Brake for Children
I’ve become the overscheduling parent I hate. But Shabbat, havdalah in particular, can slow kids down.
So much of havdalah fits in with the Slow Parenting movement (and the Slow movement in general). The braided candle symbolizes how Shabbat and the week are intertwined. The fact that we incorporate wine into our ceremonies in a measured way, I think, helps normalize alcohol for kids: It can be a gentle part of family and religion, not merely an illicit substance we pour generously into red Solo cups while shrieking “Woo!” at frat parties. Thinking about Eliyahu HaNavi, about whom we sing, makes us consider how we treat strangers. I think havdalah could be a wonderful capper on our Shabbat and a slow way to ease back into the frenzy of the rest of the week.
Smart folks have written about how we secular types can benefit from Shabbat. And folks like Lipman have written thoughtfully about children’s need for repetition and ritual. Havdalah helps with both.
When I told Lipman about my little revelation, she responded, “I love havdalah; we had a havdalah service to start our wedding. Rituals like this help kids mark time, explore the rhythm of days, weeks, years. Nighttime rituals in general are so important—they help kids sleep well and feel comfortable in their place in the family and the world.”
Furthermore, Lipman says, religious and family rituals help restore awe to children’s lives. We live in a cynical age. But the more we can do to get in touch with things that are a little bit mysterious (fire, wine, heady scents, alchemy), the better for our families and our kids. “Awe can be missing in a technology-fueled life,” she said.
So, we can’t—or won’t—slow down as much as I’d like. But there are little things we can do, every week, to put the brakes on our kids’ runaway schedules. I’m going to try harder to do them.
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Study of the Talmud’s second tractate reveals how the rabbis stuck to logic and made it sacred