night. So, my daughter didn’t want it either. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 30 2011

Elmo Says Shema, But My Kids Don’t

By at 11:23 am

When I was a child I thought I could talk to God and my dead grandparents. I thought they could hear me, watch over me. I thought they knew what was in my heart.

I was jealous of my Christian friends who prayed at night before bed. I had seen children kneel at the side of the bed, hands pressed together. And I saw it on Little House on the Prairie. One night, I actually tried it. I didn’t know about the crossing myself part, but I was afraid my parents would walk in and find me praying and I would get in trouble. It just wasn’t something a little Jewish girl was supposed to do. We don’t pray before bed.

When my children were born, I read to them every night. Even when they were newborns and couldn’t focus on pictures let alone words, I read to them. And I sang to them. Every night. I sang the Yiddish lullabye, Ofyn Pripichik and Kenny Loggins’ House at Pooh Corner and Sesame Street’s I’d Like to Visit the Moon, as sung by Ernie and Aaron Neville. These were the songs I sung. These were my prayers for them. That they’d be adventurous and bold. That they’d know that however far away life would take them, they would always be grounded by love and home and tradition.

But I didn’t teach them to say the Shema before they went to sleep. I didn’t know I was supposed to. And quite honestly, even if I did know, I don’t think I would have done so. Read the rest of this entry →


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