Posts tagged " children "

Faith Creates the Future

October 26th, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting 6 comments

A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter

I have a beautiful idea to share with you today.  We know that Noach spent 120 years building the Ark in preparation for the Flood, but when the time came to actually enter the ark, he delayed.  Genesis 7:7 says:

“And Noach went in, and his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives with him,
into the Ark, because of the waters of the Flood.”

He waited to enter the Ark until the floodwaters forced him to delay no longer.  Ancient Jewish wisdom says here that Noach was, “miktanei emunah” – “among the small believers,” because he only entered at the very last moment when the flood had already started.  How can it be that Noach didn’t have full faith?  He spent 120 years preparing for the flood; surely he believed that it was coming?

Rabbi Shimon Schwab, a great 20th century Torah teacher, teaches here a magnificent lesson about Faith.  Faith isn’t just believing in God’s promises, but Faith is itself a creative force that has the power to actualize promises and bring potential into reality.  Rabbi Schwab points out that the root of the Hebrew word for faith is O-M-N, caring for a child, like the words in the Scroll of Esther, “Vayehi OMeiN es Hadasa” “and he [Mordechai] raised Hadassah (Esther 2:7).  An OMeiN is someone who raises a child, one who works to bring out a child’s full potential.  An OMeiN doesn’t just have faith in the future reality of a child, he works actively to actualize the promise.

Faith, it seems, isn’t only believing that something will happen, but the nature of faith is that by having faith, we actually help fulfill that future.  Faith is an active, creative force, not a passive, ‘sit back and wait to see what will happen’.  Having true faith in a future contributes to that future arriving.  When ancient Jewish wisdom says that Noach was among the small believers, it is telling us that Noach didn’t want to be part of bringing the flood to the world.  He didn’t want to be active in bringing forth the destruction.  He hoped that if he didn’t intensify his faith, perhaps he could delay or prevent the Flood.  He withheld his faith power so as not to engage it as a creative force.  And it turns out, that was the wrong thing to do.  His job, like all of ours, was to do what God commanded him to do with full energy and vigor, and let God take care of His department, so to speak.

As we’ve discussed before, faith and motherhood are deeply intertwined.  Raising a child is an act of faith, but today’s message is that having faith is also part of raising a child.  Our faith in our children’s wonderful futures helps those futures become reality.  When we look past today’s challenges and have a clear vision of our child as a successful adult, when we refuse to get bogged down in today’s messes because we have faith that our child will grow out of this stage and into maturity, we are actively influencing that future. A child who has a mother who sees him, now, not as a  Terrible Two, or a cranky teenager, or today’s ordeal, but sees him clearly as a future source of delight and joy, is fortunate.  That very faith contributes to its actualization.

This is a powerful message both in how we see and raise our children and in our own lives.  Too often we accept our limited reality instead of opening ourselves up to an expansive Faith.  Rabbi Schwab’s point to us is just as true in our own lives as in our children.  Let’s have faith—a clear vision of hope—because that faith doesn’t just expect the future, it also brings it closer.

You’re So Lucky – Really?

October 19th, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting 2 comments

Scott Adams is the talented cartoonist who draws the Dilbert comic strip. Dilbert pokes fun at work-related issues, so it wasn’t surprising that Mr. Adams tackled business ZOOM calls in the days of COVID. The comic strip I saw featured a call interrupted as a father trades in his professional persona for that of a frustrated dad responding angrily to children rampaging noisily in the background.

This cartoon sparked quite a conversation among a few mothers in my community.  A number of them told how they could relate to this scenario, while a few ventured to say that their children understand the need to be quiet while Mommy is on a business call or conference. What intrigued me was the language some of the mothers in the latter group used. They spoke of how lucky they were.

I beg to differ. Children are not born with a “don’t-interrupt-mommy-when-she’s-on-an-important-call” gene. Until they are past babyhood, they cannot understand that their parents have lives apart from them. For those months and years, it is up to mothers and fathers to make plans that will allow them to conduct uninterrupted adult conversations. Once children have passed that point, not interrupting is a lesson that needs to be taught. Some children will accept guidance easily while others will need a slower and longer learning curve. However, unless there is a severe underlying condition, even older toddlers can be taught not to talk loudly, run around or interrupt parents for a reasonable amount of time. Wise parents understand that the length of time reasonable for a seven-year-old isn’t reasonable for a three-year-old, but the younger child certainly can and should be expected to begin regulating his behavior. Luck isn’t the operative word; the applicable words for parents to employ are patience, persistence and positive consequences.

