My oldest child recently turned 4 years old. I’ve been thinking about her growth in life, and my own growth in observance. And this refrain from a Chicago song kept repeating in my head:
You’re the meaning in my life
you’re the inspiration.
You bring feeling to my life
you’re the inspiration.
Wanna have you near me
I wanna have you hear me sayin’:
No one needs you more than I need you.
Before we started having children, my wife and I had discussed how we would raise them. They would be raised keeping kosher, observing Shabbos, etc. At that time though, I was not observing a lot of those myself. It’s only after she was born that I was able to look at our family life using a different set of lenses. It certainly wasn’t an overnight process, but I started to see things that I realized would be sending her confusing messages. For example, on one trip to visit family, we stopped at a rest stop on the NJ Turnpike. My wife pulled out a sandwich she made at home that morning. I went in and bought a beef hot dog. Even though she was only about a year or so old at the time, it struck me that we couldn’t keep doing it this way, we’d be sending a mixed message. Eventually I went completely kosher. (I have a few things to say about that… hopefully my next write up.)
I also used to use the computer and turn on the TV on Shabbos (usually putting in an “Einstein” kids’ DVD to keep her occupied for a little while). However, the same thing struck me, eventually she would learn that these types of activities are not supposed to occur on Shabbos, and question my doing so. I phased this out, and eventually became Shomer Shabbos myself. Soon after this (when she was two), she started attending a pre-school at our local Chabad. It suddenly felt like she was rocketing ahead of me. She wanted to start saying brachas (when she remembered), saying the Shema at bedtime (with me helping her remember the words), etc. Sometimes I feel like I’m racing to keep up with her. There are things we learn together. For example, I never got the hand washing prayer quite memorized, I used to have to check to make sure I got the words right. Then she wanted to say it and I had to learn and do it word by word with her so she would get it right (otherwise she would wind up saying Motzi when washing, oops!) I still get excited watching her learn more and more. Now at her pre-school (and camp) they bake challos on Fridays to bring home. When I do Motzi over the big challos, and distribute the pieces, she then wants to divide up her little challah, and share that with the family as well.
My growth isn’t entirely because of her, nor because of my second daughter (now 2), not even because of my wife (who worries occasionally that I do things only because I think I *have* to do them for her, or for the kids). Rather it is because I realize the beauty of what I am raising in my kids, and I want to be a part of it too! Thus my kids truly are my inspiration. And I hope that never ends “’til the end of time.”