Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Chanukah as a parent

Earlier this week, when family and friends congregated at our home for the first night of Chanukah, downing latkas and singing songs, as (relatively) new parents, my wife and I felt a special mix of nostalgia and expectation.

We put aside our day-to-day stresses and annoyances with the world, the economy, winter and what have you, and just got down to the business of enjoying our child.

Watching my son, I remembered my own Chanukahs as a child, my sister and I watching the bubbies light the Chanukiyah, listening to our zaydehs sing songs of the season and eating the yummy, homemade, nothing-tastes-better, sufganiyot and latkas that our grandmothers made.

These sounds, smells and tastes of my childhood Chanukahs came rushing back to me this year as I watched my 15-month-old look around in wonder at the festival of lights.

While not techinically his first Chanukah - he was barely awake during last year's holiday - this time around, with his emerging awareness and curiosity, he partook in the food and revelry with glee and some confusion. "Who are all these people? What are they eating and singing? Hey! Look! Pretty lights! Why can't I touch?" he seemed to say, through all his gestures and babble-speak.

It was pure joy to watch as he crawled over to his grandparents (my parents in from Montreal and my Toronto-based in-laws, whom, I should note, all get along wonderfully, making life that much easier for us all) and stuck out his hands for food and lifting, excited by the spirit of the party.

"This is how my folks must have watched me and my sister when we were toddlers," I thought to myself, smiling. What a change in perspective the years bring.

Being a kid was great during the holidays. But being a parent, it seems to me, is even better. Now I know what feeling "nachas" really means. I can't wait for all the rest of the holidays so I can see how he reacts and takes it all in. That said, a part of me doesn't want him to grow up too fast, because it's sheer bliss getting to know him as he is. If you're a parent, you know what I mean.

Chag samayach everyone. And to all you new (and veteran) parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc., enjoy watching your little ones experience the holidays in all their beauty and innocence. It's a special time of year.

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