Thankful for Differences

Rebecca L. Brown

Ben (with Dad’s help) had the honor of drawing up last week’s guest list and menu for shabbat. He chose his partner in crime Grant and his girlfriend Chloe. (Steve chose meatloaf.) Add Sarah to the mix and Steve and I had plenty of opportunity to practice all of our best “Love and Logic“one- liners.

What? Haven’t heard of “Love and Logic?” Don’t worry, we hadn’t either. It’s a program that teaches parents to replace anger and lectures with empathy and consequences. How you ask? In part, through some famous (at least now in our house) one-liners delivered with “compassion and understanding.” Things like “Bummer. How sad,” “I love you too much to argue,” and my favorite … a long pause followed by “hhhhmmmm” and then silence.

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Steve and I more or less parent from the hip, but we decided to give the class a try. Mostly because it was from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. and included free child care. Need I say more? After our first L&L class complete with AV and role playing, Steve and I were chomping at the bit to try out our new skills. Of course it didn’t take long. As soon as we hit the front door, Ben headed straight for the fridge. “Sorry Bud, kitchen’s closed. Upstairs for jammies.” (Yes, my children actually think the kitchen closes after dinner … a helpful one-liner from my Parent’s as Teacher Educator to promote mealtime eating.) And then the meltdown began. So I went for it.

Me: “Ben, I love you to much to argue.”

Ben stops dead. Turns and looks directly at me with a suspicious eye as his sister’s mouth drops open.

Ben: “Did you you just learn that in class tonight?”

Cheese sticks and apples followed.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to put any of the one-liners to use on Friday night. The kids were a dream and once again proved my belief that parenting four little people is actually easier than parenting two as long as half of them aren’t yours.

But it wasn’t the happy camaraderie that was the highlight of the evening, it was seeing the four of them together at the table. Both Grant and Chloe had been to shabbat dinner at our house before and even though neither of them are Jewish, they remembered how we roll. Patiently they sat waiting for their candles to be lit (our custom is to give each child their own set), the blessings to be repeated and the bread to be shared. And that made me happy.

I’m proud that Sarah wants to light the candles and that Ben has nearly learned the blessing over the wine. But I’m even more proud that they are excited about sharing our traditions with their friends. And maybe, just maybe this is even a little bigger than our family.

I hope that Grant and Chloe remember their Friday nights at our house years from now. Not just the couch jumping and popsickle eating, but the candle lighting, friendship and gratitude that we shared. And I hope they remember that even though we did not all share the same religion, they were very much a part of our Jewish celebration. But mostly I hope when they think of their nights here, they’ll remember this one-liner:

Differences are good.”

 Happy Thanksgiving.