Many years ago, my mother-in-law was chatting with a young mother whose four-year-old kept on interrupting their conversation. After continually shushing her daughter, the somewhat embarrassed mother said, “I can’t wait until my daughter outgrows this stage.” With more candor than tact, my mother-in-law replied, “Children outgrow shoes, they don’t outgrow bad manners.”

Can you have an adult conversation while your children are awake? My guess is that time, effort and loving guidance have more to do with that reality than does luck.

Parents Disagreeing about TV Time (Part II)

June 23rd, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting No Comment yet

Last week, we discussed how parents can get on the same page when it comes to children watching TV/video or using technology. While I didn’t mention how important it is for parents to present a unified front, that is imperative. One of the biggest gifts parents can give children is predictability and security. When mothers and fathers enforce different rules, children are the losers. The discussions about watching TV, or any other area where mothers and fathers conflict, should not be in front of the children. Since children are equipped with X-ray eyes and hyper-sensitive hearing when they are interested in a conversation, these discussions should best take place out of the home or, at least, in a private room with relatively loud music playing (even if you are sure your children are asleep).

What can children do instead of watching TV or videos? Let’s compare this to food. What would you do if your family was accustomed to a diet of nutritionally empty snacks and fast-food main courses washed down by soda and you reached the conclusion that this wasn’t a great idea?

Here is what you would not do: You would not get up and lecture about the dangers of sugar and the importance of cruciferous vegetables. You would not insist that you could only switch to a healthier menu if it took exactly the same time and cost the same as a fast-food supper. You would not choose to make this change the same week as you have two overdue projects at work, your daughter’s best friend was moving out of town or your annoying cousins were coming to visit.

What you would do (I hope) is recognize that often the immediate reaction to making an improvement seems to make things worse. Do you want to renovate your house? Get ready for expense, dirt and noise. Do you want to get in shape? Prepare for sore muscles and aches. You get the idea.

Make a strategic plan. Pick a stretch of time when you and your wife will be more available than usual. Make time each day for playing with your children. If your children are not accustomed to imaginative and independent play, you are going to have to help ease them into this.

Invest in art supplies, games, building and construction toys, puzzles and books. Don’t overbuy—too many “things” tend to lead to boredom. You have lots of supplies already at your fingertips: empty paper towel and toilet rolls, empty matchboxes, socks without matches, etc.

If you and your wife’s imaginations could use a boost, there are thousands of ideas online as well as tons of craft books in the library. Spend time together discovering if your children enjoy board games, books on tape, building towers or having relay races. If you invest time doing these things with them now, they will grab the initiative down the road and be able to do these activities on their own.

Yes, this will make for a messier house. Establish ground rules for cleaning up after each project/game before beginning a new one. Make designated places for library books and art supplies. The time and thought the two of you put into converting your household from passive to active past-times will pay off down the road.

You mentioned “young children,” but did not designate an age. Toddlers can entertain themselves as can eight-year-olds, but obviously not for the same amount of time. Be realistic. If your children are very young, you and your wife may well have to take turns being on call and playing at any designated hour. Maybe a pre-teen or young teen-age neighbor can play with your children while you are in the house getting some work done.

I don’t think of watching TV as the equivalent of giving a child arsenic, but I do think of it as junk food. In small amounts, it is a treat. In large doses, it is harmful. I hope this discussion helps you and your wife figure out your own views on the subject.

Best,

Susan Lapin

No Cameras, Please!

May 13th, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting 2 comments

My husband recently shared a family legend, describing how he decided to add joy and mirth to our young daughter’s birthday party by joining the festivities in a gorilla costume. The screams and tears of the young girls attending were not part of the original plan.

One of the column’s readers asked if we had pictures, saying how much she would enjoy seeing them. My reply was that we were too busy coping with hysteria to run for a camera. That reply inadvertently revealed how long ago the botched birthday party was.

Today, most of us are within inches of our phones at all times, if not unremittingly clutching them in our hands. Our ubiquitous camera phones are constantly ready to capture the moment, often with accompanying audio.

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The Gift of Deprivation

January 6th, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting 5 comments

One of our darling daughters (henceforth DD) recently told me the following story.

DD had taken four of her daughters, ages 5-11, clothing shopping. When she was checking out, the store proprietor pointed to a bowl of chocolate coins and told her that each chocolate had a discount coupon inside the wrapper. Picking one, our daughter received a percentage off her purchases and was left with a circle of chocolate about one inch in diameter.

