Posts tagged " children "

In Defense of Wolves

August 6th, 2018 Posted by Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations No Comment yet

As part of the Practical Parenting column, I am re-running Susan’s Musings that had to do with parents and children. The “Little Yosef” of this column is now a fifteen-year-old young man who spent the last two weeks hauling water-sodden loads out of our flooded basement. 

Little Yosef, age 6, is busy writing stories about fending off wolves and building log cabins. The Little House on the Prairie series and other books depicting the same period have stimulated his imagination.

His mother tells me that he is particularly taken with the idea that children not that much older than he is now might be left alone to do a daunting job and expected to cope with all contingencies that arose.

While I don’t believe his parents are even close to handing him a rifle and instructing him to protect the homestead, Yosef’s fascination with the concept of responsibility is a positive one. As the eldest of four children, he already has been initiated into the club of those who know that what they do matters to the family. If anything his mother, as an eldest sibling herself, is sensitive to not putting too great a load on his young shoulders.

Nevertheless, hearing this made me realize that it is not always easy to give boys the soul satisfaction they need for healthy growth, especially as they approach and live through their teen years. While it is not healthy for either boys or girls to feel that they are takers rather than givers, in other words, to be solely occupied with their own happiness, concerns, education, and friendships, I do think it is harder for boys to move beyond that. At the risk of provoking a firestorm, a girl who takes care of younger siblings and helps with meals and laundry while recognizing that these are not made up chores for her but actually are needed for the house to function, can feel rightly valued. A boy who takes care of the baby and chores is indeed making a needed contribution, but I don’t think it fills a psychic need. Boys need to face physical challenge and slay dragons.  Just watch them seek danger and risk.

I’m not eager to see thirteen-year-olds return to the coal mine or fifteen-year-olds hauling cement rather than going to school. But with the implementation of child labor laws and the fear of litigation hovering over employees, in addition to urbanization, we have removed from teenage boys many opportunities to test themselves and their courage, strength, tenacity and resilience. Playing football may be hard work, but it cannot compare with knowing that the family is eating because of crops you harvested or a salary you earned doing construction work. Today’s rare prodigy is making big money creating a new iPhone app, but somehow I don’t see masses of boys doing so, and I doubt if the industry is being spurred by a realization of the family’s economic need.

As our society and schools become increasingly geared towards feminine predilections, encouraging Yosef and his fellow males to grow into healthy men becomes a more difficult and less easily resolved task. How do boys discover manliness with nary a wolf in sight, and too frequently not even a father or role model, to be seen?

Since I wrote this, I think the culture has moved even more to portraying boys as either bullies or feminized. If I was raising boys today, I would actively seek out older boys’ adventure stories. In general, I’m a fan of older books (though there are some excellent new ones as well).

If you have boys, I suggest taking a look at Farmer Boy in the Little House on the Prairie series. Check out Little Britches by Ralph Moody and if it goes over well, it is the first in a series of books. Girls will enjoy these books too, but it seems to me that there are more books available where girls are the protagonists and it is worth making the effort to find books that highlight boys. The recommended reading age for these books is 7 or 8-12, but you need to know your child. Especially when you are reading aloud to a child, which I heartily recommend, most younger children will enjoy books above their independent reading level.

Watery Reminders

July 26th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 14 comments

Our basement, like so many others in the Atlantic region, flooded during this week’s torrential rains. We are fortunate. Our damage was largely luggage, clothing, tools and other replaceable items. We stored very few pictures downstairs and after running the washing machine non-stop for a few days, clothing has been retrieved. Since—surprise, surprise—the flooding is not covered by our insurance, the flooding is going to be expensive in terms of replacement cost and the time it will take to clean up, but we are grateful it was not worse. The biggest loss has been books.

We are enormous fans of used bookstore. We don’t seek the latest best-seller at a discount. Instead, we search out old books, those that you can’t find anymore. Books that beam out wholesomeness and innocence. Books about healthy families and friendships with a noticeable absence of perversion and profanity. One sad victim of our flooding was a box labelled, “Teenage girl books,” that was waiting for our granddaughters to get a bit older.

After a tiring day of clean-up, I curled up in bed needing even more distraction than reading provided. A few weeks ago in a Musing I mentioned the 1960s TV show Family Affair and a search of Amazon Prime showed that it was available for viewing with a click of the mouse. I clicked.

The episode I picked was highly entertaining, not least because it went no longer than two minutes at any point from start to finish without triggering politically correct current thinking. For example, six-year-old Buffy, plays with her doll, Mrs. Beasley while her twin brother, Jody, dances an Indian war dance. This manages to both trample on Native American sensitivity and at the same time promote gender stereotypes.

But the most fascinating part, to me, was how six-year-old Jody was allowed to wander his Manhattan block unescorted, the only admonishment being that he should not cross any streets. Like many other shows of the day that featured children, the plot lines of Family Affair seemed perfectly plausible to me. While my home did not include an English butler or a bachelor uncle, neither of those scenarios were fanciful as, let’s say, the talking horse in Mr. Ed or the extraterrestrial visitor in My Favorite Martian. It certainly did not seem ridiculous to me at the time that a six-year-old would be trusted to go out and about needing only to be home for dinner. That was exactly how my friends and I lived.

