I Can Do It.

The stories related in the following Musing may or may not be based on the truth. They also may or may not have happened to people related to me. This disclaimer seems necessary because busybodies and bureaucrats increasingly think that they should overrule perfectly caring and competent parents when it comes to decisions about their children.

For a few years now, I have been a fan of both Dr. Leonard Sax and Abigail Shrier. Dr. Sax, a family doctor, has written several books on raising healthy boys and girls that I find informative and useful. I am impressed with his ability to change his mind when confronted with new information and his thoughtfulness and courage in speaking up when modern social trends don’t line up with what he sees as best practice.

Abigail Shrier has been at the forefront of warning about the dangers of providing puberty blocker hormones and even surgery to teenagers who think that they are transgendered. Now, her latest book, Bad Therapy, suggests that adult obsession with mental health and social-emotional learning is causing much of the anxiety and problems of today’s children. So, when Dr. Sax did not give a ringing endorsement to Ms. Shrier’s book, I paid attention.

Suffice it to say that the major area of disagreement, as Dr. Sax acknowledges, is because his approach is as a physician while hers is as a mother and reporter. Where these two authors agree is much more important. They both regard children’s need to view the world as a safe place and to test and expand their own skills and abilities to cope with that world, as vital. Here is where my two stories come in.

When my children were young and in early elementary school years, there was a solar eclipse similar to the one that recently occurred. They have solid memories of constructing pinhole projectors allowing them to safely observe the eclipse, which they headed to the playground to do. These children are now mothers and some (not all) of them received a notice from school that their own children would learn what an eclipse is (as did they when they were young) but would be kept indoors so that there could be no danger of eye damage. What had been an exciting, memorable experience for my children was being presented to their children as a scary incident from which one must hide. Should we be surprised that we are raising a generation of terrified young adults incapable of coping with life?

Two high school girls, whom I might know and love, were so excited by the eclipse that they wanted to travel three hours closer to an area where the effect would be greater. Not legal drivers themselves, they found two older, licensed teens who shared the same interest. For them to go, their parents had to go along with the idea. This agreement included allowing them to skip school, trusting only slightly older and relatively new drivers to be responsible and competent, and having faith that their children would cope with any circumstances that would pop up. All four parents agreed and while the girls enjoyed their adventure and the experience will become part of their memory banks, it is only when they become mothers themselves that they will understand the nervousness that their own mothers underwent in order to grant them this adventure.

One more story, once again possibly fictional and possibly about someone I might know and love. An eight-year-old boy was invited to play with a friend on Shabbat afternoon. This friend lived a ten-minute walk away. His parents decided to let him walk – there and back – on his own. Mind you, we don’t use phones on Shabbat. Just as his parents managed to get around without phones when they were children, he was going to be on his own. No one would call to tell his parents that he had arrived.

This young boy navigated his way there successfully, but on the way back he took a wrong turn. As his parents learned when he came home, he retraced his steps and corrected his mistake. His pride in himself was a sight to behold. What he will not understand until he is a father himself is how his mother held her breath for the three hours he was gone.

I encourage you to read both Abigail Shrier and Dr. Sax’s books. Use your own discernment to discover where you agree and disagree with either author. In a world where click bait is rewarded and where what bleeds leads, it is up to courageous parents to accept discomfort on themselves so that their children can bravely grow and spread their wings.

This Musing is dedicated in memory of Adi Maizel, age 21. After undergoing two relatively recent surgeries for a heart condition, Adi was healthy and planning a future with her boyfriend, Shahar. She was murdered by Hamas terrorists while attending the Supernova music festival. Her mother wrote, “She was so energetic and everywhere she went she brought light with her, and it was very [moving] to see what people… from all circles of society in Israel knew her and adored her.

And with continued prayers for the release of the remaining hostages (or their murdered bodies) and among them, Lior Rudaeff, age 61. On October 6, 2023, Lior left his home in Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak to help defend the kibbutz against terrorist attack. He has not been heard from nor has his body been found so he is presumed to be a hostage. His wife and four children pray that he is still alive.

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