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What I Can (and Cannot) Give My Daughter

What I Can (and Cannot) Give My Daughter

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That time of year came again—the time where I stand on the back porch, the sun beating down as I fill up a bright-blue kiddie pool with water from a hose. This time has come every year for nearly a decade, but as my daughter gets bigger, the pool seems smaller. It wasn’t too long ago that the filling of the kiddie pool brought so much excitement—I remember a little girl dancing around with her pigtails flopping, excitedly asking when it wasI can relate to my daughter’s occasional all-or-nothing attitude going to be done—but each year brings a tad less excitement. Now, I am asked: “Why can’t I get a big pool? You know, those kinds with the ladders?” I try to explain to my daughter that in a small townhouse with a yard barely large enough to push a lawn mower across it, this isn’t a possibility. She sighs and waits for her kiddie pool. Despite the growing lack of enthusiasm, I continue to fill it.

I can relate to my daughter’s occasional all-or-nothing attitude (“My friend from school has a big pool, why can’t I have one?”). I can relate to her lack of enthusiasm because sometimes it does seem rather pointless to merely splash around when you know you could be such a good diver if you just had the chance. The reason I can relate is because from time to time, I feel that way (although usually not about kiddie pools). I often hear us likened to being children in G‑d’s eyes—this I really hope is true because that would mean that He would understand my frequent childishness, my occasional “If I can’t have it this way, then I don’t want it at all” attitude.

It can be frustrating when we can’t have everything we want, and more so when we can’t give everything we want to give, especially to our children.

My daughter picks up Jewish songs from camp, and my car is flooded with music in another language. “What does this mean? What is he saying here?” she asks me. Before I know it, I am searching Google translate for 20 minutes, just so I can give her an answer. In my bones, I hate that I can’t just give her this bilingual ability that would help her in her own prayers and in school. She has books about Shabbat dinners and Chanukah parties with large families, where something chaotic always happens with the many children depicted; it seems fun and warm. Coming from a small family, I can’t give her this either. There always seems to be something lacking—something I can’t provide. The more I incorporate religion into my life, the more difficult progression seems to be. I know she could go so much further than me because many things that I find foreign have become native to her. Then I feel frustrated that I am holding her back; if I can’t give her a large family to make Shabbat so much more memorable, then what’s the point? If I can’t always give her a sukkah on Sukkot, why should I even bother with the holiday at all? If I can’t teach her another language, why am I immersing her in a religion that’s centered around one?

Then comes that all-or-nothing attitude, and I act like a child stomping her feet (I would like to tell you this stomping is figurative). That’s it; I’m totally done! I might have to be a Jew ethnically, but religiously? Nope. The last time I had what I will unflatteringly call a temper tantrum, it happened to coincide with the day of a community Shabbat dinner.

Sometimes, when you’re stuck in this mode of being frustrated, you can spend hours—days even—making yourself even more frustrated by dwelling in it. Suddenly, everything is a part of your frustration as your mind seeks justification. Everything that is happening in your life becomes an indication that your frustration is justified; that you are completely right. This was my mindset when the rabbi asked me if I was going to the dinner, and when I answered him so eloquently: “Nope.”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t want to.”

Then the conversation ensued. Don’t you hate it sometimes when people can be so perceptive? I ranted; I went on about all that I can’t get from Judaism, all the things I can’t do right, and most importantly, all of the experiences I can’t provide for my daughter, all that I can’t give her. When I was done, he paused. I was expecting a long lecture—an extended explanation with quotes, Torah examples and somewhat similar story examples. (I mean, he is a rabbi, after all.) I was ready for it. I was so right and so justified that I would argue my way around his explanation, find some undiscovered loophole, and he would have to admit that I should step away at least a little from practicing Judaism and go on my merry way. But I didn’t receive a long-winded answer. And so the troops of my defense were thrown off their battle tactics by a simple reply: “You have to do what you always do. You give your daughter all that you can give her.”

Oh. But, what? Oh. Where’s the story I can argue with? He was right; that is what I do, and what I should do in every aspect of her life. Just those simple words deflated my tantrum and brought me back from a childish state of mind to a parental one.

That brings me back to the kiddie pool. Wouldn’t I love to give her an in-ground pool she could dive into? Of course. I would love to give her everything. But I can’t. So instead, I stand there in the sun,I would love to give her everything. But I can’t. filling the pool and ignoring her complaints. Why? Because I know that as soon as it’s full, she is going to forget the Olympic-sized pool of her dreams because she will splash around with her cousins, fill up water toys, make weird grass concoctions in the water that I have to clean up later, and basically, just have a great time.

And that is what I can give her. I can give her that and I should give her that, even if it’s not everything.

The same concept applies to Judaism.

I can’t give her a bilingual upbringing, but I can sit behind the computer and translate her songs, and maybe even learn some new words in the process. I can’t give her a huge family to run around with, but I can bring her to shul, where she plays with children she’s been growing up with for the majority of her life. I can’t always give her those full Shabbats, but I can make sure that together, we light our candles and spend some quiet time together. As she grows, I am always growing with her, and hopefully, I can give her more and more as this happens. I will give her what I can because the moments in her life—from summer days to shofar soundings—what is missing won’t be the highlight of her memory. What she has, and what I can give her, that’s what she’ll remember.

Chana Sara lives in Whitehall, Pennsylvania, with her husband, daughter, and too many pets. She is the office manager at Chabad of the Lehigh valley where she helps produce the Wellsprings Magazine which is published 5 times a year. What she enjoys most about working at a Chabad House is having the constant opportunity to learn something new.
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Adele Jakarta August 30, 2017

Yes. I have a daughter too. Thanks. Reply

T December 22, 2016

Beautiful!! Thanks!! Reply

selena gomez seatle December 19, 2016

wow this has helped me deal with my children so much! thx! Reply

Russell Cunningham December 12, 2016

In a time when G - d does not mean a lot to kids, its nice to hear things like this. Reply

Anonymous california December 11, 2016

what a beautiful article. thank you. Reply

Olga rosanoff Florida U.S. via coralspringschabad.org December 8, 2016

I enjoyed your article...
My question is!!!
Why do we concern ourselves with all
This little problems?
Girls,, are girls,,unfortunately
If they have a happy home,,,that is all it
Counts..
Religion specially Judaism is complete and
Personally I love it!
But the young people doesn't see it that way! Reply

Anonymous December 8, 2016

Thank you for this encouraging article. I was also relieved that other people's children make wierd concuctions of grass in the pool water too. I will feel better and less grumpy when I have to clean it up next time. Reply

Anonymous South Africa December 5, 2016

I love your articles! So honest. I can relate. Love it that you always find a positive way to view a situation. Reply

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