Shabbat reality check

by Decemberbaby

First of all, I want to thank everyone who commented on my post about Shabbat observance. I haven’t had time to respond to comments this week, but every comment was read and appreciated. Keep the ideas coming!

So, you may ask, in the wake of that post, how was Shabbat for me this week?

I started off with the attitude that “Shabbat is our day of Yes.” All Friday afternoon I was running around cooking, quilting, cleaning, and generally trying to get absolutely everything done before Shabbat. As usual, my children were at my heels, begging for a scrap of attention. “Ima, will you read me this book?” “Ima, come watch our play!” “Book!” “Baff!” and so on. This time, though, instead of acting all frustrated with them, I told them, “I have to finish this work before Shabbat. As soon as Shabbat comes, I’m all yours.” This appeased them for 10 minutes at a time and got them very excited about Shabbat.

We eventually lit the candles, and so began our “Day of Yes.” We sang and danced. We allowed the kids unlimited grape juice refills. K requested that I sing one Passover song after another, and I obliged her without so much as an “Ima needs to eat too, you know.” We had dessert. After the kids’ bedtime I sat down with a glass of wine and a book. R sat on my lap and played with my fingers as I read.

Amazingly, I was able to get out of bed pretty swiftly on Shabbat morning – simply shifting my expectations allowed me to look forward to focusing on the kids instead of grumbling that I had to get up early on a weekend. Everything was luxuriously slow – we took our time getting dressed (we read books in between articles of clothing,) brushing our teeth (we sang songs,) choosing breakfast foods (rice pudding for K and “lalla” (challah) for N.)

The kids wanted to play “camping” and wanted me to watch – and I actually did. It was unexpectedly interesting. K was pretending to sleep in her “tent” (read: under the kiddie table) which involved her sucking her thumb with her eyes closed, and periodically peeking at me to make sure I was still watching. If it had been a TV pilot it would have been cancelled after the first broadcast, if it even made it that far. What it lacked in plot, character development, and acting skills, it made up for in opportunities to really look at my kid for the first time in a while. She’s beautiful, with delicate features and long eyelashes. I fell in love all over again.

Mr. December took the “big kids” (laughable because really, N isn’t even two years old) to his parents’ house. R and I got ready to go to shul and eventually made it there – just in time for the kiddush lunch.

(Side note: Kiddush lunch was really great this week, and very kid-friendly. Baked mac and cheese, tabbouli salad, banana bread, fruit. Maybe my kvetching helped after all!)

I discovered something: Nobody cares if you show up at shul just in time for the food. They’re just glad that you’re there. I used to feel like if we didn’t get there by 10:30 or 11:00 there was no point; yesterday I arrived at 12:45 and spent over an hour chatting, singing, and praying (grace after meals) with my community. It was lovely.

I took the subway up to the home of a friend who was having a baby shower (not a Jewish friend, obviously.) In my view, a party at someone’s home is the perfect Shabbat activity: food, folks, and fun, as the treyf fast-food giant’s commercials used to say. An afternoon spent with other women, wishing our friend well and sharing stories about our kids. The addition of cupcakes didn’t hurt either.

I walked home through the ravine, which took about 40 minutes… had to take care of those cupcake calories, so I walked pretty quickly. That was definitely out of tune with how I want to be on Shabbat: walking for the enjoyment of nature and to get somewhere in a relaxed manner? Great. Walking at a slightly uncomfortable pace in order to get my cardio in and burn extra calories? Not so Shabbos-y, in my opinion. I’ll remember that for next time.

The other not-so Shabbos-y thing was that I used my cellphone to make arrangements for my brother to come over as soon as I got home. I really prefer the Shabbat “go with the flow” feeling where you drop in on people, or arrange a time in advance and recognize that timing is approximate. I felt like the cellphone was taking me away from the present moment and focusing me on future plans, and that didn’t sit well with me.

Did I mention that my big brother was here from Vancouver? He came over to chat and ended up leaving with most of N’s newborn and 0-3 months clothing (his wife is very, very pregnant.)

And just like that, Shabbat was over.

I walked through about twenty minutes of this on my way home. Hard to believe it's right in the middle of the city, isn't it? I need to bring the kids here this summer to play in the creek.

Things I’d do again: Dedicate lots of time on Shabbat to just being with my kids, however they want me. Go for a nice long walk. Visit with friends and family.

Things I would change: No more exercising with a goal in mind. Turn off the cellphone and leave it at home. Make social plans either in advance or in person (i.e. arrange a Shabbat afternoon playdate in the morning at shul.)

All in all, I was reasonably happy with Shabbat this time. Tune in next week, where I’ll tell you how I managed the Shabbat right before the second seder (will we be setting up and preparing? I hope not!)

Shavua Tov! (have a good week!)

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One Comment to “Shabbat reality check”

  1. Awesome! Sounds like a wonderful Shabbat! You can have an afternoon playdate here if you want. (That is if it is cold if not we are at the park!)
    Cheers,

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