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Jewish teachings are rife with parenting advice. Not surprisingly, my favorite is also one of the most popular:

A father is obligated to do the following for his son: to circumcise him, to redeem him if he is a first born, to teach him Torah, to find him a wife, and to teach him a trade. Others say: teaching him how to swim as well.

(I prefer to use words such as “parent,” “child,” and “partner,” but you get the point.)

What I like about this teaching is what I like about so much of Jewish wisdom: it’s clear, concrete, and pragmatic. Basically, we need to teach our children to stay alive, support themselves, develop healthy, enduring relationships, and live ethical, decent lives. In a culture where every other parent has another piece of advice about how to educate, feed, discipline, dress, and even talk to our children, I’m grateful for anyone who is able to boil it down to the basics.

In the first few months and years of parenthood, I myself got completely lost in a vortex of information, stuff, and advice from complete strangers on the internet. I stressed about everything from which music my girls should listen to, how long I needed to pump breast milk, and when I should start them in swim lessons and switch them to big girl beds to how many hours a week they could be in daycare and not be totally screwed up for life. Even as I was getting completely wrapped up in these details that are both important and not so important, I had a sense that it didn’t have to be so complicated.

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