I always appreciate a reality check.
In a recent Becoming a Soulful Parent class, I was stopped in my tracks by a comment a student shared with me in one of the breakout rooms. We were speaking about how exhausting it can be to parent during the pandemic amidst all of the uncertainty and unknown. We linked it to the idea of chaos and spoke about how chaos (or in biblical terms, tohu v’avohu) is found right at the beginning of the creation story and is built into the fabric of time. Instead of trying to tame and control the chaos, it can become our spiritual practice as parents to accept it as a part of life and have it awaken us to important new insights.
Nowadays we use the term casually. We say things like, “Life feels so chaotic these days, you never know when the next quarantine will be.” Sometimes we say it in more quotidian ways like, “I don’t like how chaotic mealtime is.” My conversation partner at that moment, a woman who is about a generation older than I am, shared gently, “That’s not chaos, it’s the merry-go-round of life. I was a child when WWII broke out. That was chaos.”
She is right. And there is nothing like speaking to an older friend to give us perspective. While at each moment, whatever we are going through can feel big, important and sometimes overwhelming or chaotic, one of the resources we always have is to call on our friends, community members or family members who are a bit older than we are and share our experiences. Listening deeply to their responses can be centering.
How can we be more aware of opening up these channels of communication? How can we create intergenerational gatherings – in our synagogues and homes – where we don’t only cluster cohorts that are of the same age and stage of life but engineer groupings with different ages together. This can be as simple as inviting older folks to join you around the Shabbat table or asking an older friend to come over for candle-lighting one night of Chanukah. We, the parents, are the bridge between generations, between our elders who carry so much history, and our children whose lives touch the future.
At a recent Shabbat meal we hosted, I commented on how touched I was that one of our guests, a very cool older woman, took such an active interest in my kids. She said to me quite plainly, “I’ve talked to enough grownups, I am much more interested in younger people. Knowing who they are and what they are interested in keeps my life relevant.”
The nurturing flow goes in both directions. We can look to our elders for guidance and perspective, and share their stories of resilience with our children. In parallel, we can help our elders come into closer contact with our children so that they can be enlivened by them as well.
As you begin to think about planning Thanksgiving and Chanukah consider what role you want to play as both a bridge and beneficiary of the wisdom of our elders.
Blessings for the journey,