Different kinds of secrets

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

You would think after so many years there would be nothing more to learn about Hanukkah, but there is always more learning and thinking and important messages about this holiday, which is really not a very important one! Yet this message from myjewishlearning.org by Lauren Ben Shoshan is so important for families today. She starts by telling us that she is about to make a controversial statement — hmmm. Yes, it is a difficult conversation for which many of us are struggling with the how and when today. Remember that it is our job to have the challenging conversations and at this time, this is a great way to begin talking about difficult “stuff” with our kids. Here is part of her article:

“We should talk to young Jewish children about Santa. In their first year of kindergarten, if not before. Every parent needs to have a ‘Santa Claus conversation.’

“It begins like this: ‘Santa is not real.’ And then talk about secrets.

“There are some secrets that make you feel good. Planning a surprise party for a friend, covertly making a macaroni necklace for grandma or finding a special corner in the house where you can sneak away to do puzzles by yourself are all good secrets. These kinds of secrets sit well in your body; they don’t make your kishkes churn or weigh down your keppie. These kinds of secrets make you feel excited and happy. Santa is one of these secrets. We don’t tell our non-Jewish friends about Santa; he is their parents’ secret with them. We do not want to ruin that secret.

“But there are other kinds of secrets.

“There are secrets that do not sit well in your body; they do not make you smile when you think about them. These kinds of secrets feel this way because they need to come out. When someone tells you about these secrets or when someone — anyone — asks you to keep a secret that makes you feel bad, that bad feeling is a signal. Like coughing is a sign that you have yucky stuff in your lungs that needs to come out; like sneezing is an indication that you have something that isn’t good for you up your nose. When a person asks you to keep a ‘bad feeling’ secret, it is a signal that you need to tell an adult you trust about that secret; indeed, tell every reliable grown-up until someone believes you.

“As woman after man after woman builds up the courage to bring their most difficult secrets to light, from a social media #metoo post to legal action, it is natural for parents to wonder how they can shield their children from such experiences. If we are unable to do so in our uncertain world, we want our children to know that some secrets do not need to be hidden; rather the divine spark within us agitates to bring these kinds of secrets into the sunshine. When that happens, we, their trusted adults, are here to listen.

“For us, the conversation can start with Santa.”

Judaism teaches us to talk and question and stand up for what is right. And Hanukkah is the holiday that tells us to stand up and stand together. Have a happy and meaningful Hanukkah!

Laura Seymour is Jewish experiential learning director and camp director emeritus at the Aaron Family JCC.

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