Tuesday, December 10, 2013

It Takes a Village by Behzad Dayanim

There is no concise manual for how to be a good parent. No matter how many hours of pregnancy classes or how many books one reads in preparation for this amazing adventure rife with challenge and revelation, from the first day a child enters the world, s/he changes it. No matter what we think we can expect, rarely a day goes by that doesn’t bring a surprise of one form or another. And parenting doesn’t end once our children graduate from infancy, or childhood, or adolescence. Just as we think we might be mastering a particular stage of our child’s development, a new stage emerges, often with new expectations, and no two children experience these stages the same way. So where does Parenting Through a Jewish Lens fit into the picture?

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I began preparing for our first session this year. Having served in a number of educational capacities and worked with diverse populations, I anticipated that this would still be something new and I was certainly correct in that assumption. The past four sessions with my cohort from Kadimah-Toras Moshe in Brighton have been extraordinary. I do not presume to evaluate my impact as the facilitator but rather to reflect on the overall contributions from everyone in attendance. As a modern orthodox community with a diverse population, our cadre is comprised of a range of current and future parents, some with young children, some with teens, some anticipating becoming the parents they hope to be. Each member of our group adds color and depth to our conversations, often promoting deeper understanding and sparking new questions.

I anticipated that this type of learning environment would be different. I did not fully understand to what extent I would be benefitting from the process of learning with such a dynamic group of individuals. Rarely is one presented with the opportunity to truly learn among peers and to wrestle with and sometimes be inspired by the amazing resources that the Torah and our heritage provide. One of the most rewarding aspects of this “chavruta” (learning group) has been the aggregate wisdom shared and the sense of strengthened community resulting from our collective and collaborative learning. We may not become perfect parents as a result of participating in this program but I certainly expect we will become better able to face the exciting challenges and opportunities that parenthood presents. It could be a song, a prayer, an inspiring passage, or any of the many wonderful conversations and stories that we share that reminds us that we are not alone in our efforts.

PTJL is no panacea for the parenting challenges we all face. It is a wonderful outlet to learn and share, laugh and cry as we work together to help foster the next generation. It reminds us of how influential each person can be and how important our roles as parents and as children can be as we strive to be meaningful contributors to the world around us.

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