The first time I remember listening to the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” and really hearing the words was when I watched the movie Love Actually. Perhaps the movie had something to do with it, or the song, or books I have read, but for many years now I have been a one-solution woman. For every situation, from raising chickens to potty training the dogs to the academic progress of my kids my solution has always been love.
I believe in the power of love. With my dog Percy, I watched as he softened, calmed, settled into our home. I experience the same effect with my children, family and friends. Love works, but not always dramatically. Sometimes, I thought, love is not enough.
Love was not enough when I realized that instead of respect I receive complaints, anger, and frustration from my children. I know they express negative emotion at home because they know they are loved. I, however, end up feeling under-appreciated. I needed help, and I found it with Wendy Mogel’s The Blessing of a Skinned Knee.
Mogel divided her book into nine blessings: acceptance, someone to look up to, skinned knee, gratitude, work, food, self control, time, and faith. She supports each blessing with teachings from the bible, showing how the three principles of Jewish living, moderation, celebration and sanctification, help in parenting.
While reading, I identified some of my parenting mistakes and potential ways to correct them — in moderation, of course. In the Blessing of Acceptance and the Blessing of Self Control, I learned about accepting my child’s temperament and reframing their most annoying trait as their strength. Mogel gives the same warning about perfection that I hear from friends and other experts: stop pressuring myself, forget perfection, enjoy ordinary moments.
In the Blessing of Having Someone to Look Up To and the Blessing of Work, I found how important it is that I be the head of the house and that I assign the kids chores. I had a hard time assigning chores to the kids because they move from house to house and because I felt that policing them into doing the chores was harder than doing the chores myself. It did not occur to me that for my children chores are a blessing indeed, a way to feel more grounded and settled at home when they return from their father’s house. Mogel emphasizes making little changes, not sitting the kids down and announcing that things are going to change from now on. I’ve been implementing changes slowly, encouraging the children to help me with cooking, setting the table, feeding the dogs, and looking after themselves (which Mogel says is a mitzvah — a good deed).
In the Blessing of a Skinned Knee, Mogel reminded me to stop overprotecting the kids, let them make mistakes and learn from them. I am one of those parents who will rush to retrieve a forgotten lunch, book or backpack. Mogel says: let them discover the consequence of their actions so that they learn.
Mogel points out in the Blessing of Time and the Blessing of Longing the importance of finding time to connect with the kids and appreciating little moments. Hand in Hand Parenting calls it special time. Gratitude, Mogel says, must be cultivated. It is so easy to slip from expressing appreciation to thinking about what I don’t yet have or what I fear. In the Blessing of Faith, Mogel talks about the first time she saw a double rainbow with her daughter. The two held hands and recited the Shehecheyanu, the prayer for special moments. I loved how in one instant, Mogel and her daughter experienced three blessings: gratitude, being in the moment, and a connection to God.
Wendy Mogel’s book added many tools to my parenting toolkit, and what I love most about it is that none of them ended up being heavy. By emphasizing moderation, Mogel makes each and every one of her recommendation accessible to all of us. By advocating celebrating our children, ourselves, ordinary moments, and the holidays, she opens up a world of enjoyment in parenting. In the overarching umbrella of sanctification, she tells us not to forget the preciousness of it.