We knew not to get into a car with strangers, but had no qualms about being around our friends’ fathers or older cousins or independently roaming the neighborhood. When, in the TV episode I watched, Jody brings a rather disheveled looking man (who naturally will turn out to be the business associate his uncle has been desperately trying to meet) back to his apartment for milk and cookies, it is treated as unconventional rather than sinister.

I know that terrible things did happen in the “good old days.” Predators are not a new phenomenon and there were children whose lives were shattered by perverts. But the assumption when I was growing up was that, unless otherwise indicated, relatives and neighbors were good and life was safe.

Older books, like older TV shows, sometimes do have stereotypes and language of which I disapprove. Many focused on a “normality” that wasn’t universal. There are also some areas in which I think our society has advanced and I have no problem pointing that out to a young reader. But it is important to be reminded that what we think of as normal today, isn’t necessarily so. Children being constantly scheduled, supervised and surrounded by dysfunction should not be taken as progress but rather as the deterioration it is. Children being suspicious and fearful of any stranger  they come across in their daily lives or who, Heaven forfend, smiles at them, isn’t an improvement. I will miss my water-logged, cherished books that presented a picture of safe and sane daily life rarely seen in newer volumes.

P.S. You may have noticed a new section titled “Practical Parenting” under the Susan’s Musings heading at the top of the web page. I’d love to hear what you think of it.

P.P.S. If your family, like ours, picks your video watching carefully, I (in a completely biased fashion) want to recommend our Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV Show DVD. My husband and I love taping these shows and have collected four favorites to make available. Volume 3 is on sale right now!

P.P.P.S. Much thanks to those of you who responded to our summer appeal for the American Association of Jews and Christians (AAJC). AAJC sponsors Thought Tools, Ask the Rabbi and many other of our activities. To read about AAJC, click here.

 

Needlessly Offensive?

June 7th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 41 comments

I got called on the carpet—very politely and graciously—but called on the carpet nonetheless. The challenge came from a viewer of our Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV show. I’m not sure when the particular episode aired so I haven’t found it yet, but I must have spoken critically about substituting pets for people. I imagine that I might have mentioned a pet food ad that irks me which shows a cat saying, “Mom, please get me….”

In her letter, our viewer said, “Susan, my animals are my family. They’re all I have. I think the old “walk a mile in my shoes” before you are so critical. My pets are there when I go to bed and when I get up in the morning. I know I’m not their Mother but they are probably the closest living thing to me.” She is making a perfectly valid point and I imagine that my words cut her, for which I am sorry. Yet, I don’t think I can leave it with just an apology.

One of the dilemmas for society is how to deal with unique individuals and their specific circumstances while at the same time maintaining public policies and social norms. At one and the same time, we want to be accepting and helpful to all, but in doing so we run the risk of normalizing things that we don’t want to encourage.

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Where are the children?

May 7th, 2018 Posted by On Our Mind 3 comments

After I wrote a Susan’s Musing about China’s failure to undo its disastrous ‘one-child-only policy, I found out that Japanese attempts to increase that country’s birthrate are also failing. It turns out that when countries realize the economic and social disasters awaiting them from not having enough children, it isn’t so easy to turn things around. Amazingly, (and yes, my tongue is in my cheek) cash incentives and a government “go for it” aren’t enough to encourage people to have children.

While concerns about money do, indeed, cause people to hesitate to have children, giving money or benefits like free childcare as an incentive doesn’t lead responsible, married couples to have larger families. It seems that once you convince women that children are an impediment to achievement and detrimental to a fulfilling life rather than a blessing and gateway to a fulfilling life, it is hard to demand such a sacrifice from them.

Perhaps there should be a warning  label attached to social engineering: Unintended consequences may be hazardous to your health.

Never Marry Your Grandmother

February 5th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 19 comments

“My boyfriend is driving me crazy! Does he want to get married or not?”

“My husband and I were both thrilled when I became pregnant. But when I mention the baby, he sometimes gets this terrified look on his face. Is he happy about our baby nor not?”

The answer is…drum roll please…Both! The author of The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, wrote,

The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold

two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time,

and still retain the ability to function.”

People are complicated and since most of the joy in life as well as most of the problems come from dealing with others, it is helpful to gain greater understanding into human relationships, particularly between men and women.

Take a look at Scripture’s list of prohibited sexual relationships. It starts with close relatives and ends with bestiality. (Leviticus 18:6-23)

Pretty straightforward. Except, we are perplexed to discover that one and a half chapters later the entire list is repeated. This time, however, it starts with adultery and ends with close relatives. (Leviticus 20:10-21) Is it repeated to help folks with short memories?

