This morning I read a Disney princess book at a child's request. The stories were truly scary and the children were unfazed, accepting and processing difficult information, either deeming it all fantasy or realizing people face difficult situations and overcome them.
Parashat Vayeshev is about jealousy, sibling rivalry, and making sense of our dreams. These are topics children face on a daily basis.
The brain development in early childhood means the Torah they learn is absorbed and retained. They may not assess information on a more abstract cognitive level (that does not begin until age 7) but the plasticity of preschool brains means the neurons are cementing in the Torah. Here is a video of Ruti reciting all the books of Tanach in order. She doesn't know their content. This is just a string of sounds to her. But she will know it forever (and I didn't learn it then, so I don't know it by heart now).
This is a parasha I prefer to teach to all of the girls together. They think about sibling dynamics as they look at each other.
"If your friend gets a new dress and you don't, how do you feel?" I asked the girls towards the beginning of the narrative.
"I am happy for her. I complement it and ask where she got it because maybe you'll get me one like it," Cohava replied quickly. To draw Tova in, I altered the scenario to a beanie-boo, the new coveted item.
"What if only one of your sisters gets one and not you?" I asked.
"That's not fair!!!!" yelled Tova. Through our discussion, I think they really understood the kutonet pasim, Yosef's striped tunic. This article of clothing and sibling rivalry was the focus of the blog here and here. The issues around sibling rivalry have not diminished for us since I first wrote about them five years ago. For siblings in general, it can be just as pervasive as it was for Yaakov's sons thousands of years ago.
I'd like to think we have made headway in the area of lying, as we talked about related to Vayeshev here.
This year we focused on the dreams, how our dreams make us feel, and made dream catchers.
Step one: cut the outer ring from a cheap paper plate.
Step two: decorate the paper ring and hole punch it several times.
This is mine. The idea is the yarn on the dreamcatcher is Yosef's kutonet pasim and his prison bars. Around the circumference are the wheat bowing to him from the first dream. The sun, moon, and 11 stars will hang from the bottom.
This afternoon we saw these striped dresses in a store. Obviously everyone needed one.