The Mystery of Parenting By Dasee Berkowitz


Dasee Berkowitz is a writer living in Jerusalem with her husband and kids. She is a frequent contributor to JTA, Times of Israel, and

Parenting is a mystery.  Not many of us like to admit it.  Especially us type A personality parents out there (myself included.)  I like to know what my kids are doing, and even thinking about much of the time.  Lucky enough I still have a 2 year-old for whom everything she thinks, she says.  (She particularly likes to review the names of everyone in her family who love her and the fact that she almost always wants to eat more bananas.)  The fact that my 6 year-old is starting to have experiences that I will never know about during his day camp, and that I have to ask my 4 year-old “what are you thinking” before she drifts off to sleep at night are the daily reminders of how separate they are from me.

And every once in a while they will do something that reminds me of me or my husband.  An expression on their face, their flair, or what makes them really mad.  My husband and I take turns looking at each other and saying “s/he’s just like you.”

It’s comforting to think they are just like us.  It makes all the unpredictability and unknowns that come with raising kids more predictable.  As if we will know how our children will turn out in the end and that they will be ok.

Making room for the mystery of who they are is probably one of the hardest spiritual practices of parenting.  One of the texts that I love that talks about this is a Midrash from Tractate Niddah.  It talks about three partners in creating human beings; the mother, father and God.  It goes like this:

“Our Rabbis taught: There are three partners in man, the Holy One, blessed be He, his father and his mother. His father supplies the semen of the white substance out of which are formed the child's bones, sinews, nails, the brain in his head and the white in his eye; his mother supplies the semen of the red substance out of which is formed his skin, flesh, hair, blood and the black of his eye; and the Holy One, blessed be He, gives him the spirit and the breath, beauty of features, eyesight, the power of hearing and the ability to speak and to walk, understanding and discernment.” (Tractate Niddah 31a)

What I particularly love about this text is that while our children’s DNA might come from us, the “intangibles” of who they are, “beauty of features…understanding and discernments” are out of our control.  Faith, trust and letting go and letting God (quite literally) play a role in who they are and who they will become is key.

And as so many of us are sending our kids off to camp or to do some traveling this summer without us, we should be blessed by the insight that when they come home and we notice just how much they regale us (or choose not to) with the details of their experiences we can say, “that is so them!”  And thank God for that.

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