As our little ones grow, I've been thinking more about what will be the traditions and rituals that help provide structure and stability to our lives. I think back on my childhood and the rituals that marked it; a lot revolve around the holidays (and, apparently, food). The lamb with mint jelly my mom would make for Passover; my aunt Jill's "better than Robert Redford" dessert at Thanksgiving; breakfast burritos on the beach with my sister the day after Thanksgiving; going to Disneyland on my birthday (perks of growing up in Southern California!).
And always, always, there was Shabbat dinner. Some weeks my mom would make the challah from scratch, though most weeks it was picked up from the grocery store. Sometimes dinner was a roast chicken and sometimes it was take-out from our favorite Italian spot. But always there were candles, and wine, and family. A moment together out of a busy, hectic week. Every Friday, no matter what else was going on, we would get together and set the table and light the candles.
I always knew I would raise my kids Jewish, but I'm still figuring out exactly what that means. What shape our practice will take, what customs we will observe and which we will not. As a mixed-faith family, it's an ongoing conversation.
We've started incorporating Shabbat candles into our weekly routine. It's not a rigid ritual. Sometimes we have wine, sometimes we don't. Sometimes we light the candles before dinner; sometimes after; sometimes not at all. There are some weeks where the rush from pickup through dinner and baths and bed time feels like a nonstop onslaught and J and I end up collapsing after the kids are tucked in, without, it feels like, having had a moment to breathe. On those nights, when the candles didn't get lit, it's ok. There's always next week.
But when we do light the candles; when we take the time to pause, to reflect on all we have to be grateful for, to really look at each other and to momentarily set aside all the frustration and stress and anxiety that these two little ones frequently cause - to take a break from yelling "don't bite your sister" and "put that back" and "stop doing that" and "wait, why are you licking the fridge?" and "OMG what's in your mouth?" - I really appreciate that moment of peace.
And afterwards, we'll go about the rest of our evening with a little more calm, a little more gratitude, a little more love and connection. At least until the next disaster or tantrum strikes.
Friends, do you have any regular rituals that you've incorporated into your family routine, or any special standouts from your childhood? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!
Image at top: Shabbat Candles by Claudine Intner.