Ever since elementary school, I’ve hated collective punishment. I remember my teacher explained that she was punishing our whole class to incentivize us to police one another’s behavior in the future. I thought that was nuts. I was mad at my badly behaved classmate, although I didn’t tell him or do anything specific about it, but I felt like I was suffering for no reason; it was about something totally unrelated to me.
I thought of myself as an individual. I knew I had control over my own behavior, but I didn’t consider it realistic to try to control a classmate’s. In that sense, it’s interesting that Judaism has us explicitly take responsibility for other’s sins with the Vidui prayer.
As a 10-year-old, I wondered why I had to beat my chest and apologize for many sins I knew I hadn’t committed. Adultery? I was definitely not guilty of that one. But I had sinned. I was–as I am now–human and so, imperfect.
There are reasons why the prayer is recited this way, including not wanting to embarrass individuals who may have committed a given sin, but I wonder if people would feel more connected to Yom Kippur services if they personalized their own Vidui lists? In the spirit of experimentation, I present my own list:
1. I have stayed in bed an extra few minutes in the morning–even when I hear my daughter, Lila, calling–because I am tired.
2. I have nearly roasted my child, wrapping my new baby in too many layers for comfortable sleep, because I didn’t realize she’s a miniature human furnace.
3. I have spoken bad words (like “crap”) in front of Lila.
4. I have lost focus, forgetting mid-song how many monkeys were still jumping on the bed, or how many ants were now marching to get out of the rain.
5. I have rolled my eyes at parenting advice, even when it was well intentioned.
6. I have been greedy and allowed Lila to play on the playground swing a little longer than probably was her turn, because we’d had to wait so long for it.
7. I have given into temptation and checked email when Lila wanted my attention.
8. I have lost my temper and chided Lila about things a toddler can be expected to do, because I was tired or stressed, probably about something else.
9. I have envied parents whose kids can fall asleep anywhere.
10. I have been quick to judgment, thinking less of adults who weren’t immediately smitten with my child.
11. I have celebrated treyf, turning a walk by the local supermarket’s lobster tank into an impromptu aquarium visit.
12. I have been possessive of my food, typically sharing whatever I’m eating with Lila when she wants to try it, but not always with a generous spirit.
13. I have been a paparazzo, amassing countless pictures of Lila. When she’s older, Lila may wish some of them didn’t exist. And if she has a sibling, he/she may be forever cross that I set a photo-taking standard that I may never meet again.
14. I have inspired new verses of “My Mommy is so Mean,” a Braunstein family original song about my insistence on baths, diaper changes, and other indignities of toddler life.
15. I have neglected writing in the baby book.
This is who I was in 5772. With God’s help, I will be a better parent in 5773, rectifying my true shortcomings and remembering to laugh at myself about all the silly things that are part of life with a toddler.
For more on repentance during Yom Kippur, read this list of collective apologies for all parents.