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Truly Celebrating Our Children

Meredith Polsky

Celebrating our children, MatanSitting in a café, waiting for my next meeting, slowly sipping coffee, playing on my phone, while actively trying not to listen to the two women sitting next to me.

That quickly proved impossible.

Two women, enjoying their afternoon tea on a sunny Northern California afternoon, were sharing family stories.

“She’s gotten letters from UCLA and UC Berkeley,” “She just got her certificate yesterday and we’re turning her room into a guest room!”

And I stopped to think, these women have a lot to be proud of, and how lovely that they are sharing it with each other. Their friendship seemed like a deep long lasting one.

But do they really share everything? Did they share that it took five tries to get accepted to UCLA? Did they share the disappointments that helped lead to these accomplishments?

It got me thinking about how we talk about our kids, even with our closest friends.

How do we share growth, milestones and achievements? Are we honest about our kids, their struggles and successes? Can we really talk openly about what our kids are going through?

How many of us can say with pride to our friend over coffee “He took one step without his walker today!” “He didn’t bite at school!” or “She made a friend.”?

Let’s re-think how we talk about our kids:

  1. Celebrate the tiny things: Getting into Berkeley is a big deal, but so is learning how to write your name.
  2. Sometimes not doing something is as big a reason to celebrate as doing something. Some days, it’s what didn’t happen that is a momentous occasion, in light of what could have happened.
  3. Share equally the achievements and the challenges. We are too achievement focused. Falling off your bike is just as important as biking the Tour D’France.
  4. Ask about the struggles, we all have them. If we don’t ask each other for honesty, then how can we ever truly celebrate with each other?
  5. Share, Share and Share! It’s how we grow, learn and are able to get through each day.

Elana Naftalin-KelmanElana has been working at the intersection of special education and Jewish education for over 15 years. She is the founder and Executive Director of Rosh Pina, a non-profit that offers a certification for Jewish institutions after a year-long process of reflecting and creating a more inclusive community for people with disabilities. She was the Ruderman Fellow of the Joshua Venture Group and a member of Upstart Bay Area. She directs the Tikvah program for kids with disabilities at Camp Ramah in California, which includes a camper program, a vocational program for young adults, and a camp for families that have children with disabilities. Elana has consulted with multiple Jewish institutions to aid them in thinking about how to be more inclusive of Jews of all abilities. She has taught professional development courses in differentiated instruction, behavior management and teaching Hebrew. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband and three boys, Yair, Nevo and Etai.

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