The problem is twofold: the modeling of an “ideal” two-parent family along strict gender and heteronormative lines, and the concept that ritual observance must be structured around the nuclear family. Language needs to change, and the roles need to change, because our community has already changed. We need to signal inclusivity and acceptance. Kids of all circumstances should see their families reflected in the way that we model our sacred moments.
Now that I think about it, it is bizarre to set up little children as parents in the first place, placing them in a couple with strict gender roles. They can’t even be parents yet! Shabbat should, can, and is welcomed and celebrated by all kinds of people who aren’t parents. We need to model that.
In Israel, many spaces have already switched to designating a Mekabel/Mekabelet (greeter/welcomer) of Shabbat; as another friend mentioned, people have been welcoming Shabbat long before they became parents, if at all. Instead of Shabbat Imma and Abba, there are Shabbat greeters, paired regardless of gender. Or one can greet Shabbat by themselves, knowing that too is honored and valued.
It would be great for our kids to welcome Shabbat while standing witness to the many kinds of ways of being Jewish and embodying Jewish tradition. It would be great for our celebration of scared ritual to already have diversity and inclusivity built in to it. Shabbat in the classroom has the potential to be a very powerful model for our children, I realized. Once someone pointed it out.