What Happens to Ritual Between Marriage and Babies?
From my conversion to our Japanese and Jewish wedding to my bat mitzvah at 33, I’ve been fortunate to have celebrated many happy lifecycle events in a few short years. It has been my great joy to share about my experiences through InterfaithFamily, in hopes that other Jews of color like myself find inspiration and community.
While my life has only seemed to get fuller and go by faster in the last couple of years, I’ve found that there are fewer lifecycle events and therefore seemingly fewer rituals to write about here post-wedding. Friends and family have told me that will pick back up once we have children. But my Japanese and Jewish rituals are incredibly healing and nourishing to me, so I find myself wondering: Why wait for children to practice rituals?
The time between wedding and baby (if you’d like to start a family) can still be rich with ritual and tradition, though less public. Life events like birthdays, graduations and career milestones can be woven into traditions, too! My husband Bryan and I have continued to grow our community and have started our own traditions together. We have put a lot of thought and discussion into what our individual spiritual needs are and are creating a foundation full of healing rituals, from which we hope to expand our family. While it seems strange to consider our individual spiritual needs before those of ours as a unit, we’ve discovered that when we are not feeling connected individually, it’s impossible to connect.
Ironically, Bryan (who grew up Jewish) feels more spiritually connected to Buddhism, while I (the granddaughter of a devout Buddhist) feel more spiritually connected to Judaism. On our spiritual journey together, we have come to the conclusion that at its core, all religion teaches the same principles: How to treat yourselves, your family, your community and all living beings with love, care and acceptance.
Earlier this year, we decided to join a historic Japanese American Buddhist Church in San Francisco’s Japantown. This summer, I dressed in yukata (a cotton summer kimono) and danced the Bon dance in the street. I grew up dancing the Bon dance in the streets in yukata with my Bachan (grandmother). It was because of Bryan’s unwavering insistence to remain open-minded religiously that I got to experience something that immediately took me back to my childhood and my own Japanese American roots. It was a healing ritual that I had no idea I had been missing my entire adult life. We’re growing a Japanese American community there, and I can’t wait to introduce our future children to it.
There are some weekends when I attend Shabbat on Friday and a Buddhist service on Sunday. Those are the weekends when I feel most connected to myself, to Bryan and to our communities. There is a lot of fear around being part of two religions and a lot of pressure to just choose one, so as not to confuse children. But I can’t wait to introduce our children to both spiritual paths of our lineages as well as all the culture from our combined heritage. I hope it gives them the foundation and the options to forge a path that resonates deeply with them, and that they have tools to turn to in celebration and in inevitable grief.
This time between wedding and baby has been a gift. It’s afforded us the luxury of quiet exploration and experimentation. The rituals we are creating are like little diamonds; they are in the early stages of being honed. They are smaller, daily and weekly rituals. For example: incorporating Japanese tea ceremony and the She’ma into my morning routine, or teaching Bryan the coming and leaving home greetings in Japanese or creating a system to make Shabbat dinner easier on the cook (me).
One day, when we have children and grandchildren, these currently rough-around-the-edges rituals will have been honed into diamonds that will be a great honor to pass down. If you yourself are between wedding and baby, know this: Building a foundation isn’t as glamorous as big wedding or bar/bat mitzvah, but it’s just as important and meaningful.