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Faith, Fertility and Fear

December 12th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 14 comments

Almost everyone notices that religious couples tend to have more children then secular couples.  Among American Jews the trend is pronounced.  American Jews fall into two categories, religious and secular.  I define religious as those who believe that God gave His message to mankind through Moses on Mount Sinai about 3,300 years ago and who regard that message, the Torah, as the constitution of Judaism.  Only about 20% of Jewish Americans are religious.  In the United States, where the national average is 1.8 births per woman, secular Jewish women average about 1.6 births per woman. The figure for religious Jewish women is just over 4.8.  During our family excursions, Susan and I were always amused when strangers, noting our seven children, would nod knowingly and, leaning in conspiratorially, whisper to us, “Catholic, right?” 

It was not hard to discover that many doctoral dissertations in many universities have been written attempting to explain the correlation between religiosity and large families.  They range from fatuous to foolish and from pedantic to perplexing.   They assume religious couples know no better or are backwards and unable to accept modern science.  Almost without exception, they ignore the positive effects of religion on family formation. I would like to suggest three benefits.

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Can I keep my children safe?

August 15th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 2 comments

Michelle Carter was just sentenced in the text message case [where she was found to encourage a young man to commit suicide and didn’t call for help when he did so]. Is there a moral equivalent in the Bible by which one could instruct their children so that they do not go down the path of either of the participants in this event? 

Is it possible that both were equally mentally disturbed and this is only an anomaly? Is social media distorting our mores and morals?

 How would a parent use scripture to keep their children on the correct path when young people are so absorbed in social media to the point it takes over their life, personality, and time?

Michael G. 

 

Dear Michael,

You actually asked four interesting questions tucked inside your letter. In the case you reference, a young woman was sentenced for encouraging her boyfriend’s suicide. It got attention because there was a trail of text messages detailing her words. Yet, from a moral perspective (rather than a legal one because of proof) there is no difference between this case and one that might have taken place decades ago with conversation substituting for texts. Urging someone to take his life, whether by letter, speech, texts or skywriting is wrong. The message is the problem, not the medium.

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Did You Respond ‘Yes’?

June 27th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 19 comments

Here is a quick yes/no quiz which will reveal important information about your personality:

  • Do you occasionally make thoughtless remarks which you later regret?
  • Are you usually concerned about the need to protect your health?
  • Is it normally hard for you to own up and take the blame?
  • Do you sometimes resent the efforts of others to tell you what to do?
  • Do your past failures sometimes worry you?
  • Do you have a small circle of friends rather than a large number of acquaintances?
  • Do you sometimes find it difficult to express your emotions?
  • Would the idea of making a complete new start cause you any concern?
  • Do you find it challenging to ‘start the ball rolling’ at social gatherings?
  • Do you ever find yourself wondering if anyone really cares about you?
  • Are there any things about yourself on which you are a bit touchy?
  • Do you sometimes put off doing things and then discover it is too late?
  • Do you ever feel that your age is against you (too young or too old)?

Finished?  Now, how many times did you answer ‘yes’?  More than 3? More than 8? What! You answered ‘yes’ to more than 10 of the questions? Well, then you clearly need to purchase our special program for social stragglers available at a special price of only $10,000.  (Just joking)  The above questions came from a Scientology questionnaire but they resemble the questions often crafted by hucksters of all kinds trying to prey on our all too human weaknesses.

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Our son just ‘came out.’

June 14th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 49 comments

How do I answer my son who has declared he is homosexual?  My beliefs are against this practice.

L.

Dear L.,

You must be in tremendous pain and we pray that you feel ‘hugs’ from God as you go through this time.

So many parents are undergoing this challenge in our days. The entire ethos surrounding us says that this is your problem not your son’s, and, yet, you are faithful to a tradition that existed for centuries before ‘modern’ thinking came into vogue and will still be around when the ‘modern’ becomes old-fashioned.

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I feel isolated because I don’t have children

May 3rd, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 19 comments

Thank you for your teachings. I am a Christian who grew up in a traditional Christian home and graduated from Christian school. Now, as an adult married 17 years to my Christian husband; however, I have no children due to an ongoing illness. 

I am now coping with the reality that I will likely never have children.  I am now in my forties. This has been a great disappointment for me. I have seen many childless women groups on the internet, but I am careful who I take advice from. I should add that my husband and I have a wonderful marriage, but I am wondering how I best serve the Lord though I am not a mother?  

What makes this most difficult is that I feel socially isolated. I have been reading my Bible and searching scripture for my new purpose. Are there any biblical scriptures you suggest? 

Thank you for taking the time to consider my question.

Elizabeth

Answer: 

Dear Elizabeth,

You are, indeed, going through a difficult challenge.  The Bible leaves much unsaid about the emotional pain felt in many heart-breaking situations, but when it comes to childlessness it gives us numerous examples of women suffering devastating pain because they couldn’t conceive. We are sure that surrendering the dream of having children is almost unbearable.

We are going to assume that you and your husband have decided against adoption or you would have phrased your question differently. Perhaps you have also thought of foster parenting and rejected that idea for your own reasons. We do suggest that you find some way, whether within your own extended family or by reaching outside that group, to connect to the next generation. It is important for all of us to envision a future that lasts beyond ourselves.

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