A phrase I often repeat to my son comes from Mister Rogers: “There’s no person in the world like you; and I like you just the way you are.”
As the first six weeks of my Parenting Through a Jewish Lens (PTJL) class came to a close at Temple Isaiah in Lexington, I found myself thinking of that phrase in a different way. I realized, there are no parents in the world who are exactly like us. That’s not an isolating thought, though. The community we created over our weeks together gave us so much to like in—and learn from—each other.
Our PTJL group is diverse—each of our families is unique in some way. My husband and I represented the only parents of an only child in the group, while others had a number of different backgrounds and family structures.
The uniqueness of our families only enriched our PTJL class experience. We each spoke from our own lives, yet had so much in common. We were there to learn new ways to infuse our daily parenting lives with meaning and insight from Jewish tradition. Our conversations deepened with each week, as we learned to trust each other more; we shared in processing life events, parenting challenges, and household realities with intentionality, authenticity, and grounding in Jewish wisdom.
We really connected with the curriculum. The idea of celebrating “Shehecheyanu moments” whenever micro- or macro-milestones presented themselves also appealed to us immensely. Our Shabbat-themed readings led to conversations about allowing ourselves to observe this weekly restorative holiday on our own terms; we wound up circulating sweetly hilarious emails about our “Shabby Shabbat” plans for the weekend, such as picking up a rotisserie chicken instead of making a traditional chicken dinner ourselves. And the material we studied around loss and mourning got us sharing stories that brought out both laughter and tears.
For us, though, the most meaningful impact of PTJL wasn’t the learning we received—it was the connected community in which we received it. Any of us could pick up a book and be inspired. Experiencing the material with other parents—and hearing it through their particular “lenses”—was what made for an elevating and expansive education. There’s no one in the world like us, or like our children. But when our authentic selves come together, there’s no limit to how much we can learn and grow.