Last night my daughter asked me to fix something in her room. I looked at her and said, “Honey, I have no idea how to fix that. We’re going to have to call someone else to do it.” Wide-eyed she looked back with bewilderment. “Mommy, how will the person fix it?” And I repeated, “I have no idea, but they’ll know what to do.” She concluded the conversation with, “But mommy, just tell me…you know everything.”
And my heart sunk. I understand that developmentally, my kids are supposed to think that adults hold all wisdom and truths in the palm of our hand. But I just felt like a liar. I wanted to confess everything: that I never took physics, that I don’t know how to change a tire despite my father’s insistence, maps frighten me and I still have a collection of vhs tapes because I don’t understand our DVD player. The list goes on and on…there’s just so much I don’t know and one day, my daughter will be well aware of that fact. Probably sooner than I realize.
But our tradition doesn’t say I have to know everything. It just says I need to “teach my children.” Rabbi Ephraim Epstein explains that the Torah uses the word “Veshinantam” and not “Vetilmadu.” He suggests that the Torah uses the word “veshinantam” to remind us “to teach the student well enough that the knowledge is on the tip of their tongues.” Meaning, as adults and educators we should share our knowledge and share it often enough so that our children expect to learn from us daily. It may be the same lesson repeated over and over again—but it will be lessons shared from the heart.
And that I can do. I can teach her which blessings and prayers of gratitude to say when she wakes in the morning, why we should include those that feel left out at recess, how to make a delicious brownie pie, when to start a dance party in the living room, to be proud of the unique individual she is, and take pride in her tradition and community. The wisdom I do know must be passed down to her, never kept hidden or locked away, and repeated often.
My wisdom is hers to inherit. That is what is expected of us and it is her gift to cherish. To withhold information is to deny our children the privilege of being seekers, learners and beacons of curiosity.
I don’t know everything. Who does? But what I do know is that we must identify the knowledge we possess. Share it, pass it on and teach it. Our children are asking. So we must answer—with the unique wisdom we hold within.