One of the sacrifices of this past two years that has hit me the hardest — one of the only ones that continues to hit me, in fact — is that Bill has been working on Saturdays in order to take advantage of the increased foot traffic in the store. This is particularly important since he is working on commission only; there is no salary to fall back on if he doesn’t make sales. Shabbat is supposed to be a day of rest and reconnection with family. In this new regime, it is neither.
Before all this went down, we went to synagogue on Saturday mornings as a family — with a babysitter — so that Bill and I could pray together . The kids could go to the Temple library with the babysitter when they got squirmy. We would reunite for the snack/Torah study and — again — when the kids needed to move around, the babysitter could take them out while Bill and I studied. After lunch and a nap, we had the rest of the day to spend together as a family.
Neither the babysitter nor the family-themed day is on the menu anymore. Instead, the usual trend is that I take the kids to synagogue alone, where they often behave appropriately and sometimes do not. When they can do it, it’s a fair-to-middling solution. Everyone thinks they’re cute, or pretends to. I get to pray, sort of. (When I’m not nursing, scrambling in the bag for crayons and paper, or racing matchbox cars.) I get to study, sort of. (When I’m not drawing trucks, fetching food, or reminding the boys to use their whispery voices.) We go home for lunch and a nap, and spend the rest of the afternoon together, the three of us. When, as today, they cannot behave well, it casts a pall on my already pallid Shabbat.
In the past, I have occasionally sent them to the Temple library alone, knowing that they are good kids and will look after each other and stick together. The last time I did that, though, the custodian laid into me and said they were not allowed to be in the library unattended.
Today we arrived late to the service and they lasted for about ten minutes before they were so disruptive that I decided to take them home. (The disruption occurred during silent prayer, naturally.) The decision to go home brought forth a new round of arguments and weeping, which in turn prompted one of the more dour members of our Minyan to shush them. It’s hard to say which hurt me more: the loss of the one opportunity this week to pray with my community, or the fact that someone from that community shushed them. (The weeping, argument, and shushing, by the way, took place outside the chapel while I was desperately trying to get them into their jackets and herded out the door.)
In recent weeks, we have been exploring other congregations’ Saturday offerings. One week I had a gig at a local independent Minyan, one week we got up too late for our usual but were well in time for the children’s service at a different place. I really want us all to keep pushing and growing in our Judaism, and to be comfortable in any Jewish worship context, and I realize that the responsibility for that rests entirely on me. The two other places we’ve gone had actual children’s programming, which my kids seemed to enjoy. (By contrast, our regular Minyan is an adult service, at which my children are usually warmly welcomed but where there is nothing for them to do unless I provide it.) Yet when I offered those other two options this morning, the boys both said they wanted to go to the usual. Change is hard.
I keep thinking of that line from Fiddler on the Roof: “If I were rich I’d have the time that I lack, to sit in the synagogue and pray. Maybe have a seat by the eastern wall? And I’d discuss the holy books with the learned men, seven hours every day. This would be the sweetest thing of all…”