Jewish · OBSERVATIONS · rituals · speech

A Day of Rest

“I’m making pah-tee for Daddy!”

Last night, before sunset, Isabelle was planning a “party” in her kitchen for her a daddy. She gathered pretend cookies, a kiddie teapot, and other assorted goodies in a basket.  She carried them to the great room, deposited them on the floor, and hustled back to her play kitchen.

Back and forth she went, from the kitchen to the great room and back to the kitchen again.  But it was time for Shabbat.

“Isabelle, you may continue your party after we do our Shabbat prayers,” I said.

“NO!” she shouted in my general direction.

“Isabelle, we need you to come here before Shabbat starts,” my husband said.

“NO!” she howled.

A few minutes passed.

“You may bring your chair over to light candles,” I said.

“NO! I’m making pah-tee for Daddy!” she exclaimed seeming exasperated with us.

Marc and I looked at each other.  We were feeling a little exasperated with her.  This was not exactly the shalom bayit I dream of when I think of how Friday nights usually go.  Usually she’s excited to drink the grape juice and eat challah.  Usually she’s excited to help set up for Shabbat.  Usually she brings a chair over to the kitchen island, where we say the blessings over the candles, her, the fruit of the vine, and the challah.  But not last night.  Nope.  Last night she just wanted to play.

“If you don’t come over, then you’re not going to eat challah,” my husband stated.

I was less than thrilled that he was dangling that in front of her, but what choice did we seem to have.

“Yes call-ah!” she retorted.

“Then come over here,” he said.

“No. I make pah-tee for YOU!”

“Then no challah,” he said.

Not even the threat of not eating challah, which she loves to devour, was motivating her.

THINK Stacey, think!

I walked over to Isabelle’s Daddy party she was setting up.

“No mommy! Dis for Daddy!”

I ignored the slight, knelt down beside her and said, “I want to talk to you about something, Isabelle.”

She stared at me through her big blueberry eyes with her bottom lip stuck out a bit.

“Yes call-ah!” she shouted.

I took her toddler-sized hands in mine and held them gently.  It was time to take a different approach.

“You know how you work hard all week with Miss Marie and Miss Kelly on your talking?”

She nodded.

“They’re helping you learn how to get your words out, right?”

She nodded again.

“Well, you work hard all week long.  And it’s very hard work to get your words out… I know that.  You go to see Miss Marie and Kelly and then you practice at home with mommy.  And you also go to Miss Mandy and Miss Jena and Joanna and that’s hard work too.  You work so hard, all week long.” I paused to let that sink in.  “Well, Shabbat is a time where we leave the work we did all week behind and we stop.  We don’t work on Shabbat.  We rest.  Don’t you want to take some time to rest from all of the hard work you did this week?”


“I thought you would.  So, put your party aside.  You can have the party later.  Come and celebrate all of the hard work you did with me and Daddy.”

I wrapped my arms around her and squeezed.  “I love you very much.  Will you come and join us for Shabbat so we can take a break from all of that hard work you did this week?”

“Okay,” she said.

“Do you need help pulling over your chair or can you do it yourself.”

“I need help,” she replied.

And just like that she came over.  I pulled over her chair and we kindled the Shabbos lights.

And just like that I vowed not to do picture cards or speech work with her on Shabbat because everyone deserves a day of rest when they work for six days straight.


16 thoughts on “A Day of Rest

  1. Stacey,
    The power of conversation and honest with your three-nager! In the moment, sometimes it’s hard to think quickly and sort through all the options, but you were masterful!
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. What a great way to explain things and get Isabelle to make her own decision without being told she has to do something. Understanding why we do something makes making the decision to do it much easier.

  3. Awwww! So sweet. I love that you de-escalated the “fight.” My favorite line: “She stared at me through her big blueberry eyes with her bottom lip stuck out a bit.” It totally captures a “threenager.” 😉

  4. Happy you didn’t give up, but looked again at what might ‘be’. Similar things are happening around here, shouting of no, etc. Change happens so fast, doesn’t it, & then you realize there are explanations that actually are heard. Great lesson here, perhaps for all ages, Stacey!

  5. Ha, Brilliant! You won’t have problem with teenage woes in your household, you have it down pat already, you will be coaching all the other mums in the car park for years to come! Oh, to have your calmness and thoughtfully measured words. So much in this slice, clever.

  6. i saw this post a while ago and have thought of it MANY times as I have watched the endless parade of parent-child-teacher interactions that pass by me every day in school, in CVS, and in the carpool line! You masterfully transitioned her to the task you needed her to do. In the end, she probably thought it was her idea. You have that coaching thing down pat! Perhaps you should make this the focus of your next book!

    1. You’re kind Anita. Trust me… I have many parenting moments that shouldn’t be touted. (Like today, when I gave her a two minute warning that we were leaving a play date and she ran away from me. I literally said, “Get over here or I’m going to come over there and pick you up myself.” Granted, I said it calmly, but it wasn’t exactly book-worthy. It was in the mid-80’s and humid so I’m going to give myself a pass.) But thank you!

  7. What a beautiful reminder to your daughter and to us all that we deserve to rest from all the hard work we’ve done throughout the week. I’ve been lax about giving myself time to rest and am feeling it.

  8. Love your piece — it is so hard to find the energy to set it right. Giving her the bigger purpose seemed to help — I know it always does for me. Taking the time to tell kids why is so important to remember — especially when we feel done! Thanks for the reminder.
    Clare and Tammy

  9. Oh wow, Stacey. As usual, I admire your response to this situation so much! You are an amazing mom and teacher! I love that your response lead you to a new thought as well! I hope you and her will now enjoy so many restful Shabbats together! 🙂

  10. Wow! Great job mom. That took some serious thought. Putting big ideas into bite sized pieces for Isabelle to chew on. To digest and understand. Masterful teaching. My hat is off to you.

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