Some aspects of our children’s personalities are more distinguishable than others. Their energy level, for example, may be self-evident if they like to spend their days jumping on couches and tearing apart play rooms. A child who enjoys interlocking puzzles clearly has good concentration and perseverance. Some children are chatterboxes; others offer little of their thoughts to the adult world.
It is obvious from looking at any parenting Facebook page or listserve that even tiny babies can have extreme preferences for how they sleep, are fed, are held, and so on. You will often hear parents say they knew their child’s disposition shortly after birth. I used to roll my eyes when parents shared their children would only take their milk this way or that, until I had a baby who screamed unless her bottle was hot.
My husband often reflects on his amazement at how much our children can seem exactly like us, and nothing at all like us at the same time. At times it is cautionary, a warning not to project our own preferences onto our children. Other times it comes from a place of reverence. A reminder that we made these little people and gave them some of our finest (and not-so-finest) traits.
The other day, around 3:00 p.m., my son asked me, “What are we going to do tomorrow?” It dawned on me in that moment that he wanted something to look forward to. He was expressing an interest in anticipation. My preschooler wanted to relish the feeling of excitement about something that is going to happen in the future. So I shared with him my plan to take him and his sister to the Turtleback Zoo in West Orange, New Jersey. His eyes lit up at the thought of visiting the animals and riding the little train. I looked at his sweet little face and felt such a connection to him, because I too love anticipation.
I am certain my love of anticipation is one of the reasons I enjoy the Jewish calendar so much. As soon as the Shabbat dinner table is cleared, I am already planning the menu for next week’s gathering. On Monday I write my shopping list, Tuesday I set a cooking schedule, Wednesday I begin to bake, Thursday I visit Maple Kosher Meat Market, and Friday is occupied with endless cleaning and my arranging serving platters with post-its declaring what their contents will be. My week sweetly bends towards Shabbat, and I happily ride the waves of that rhythm over and over again.
Anticipation is my happy place. It is where I go when I am having a bad day or feeling without purpose. I glance at my calendar and smile at all the wonderful experiences I know are waiting for me someplace in the future. It is no surprise, then, that as the world returns to normal following the winter holidays, that I seek out the next celebration to plan for. Lucky for us Jews, Tu Bishvat is coming up on January 25.
Tu Bishvat, often referred to as the New Year for the Trees, is celebrated as a sort of Jewish Arbor Day. The holiday marks the beginning of the season in Israel when the earliest-blooming trees will begin a new fruit-bearing cycle. Here in New Jersey, where we are finally dipping into the 30s, Tu Bishvat is a welcome distraction from the ho-hum of winter days.
A traditional celebration includes a festive meal that highlights the Seven Species of the land of Israel: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, olives, pomegranates, and dates. A quick Tu Bishvat Google search yields fantastic ideas for crafts and activities to mark the day with children.
In our house, we like to adventure on a little scavenger hunt at the Reeves-Reed Arboretum in Summit, NJ and plant parsley seeds to grow on the kitchen windowsill. If we are lucky, the seeds will sprout and we can “harvest” the parsley for our seder plate.
There is even a song to sing, “Tu Bishvat is coming, birthday for the trees!” This little ditty makes my anticipation-loving heart sing. Today I will teach it to my son, and together with his little sister we can start to plan our Tu Bishvat celebration.
I will happily share my dreamy world of anticipation with my children, and hope that they too find joy in knowing there are Jewish celebrations just around every bend.