Her­itage Con­ser­va­tion | Out­side The City | Piki­wi­ki Israel, CC BY 2.5 <https://​cre​ativecom​mons​.org/​l​i​c​e​n​s​e​s​/​b​y/2.5>, via Wiki­me­dia Commons

One of my sweet­est child­hood mem­o­ries involves wak­ing up to a paper bag of can­dies on my birth­day. Always gener­ic jel­ly beans — my favorite. The bag would be plant­ed right next to my bed, mak­ing it the very first thing I saw when I opened my eyes. Because I had nev­er con­sid­ered how or where the tra­di­tion began, I was sur­prised to dis­cov­er that it had a long his­to­ry. My mom recent­ly shared that it was my dad’s tra­di­tion from his own child­hood on a kib­butz, an Israeli com­mu­ni­ty that com­bined social­ist, demo­c­ra­t­ic, and Zion­ist ideals.

As a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist, I appre­ci­ate the impact that the child­hood expe­ri­ences of our par­ents, their par­ents, and so on have on who we become as adults. I see clear­ly how my own child­hood has rubbed off on my children’s upbring­ing (and their den­tal health). But I’m also reg­u­lar­ly remind­ed that I have a ten­den­cy to over­look the effects of my father’s unusu­al kib­butz upbring­ing on me.

This kind of omis­sion is more com­mon than most of us real­ize. Some­times it’s because we do not share a gen­der with our parent(s). Some­times it’s because we hold com­pet­ing val­ues and pri­or­i­ties. For me, though, the rea­son that I sel­dom regard my father’s child­hood as an influ­ence is that it diverged so stark­ly from my own. I was raised by two par­ents liv­ing in the same home togeth­er with their kids — where­as he and his sib­lings were not.

The kib­butz move­ment attempt­ed to rad­i­cal­ly trans­form fam­i­ly life in order to pro­vide a bet­ter exis­tence for all. It pri­or­i­tized men’s and women’s roles as both par­ents and work­ers, and it sought to devel­op prac­tices for rais­ing chil­dren with val­ues of equal­i­ty, hard work, agri­cul­tur­al aware­ness, and com­mu­ni­ty. These chil­dren were con­sid­ered to belong to the kib­butz, not just their indi­vid­ual par­ents. As such, they resided in beit yeladim, children’s hous­es, with same-aged peers. Although par­ents had ded­i­cat­ed after­noon hours to vis­it with their chil­dren, their main care­givers were kib­butz members.

There’s no ques­tion that the way that my father was raised shaped who he became: hard-work­ing, nature-lov­ing, and a pas­sion­ate opti­mist. But in many ways, he was always a mys­tery to me.

In many ways, kib­butz liv­ing offered a bril­liant solu­tion to a prob­lem that con­tin­ues to plague mod­ern fam­i­lies: even when moms work, they still are yoked to the domes­tic sphere more than their male coun­ter­parts. In the kib­butz, chil­dren could receive high-qual­i­ty child­care, sup­port for extrafa­mil­ial activ­i­ties, and oppor­tu­ni­ties to be with fam­i­ly — and their par­ents could con­tin­ue work­ing and hav­ing a social life.

There’s no ques­tion that the way that my father was raised shaped who he became: hard-work­ing, nature-lov­ing, and a pas­sion­ate opti­mist. But in many ways, he was always a mys­tery to me. I knew his inter­ests (pol­i­tics and gar­den­ing), his polit­i­cal lean­ings (far left in his youth to right by the end of his life), and his job his­to­ry (taxi cab dri­ver in Israel to Sil­i­con Val­ley entre­pre­neur). But I knew lit­tle of his emo­tion­al life or per­son­al belief sys­tem. He was reserved when it came to talk­ing about either.

After my dad passed away, I began email­ing with his youngest sis­ter to try to get to know him, and per­haps myself, bet­ter. A few months into a light-heart­ed email exchange, I typed a request. Can I ask you a fun­ny ques­tion? As I’ve been reflect­ing on my dad, my hero, some­thing I keep com­ing back to is how much he didn’t ever want to talk about feel­ings. You seem very dif­fer­ent in that way. Why do you think that is? Is it because he was an Israeli man (ver­sus woman)? Or because of all the trau­ma he endured after being wound­ed as a sol­dier and his deci­sion to be pos­i­tive and not allow neg­a­tive ener­gy to get in his way? Or some­thing else I don’t know about?”

Her response offered a truth that I had prob­a­bly always known at some lev­el — just not con­scious­ly. She wrote, In regards to your ques­tion, it is not fun­ny at all. It is some­thing I was think­ing a lot along my life … After my broth­er was born, when he got to the kib­butz from the hos­pi­tal, he was put in the babies house.’ No mom around, that was it!! I think that this piece of his biog­ra­phy shaped a pret­ty big part of his emo­tion­al way in life.”

The invis­i­ble lega­cy of kib­butz life has shaped me, just as invis­i­ble lega­cies shape us all. In fact, my being a descen­dant of the kib­butz prob­a­bly drove my pas­sion for under­stand­ing how to thrive in work­ing par­ent­hood — so much so that I penned an entire book about it. By mak­ing invis­i­ble lega­cies a bit more vis­i­ble, we can be delib­er­ate about choos­ing which parts of those lega­cies we hold fast to, and which we release. My father, for one, decid­ed to raise us out­side the kib­butz, in a home where we resided togeth­er. My own process of mak­ing the kib­butz lega­cy more vis­i­ble has helped me clar­i­fy how I’d like to show up both in my work life and in my rela­tion­ships with my chil­dren. And it’s allowed me to appre­ci­ate the sig­nif­i­cance of birth­day can­dy all the more.