This week's Torah portion, Toledot, is truly a cautionary tale of parenting. Forget the akedah, the binding of Isaac. Although it is scary, I don't think most of us are in danger of offering our children up to God as burnt offerings. This Torah portion, the story of Rebekah and Isaac and their sons, Esau and Jacob, actually involves things that might happen today.
From the beginning, we learn that Isaac prefers Esau and Rebekah prefers Jacob. This eventually leads to Rebekah encouraging Jacob to deceive his father and take Isaac's innermost blessing, the one intended for Esau. When Esau comes in for his blessing, Isaac discovers he has been deceived. Then come some of the most painful words in our Torah, "Have you but one blessing, Father? Bless me too!" as Esau wept aloud.
How terrible it would be to only have enough blessing for one of our children, to not only show preference, but when asked, have nothing left to say to our other child. This is why this parasha is so painful--it plays out the fear that parents have limited love and blessings for their children. We fear this as parents, we fear this as children. As I sit here, 36 weeks pregnant with our second, this weighs on my mind. I, like many parents about to have a second child, am trying to envision what it will be like to welcome a new child who isn't my first. Will I be able to appreciate him or her or will I only compare to the older sister? As is very normal, we wonder about having enough love. Yet, everything I read, everyone I talk to, says yes--the minute you see your second, you love him or her unconditionally and beautifully. The transition is different: the first child makes us parents, the second (and third, fourth, etc) child makes us more of a family.
And so, I offer this blessing for those of us parenting more than one child:
O God, give me the strength and wisdom to be the best parent I can be.
Help me to see each of my children for the unique and special creations they are.
Guide my eyes to look at each of them differently, in a way that honors them as individuals.
Guide my tongue to speak to each of them uniquely, in the way they will best hear.
Guide my ears to listen to each of them intentionally, hearing what they are saying without judgment or comparison.
Guide my hands to offer love and compassion, giving them the care they need to feel most loved.
Help me to discover the many blessings I have within as a parent so I can share them freely and lovingly with my children.
May our family be blessed with an abundance of love, freely given and received.