Wearing a kipah, or skullcap, in public where I live is almost unheard of. There are a handful of religious Jews here, mainly rabbis’ families, but our area is largely insulated from any Jewish communities—the closest being a five-hour drive across the state.

Growing up here, I was used to the white or black nylon kipahs that men would quickly grab from a basket and slap on their heads as they entered the large temple sanctuary. I would often gaze in wonder at the brazen men who would bypass the freebie kipahs and choose to go bareheaded. The thin kipahs seemed like a polite attempt to replicate something more genuine, but no one seemed fooled. Something within me was stirring, restless, searching for more—so I threw myself into Jewish life, sisterhood, committees, community work. Then I looked outside my religion, finding some meaning, but nothing that seemed right.

Wearing a kipah, or skullcap, in public where I live is almost unheard of What I was searching for, though I didn’t know it at the time, was authenticity and an open expression of faith in G‑d, versus the often nondescript agnostic Judaism of my childhood. Here I am, more than twenty years later, living in the same area, but in a different world altogether.

My husband and I grew up here, around the block from each other. As we got married and had children of our own, we started to look more deeply at our religious practices, or lack thereof. That started us on an ongoing Jewish journey, a lifetime of learning, and a bit of a shock for our friends and family who wondered when we’d get over this “Jewish thing.”

Our religiousness is now most evident by looking at my five-year-old son, who almost always wears his kipah, and sometimes his tzitzit, or knotted ritual fringes. There’s still some uneasiness for me as a mother, letting him out into the world with such an open expression of our Jewish identity. We discovered Torah-observant Judaism when he was a baby, so he doesn’t know life any other way. Our children don’t realize that my husband and I grew up not knowing about things like Shabbat and keeping kosher, that for us kipahs were worn only at synagogue, and often not even there.

The past five years we’ve been learning, growing, relishing our newly found Judaism. Taking it all in like children—along with our children—discovering something rich and exciting. It hasn’t always been easy, after years of marriage and with young children in tow, completely transforming in front of our friends and family, who often balked at our changing lifestyle. But we are living by the Torah, like Jews have done for 3,300 years, and we are starting to see how it’s affecting our children, who are secure and even excited about being Jewish.

We were somewhat combative at first, my husband and I, with each other and with our extended family as we embarked on this journey. But we are finally reaching a place of peace.

My son proudly wears his kipah in public, and in some ways is leading all of us, helping us become more comfortable and confident in our religious observance. At first he wore it just to synagogue, and sometimes at home. He would take it off, at our encouragement, when we weren’t going someplace “Jewish.”

There’s still some uneasiness for me as a mother, letting him out into the world with such an open expression of our Jewish identityWhen we visited our non-religious family—his grandparents, aunts and uncles—it just didn’t find its way onto his head as we headed out the door. The first few times they saw him wearing it, we were making a clear statement, even if it wasn’t intentional. My six-year-old daughter, like me, has started wearing modest clothing, including skirts and dresses. The garb of women is not as obvious, however, especially to the untrained eye. But there is no mistaking a kipah, especially to a fellow Jew.

Whether real or not, I imagined our parents thinking, “Now they’re forcing their newly religious, fanatical ways on their innocent children, having them show their Judaism in public.”

But as my husband and I become more comfortable with our observance, as we travel to Jewish communities and continue to learn, these feelings have gradually subsided.

And as our children spend time with the children of local rabbis and other families in our small community, and attend a traditional Jewish school, they’re being rooted confidently in their Judaism.

For my son, a kipah is a badge of honor, something worn by the older boys that he so admires. Now it’s a given that he wears his kipah—black velvet with silver and gold trim—and his little head looks naked without it. My husband also wears a kipah more and more, in large part because of our son.

We’ll sometimes get compliments on my son’s “hat.” Adults will glance at it and try not to stare. Children aren’t as polite as their heads whip around to catch a better view as we pass by.

My husband reminds our son, and those who ask about the kipah, why they wear it. He tells them it’s a reminder that G‑d is everywhere, of who we are as Jews, and to be good people.

I feel like we must look and act our best when my son dons his badge of Jewish honor. That we are somehow serving as an example for Jews everywhere, this Jewish family making the seemingly long walk from the parking lot into the library or grocery store. Sometimes I remind my children that they should be on their best behavior, and how special they are to be Jewish children.

And as a parent, I’m aware that the kipah on my son’s head is also reminder for me—which means being a little extra polite even when I’m not in the mood. As we walk in public, my son’s kipah on his head for all to see, I hold his hand, pull him a little closer, because I still feel the need to protect him from a world that can sometimes be cruel. And I say a prayer, that G‑d will watch over us and keep us safe, and that we will serve as an example of goodness and G‑dliness to those around us.