Parenting with the Parsha – Vayakhel Pekudei

“I can tell you how to raise your kids, but don’t ask me about my own kids!” So joked an educator in one parenting lecture I attended. 

It is easy to know the theory, but putting it into practice, now that is the challenge. 

After weeks of hearing detailed instructions of how to build the Mishkan and its furnishings, it is now constructed and completed. Given that we received most of this information already, it would make sense to just tell us in one line that the Mishkan was built according to the instructions previously given. Why do so many of the details need to be repeated in this week’s double parsha of Vayakhel-Pikudei? 

I think it is because the reality, the practical, is never the same as the theory. It is never as simple and straightforward as just doing what we were instructed to do.

Each week I write about theories, principles and ideas that have impacted me and that I want to share with you. Educating ourselves to know what to do, how to react and what to say is essential, otherwise we have very little chance of doing the right thing. Parenting doesn’t come naturally to the vast majority of us, we do need to learn the techniques. Sometimes reading the information is enough to change our ways or at least to inspire us to do better, but in most cases the implementation, putting those theories into practice in daily life, is the tough part. Not yelling, being positive and patient, interacting with our kids but giving them enough independent play… Managing all of these things at the end of a long day when we are tired, anxious, or unwell makes being a good parent really challenging. 

It is one thing to know the principles, quite another to have to try to live by them. We know how the Mishkan was meant to be built, but it cannot be assumed that the work was carried out in that exact way or even order.

I have often thought about homeschooling my kids, dreaming of all the wonderful things I would do with them. More play, practical life skills, more exercise and less time sitting at their desks. Now that it is here, albeit in a far more restrictive and isolated state, it doesn’t mean that any of that is happening! There is always a gap between our theories and practice and that is okay. We should go easy on ourselves and either work towards lessening that gap or challenge the validity of those theories in the first place…

One of the things that has really helped me, is the idea of a deschooling period. Avital Schreiber-Levy speaks about how there is a period of transition from traditional schooling to less restrictive homeschooling, called deschooling. This is a challenging time for kids and requires adjustment to many things, including their having more input and personal choice in their learning and a movement away from spending their time mainly with their friends towards being with their parents for most of the day. This concept has liberated me not to feel the need to create colour-coded schedules and load my kids with expectations and assignments. It is a period of adjustment for all of us dealing with a lot of anxieties and stresses ranging from our physical and mental health, to our finances and our families abroad. Let us use this time to be kind to ourselves, embrace each other and create positive memories and experiences. 

Shabbat Shalom 

About the Author
Ilana Harris is a teacher, educator, writer and blogger. She lives in Jerusalem with her husband and four kids.
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