Yesterday, we took kids bowling, It was a rainy day, my husband thought he could squeeze it in between procedures, we have Kids Bowl Free, and we have not gone in a long time. The kids were all excited. It served as a good motivator to daven and get dressed quickly. The davening took a bit longer than expected, but the new siddur was the name of the game.
When we got to the alley, we saw that a few other people had the same idea. We ended up bowling all on the same lane. Of course, the question was: bumpers or no bumpers? We chose to got with bumpers and a bowling contraption for the 2 yo. Pretty amazingly, she got a strike on her first push! The boys did not too shabby themselves. By the end of the game, I tied with 8 yo and three of us broke a hundred. Since we had a second game free, and everyone felt quite good about themselves, we decided to try bowling without bumpers. After first gutter balls, the boys lost all confidence. It did not help that my husband had to leave in the middle of the second game. By the end, 6 yo was bowling with a contraption, and 8 yo was in tears that 2 yo had a higher score than he did. I wanted to say that it's not about score, it's about practice, but then stopped. Why did we make such a big deal about all the strikes and spares on the first round if it's not about score? How often do we expect kids to be just as good at something as we are, without realizing that we had years and years of practice? And then we choose to measure the success by numbers.
It was not a peaceful car ride on the way back home, fueled by hunger. During lunch, when 8 yo calmed down a bit, all of a sudden he said: "My body is telling me it wants to learn some Torah." I wanted to know what kind of learning his body was in the mood for. He said, his arms say, Shmuel Aleph and his legs, Shmuel Beit and his head is not sure. I wondered if any of his body wants to continue Vaeiyra. He said, yes. I asked him whether he remembered what was the last thing we learned ( over two weeks ago). He remembered about Avimelech taking Sorah. I told him that I got a new chumash for him in Israel, with Rashi with nekudot. He got excited about it, I showed it to him and we started. We did three pesukim, he needed to be reminded what is "be'er". We finished on the place being called Be'er Sheva and I said that we traveled very close to it. I pulled out a map of Israel and then he found Be'er Sheva on it. He hypothesised that sheva were four slaves of Avimelech, and then Avraham, Avimelech and Pichol.
Overall, I was quite encouraged that he asked to learn. Maybe I can let go on the Judaics and they will happen with desire.
I have been reflecting on my davening a bit lately. I have been saying it for years by now, starting at 13. I remember feeling envious of others who said it so quickly and ( supposedly) knew all the words they were saying. It took me a long time and I knew every 5th word. It did not help that I was taught some davening just by repetition after a teacher. It did not help that my first siddur was all in Hebrew and I did not have anyone telling me which page had what on it. But somehow, over the years, I got to the point where I know what most of the words are. No worksheets, no intense study, no fill-in-the-blanks, no tests. No crazy motivation either, just a desire to say things fast enough to keep with the tzibbur. (After praying at the Kotel without the tzibbur I wonder whether the reason for lack of concentration has to do with keeping up with others. In yoga, you are told to do what is comfortable for you, and not to look at others. Why should our tefillah be exactly in lockstep with others?) So, if I got to my level of understanding just through years of slow-and-steady, why do I want my kid to get it all "now"? Why don't I give him a siddur with English translation, so he can look up meaning as he chooses? Why not leave the books on tefilla around instead of constantly telling him to sit down and focus and pay attention and not mumble?
As a broader question: how much of a certain state of mind can be taught and how much of it has to desired from within? How much space should I be leaving for my kids to develop their relationship to Judaism? How much learning do I need to facilitate and how much will happen despite of me? I know that I cannot control my son's desire to learn. I can only make sure that I do not get in the way.
And today, I got in the way of that learning. In the morning , we went to a Children's Museum. He had one0time passes that we won in a raffle, and today was raining again. It was a bit too young for the boys, but they stopped by the ball station. There, all different machines pick up balls and make them go on belts, up in the air, from station to station. They stayed there for hours. 2 yo checked out everything else: the underground, the painting, the store, the house, and delivery truck, the kids' show.
As we were driving back, the boys asked to watch Pokemon. I used to say no, but yesterday I said that I will think about it. SO I said that they can watch after we finish the perek. That was a bad idea: 8 yo was obviously trying to finish ASAP, and was not interested in getting in the intricacies of the perek. I got his attention a bit with discussion of what is Eshel, but overall, he was not here, but in Pokemon. The funny part was, once I found the movie and the kids sat down to watch, 6 yo ran out five minutes into it, screaming that it's too scary. He was not able to finish it. Somehow, Mommy still knows best.