growing up · Jewish · slice of life

Wait Time

I wasn’t expecting the response Isabelle gave me when she decided to answer my question 45 minutes after I posed it. If I had expected something so crisp, mature, and wise, then I would’ve listened more carefully. But I wasn’t listening with rapt attention because I didn’t think I could handle the disappointment response.

Marc, Isabelle, and I spent the morning with our rabbi and the other 6th and 7th graders and their families at our synagogue. The topic: Becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah*. With Isabelle’s Bat Mitzvah approaching in a little over six months, this is something that’s been at the center of many of our discussions for the past year. As a result, both Marc and I made sure to be in attendance this morning.

After spending about two hours learning, listening, and discussing, we walked up to the sanctuary for the prayer service. I turned to Isabelle and asked, “What was your big takeaway from this morning?”

{Blank stare.}

“I’m wondering about the most important thing you learned…”

Isabelle groaned at me.

“I got a lot out of this morning. I’m wondering what you thought was important.”

“Do I have to tell you?” she asked.

“Yes, you do. I’m trying to have a conversation with you about a family education program we just attended together. I want to know what you thought about it. You tell me and I will tell you.”

“I don’t know. I didn’t learn anything.”

“C’mon. You know you did.”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Isabelle said crossing her arms across her chest.

“We can talk later,” I said.

Isabelle practices her Torah portion.

Isabelle harrumphed about the absurdity of me pressing her about her takeaways.

Sensing her frustration rise, I said, “You’re in public. Please don’t make a scene.”

A moment later, Marc walked into the sanctuary. I looked at him and said, “Do you think it’s unreasonable to ask Isabelle what she got out of this morning?”

Marc sat down, turned to us, and said, “No, I don’t. But let’s talk about it later.”

“That’s exactly what I told her,” I said, thankful for the lifeline.

*= Our rabbi also spoke the non-gendered Kabbalat Mitzvah. Click here to learn more.

After services, Isabelle spoke up once we were on the way to Wegmans. “Do you want to hear what the big thing was that I learned from this morning?”

I ignored the hint of snark in her voice and said, “yes.”

I’ll paraphrase since I didn’t expect what was coming: “I learned that your Jewish education doesn’t end so you keep learning after you become a Bat Mitzvah.”

My eyes grew wide beneath my sunglasses. Wow! If that is what she took away from the morning with our rabbi, then SHE GOT IT! I had a choice, right then and there.
Option A: I could ask her to say more about what kind of learning one should do.
Option B: I could praise her for synthesizing the essence of the morning and then add my biggest takeaway.

I chose Option B.

Later in the afternoon, I called Isabelle into my bedroom. I complimented her. I told her how impressed I was with her ability to take the time to think through my question and then share a thoughtful response. I reminded her that we aren’t trying to engage in a gotcha-session when we ask her what she learned in Hebrew school. We want to understand what she’s learning and talk with her.

“Anytime you need more wait time, just ask for it. We will give it to you any time you need to reflect before you speak.”

She nodded, then walked away leaving me to feel like we took a few steps forward today.

Head over to Two Writing Teachers for more slice of life stories.

12 thoughts on “Wait Time

  1. It’s always amazing to me to see what reverberates with my kids, coming around to show itself when I least expect it (and, often, when I’ve almost given up!). You caught this moment beautifully….the next year or so leading up to her Bat Mitzvah will be full of them!

  2. It is always interesting to “hear” our children growing up. She did a great job! I could not get your link to Kabbalat Mitzvah to work, so I am off to research. Bar and Bat Mitzvahs are what i know.

  3. Your writing the dialogue along with the body language totally let us into your life that day. When I read the title “wait time” I expected a school application but I love it here in a family setting. Those are challenging years, but you show how the thinking and growth is happening throughout. Great, job, both Isabelle and Mom.

  4. I have worked with so many children during their bat/bar mitzvah year. Your post brought me back to this time in a child’s life when they are turning from childhood into adulthood and sometimes they just need a little “wait time” – time to synthesize, time to keep growing. Lovely post – Happy Thanksgiving!

  5. You could write a book about what you both learned in this interaction. We all, even old people like me, need wait time, at times, as we think and process complex ideas and their (often) lifelong implications. When my own children were tweens (and teens), I often found car rides were times when those deep thoughts would bubble to the surface and become shared ideas.

  6. I appreciate the way this slice shows that it wasn’t the question that was the issue–it was having enough processing time to be ready to answer the question. A learning experience all around!

  7. First, I cannot believe that Isabelle’s Bat Mitzvah will be in the near future! Where has the time gone? Second, what a thoughtful, mature response to your question! Thank you for sharing these beautiful moments with your children!

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