Kavannah of Transformation

The most transformative experience for me over the past two years has been the birth and adoption of my two children, Aaron and Kaylee, born just over a year apart.

A year ago, my husband, Avi, and I were enjoying our first summer as parents with Aaron, introducing him to family and friends over picnics, the pool, playground dates, and trips to scenic Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. We felt (mostly) competent, content, and settled into this new life and routine. Rosh Hashanah came just before Aaron turned nine months old, and hearing the shofar helped me reflect on the joy and weightiness of this new role and express gratitude for the gift of being this child’s parent.

My life seemed like a jigsaw puzzle, navigating work and childcare commitments, daycare pick-ups and drop-offs, visits with grandparents, etc. The various pieces of my life that existed before parenthood had rearranged to make room for this new person and this new role. Indeed, the puzzle was more expansive than I thought it could be. The pieces could be arranged in different ways, and I was more versatile and adaptable than I knew.

When Kaylee arrived last December, my parental self fit an even larger share of a puzzle that had, once again, expanded. I wondered what aspects of my life would have to change, what parts of myself would have to transform, to piece this puzzle together. How could I be an attentive parent, dedicated spouse, and focused professional, meeting demands that seemed high, while holding onto pieces that had existed primarily for me?

Kaylee turns nine months old two days before Rosh Hashanah. My kavannah this Elul is to be grounded—to know which pieces are paramount, and which are less important; to be generous—to embrace my limitations, and to be kind to myself and to others for doing so; and to be patient—to savor this chapter with my family, and to give the larger image of the puzzle time to come into focus.

Written By Justin Rosen Smolen

Justin Rosen Smolen and his husband, Avi Smolen, are proud members of BJ, where they are privileged to introduce their young children, Aaron and Kaylee, to the joy of Jewish life through Tot Shabba...