A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter
Ancient Jewish wisdom draws a connection between two months of the Jewish year that at first glance seem to stand in opposition to each other. We are told: Just as when [the month of] Av enters, our joy is diminished, so too, when [the month of] Adar enters, our joy increases.
A connection and equality of sorts is made between the sadness of the month of Av, when both Temples were destroyed, and the joy of Adar, when the redemption of Purim took place. Why? I would like to share with you a thought I had on this. Please know that I did not see a source for learning this lesson and I am not saying that this is what ancient Jewish wisdom is trying to teach us, simply, this is what came to my mind when thinking of this saying.
In the last month I have heard from several administrators in different schools that the line they hear most frequently from parents of their students is, “I just want my child to be happy.” Doesn’t that sound nice? Of course they want their children to be happy! They’re not evil people! But the truth is, if a parent’s goal is for his or her child to be happy, now, in their childhood, they’re really not doing their best to align their child up for a lifetime of happiness. In order to feel joy, we also need another part of our calendar cycle to instill in us the feelings of grief and sadness. We can’t just experience happiness. To feel joy we also have to be open to feeling all the other emotions that are part of the human experience.
It isn’t easy to parent a child who is feeling grief, anxiety, fear, shame, or any other negative emotion, but it is important to let our children experience those feelings, to let them fall and fail but be there with them to help them get up again and process their feelings. A child who is allowed to struggle and feel negative feelings, will be truly capable of feeling positive feelings of accomplishment, pride and joy. Adar can’t exist without Av. They’re related. We need to be capable of feeling each emotion at the right time, and we need to allow our children to experience all those emotions too, with our loving support. It doesn’t work to say, “I just want my child to be happy!”
We also need to acknowledge how challenging it is on us as parents to help a child work through difficult feelings. It can take a lot out of us and that’s normal and okay. The important thing is not to dodge that responsibility because it is too hard or painful but to get ourselves the support we need while we parent unhappy children. When a child of mine is going through something difficult, that may be when I need to make my life simpler, cut things out of my schedule, and ask for help because the reality is that parenting a child who is suffering is time-consuming, draining, and challenging. But it is still necessary and valuable. We have to help ourselves be able to help our children in their good times and their bad times, in the Adar of their lives and in the Av of their lives because we learn to live with joy by also feeling pain.