DD proceeded to give each of her girls a ¼ of the chocolate coin, and they responded by thanking her. She was rather astonished to find the store owner gaping at her. “I’ve never seen that,” the owner said. DD actually didn’t know what she was talking about, so the woman explained that mothers shopping with children tended to fall into two categories. One group pocketed the chocolate making sure that their children didn’t see it, while the other group was besieged by children complaining about how small the chocolate was, or each particular child whining about why she should get the whole coin. Tears, rudeness and whining were not unknown. Frequently, the mother ended up promising more chocolate to everyone. In the best scenario, the children simply gulped down the chocolate.

This story brought to mind a friend, now married for many decades, who had a rather rough adjustment in his newlywed phase. Brought up in an upper-middle-class home, he and his siblings had separate bedrooms. He never went to sleep-away camp nor did he dorm at college. After he married, he was shocked to discover that his wife (and new roommate) expected to have a say in what the bedroom looked like and even had clothing and other items that demanded closet and dresser space.

Loving parents want to give their children everything. Doing so, however, means that they are not giving them the gift of deprivation. In general, my husband prefers teaching adults to children. He once made an exception and agreed to learn with an American boy approaching the bar-mitzvah age of thirteen. At their first meeting, in an attempt to break the ice, my husband shared an exciting story from one of his safaris in Africa. The response he got was heartbreaking. At twelve, this boy was completely jaded. The son of very wealthy parents, he had been everywhere and done everything. The proceeds of a garage sale of his possessions probably would have yielded enough money to support the average American family for a month.

Some of us who grew up wearing hand-me-downs may get a thrill in buying our children new clothing. If a highlight of our childhood was seeing a performance on ice, we may want to make that an annual outing for our own children. Maybe we only read library books and can think of nothing greater to give our kids than crisp, new books.

If they fit in our budget, here is absolutely nothing wrong with new clothing or books or expensive family outings. Certainly, much that I take for granted, my grandparents would have seen as luxuries. Yet, in one way or another, each of us should make sure to never give so much to our children that a small gift or pleasure cannot be appreciated.

Our Hearts – Then Our Children’s Hearts

August 20th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance No Comment yet

A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ Post by Rebecca Masinter

I actually had many thoughts I wanted to share this week but, as happened most of this summer, I have raced through the days doing so much and also not being able to do so much. Let me try to get at least one thought down.

The words, “Hear O’ Israel the Lord our God the Lord is one (Deut. 6:4),” are known as the shema and observant Jews say it multiple times a day.  It continues: “And these matters that I command you today shall be upon your heart.  You shall teach them thoroughly to your children and you shall speak of them while you sit in your home, while you walk on the way, when you lay down and when you arise.” 

A great transmitter of ancient Jewish wisdom known as the Alshich notes two powerful points for parents.  The first is that if someone wants to teach someone else Torah or character development, he or she must first embody and contain those qualities.  That’s why the words first say, “upon your heart”. First, we have to make sure that God’s wisdom and the fruits of that are in our hearts.  They have to be part of us before we can pass them on. 

Once we have made God, the Bible and Scriptural behavior part of us, then they will be part of our children too.  If Torah is in our hearts, it will enter the hearts of our children.  That, explains the Alshich, is why the next verse doesn’t use the Hebrew word for teaching “v’limadtem,” in the phrase “and you should teach them.” Instead, it uses the Hebrew word, “v’shinantem.”  The root of this word is “SHiNuN” and it means something sharp like a sharp tooth.  (SHeiN is a tooth in Hebrew.) If the words of Torah are sharp like an arrow, and if they are coming from our own hearts, they will naturally pierce our children’s hearts.  The influence will be natural, piercing, and intense, because it comes from our hearts.

In other words, what excites us, excites our children.  What bores us, will also end up boring our children.  We can spend these last few days of summer developing ourselves, learning, growing, and strengthening our own connection to God and His wisdom. That alone will have a powerful effect on our children.

Take My Advice?

June 13th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 22 comments

Let me go out on a limb and suggest that you not run your life based on the experiences of, or advice given by, Bill Callahan, Paul Dolan or Ann Landers. Like some of you, the only one of the three whose name was familiar to me before today was advice columnist Ann Landers (actual name Eppie Lederer). She, along with her twin sister of Dear Abby  fame, had an outsized influence on Americans in the second half of the twentieth century.

However, recently two reviews crossed my desk. The first was of musician Bill Callahan’s latest album where I was intrigued by the discussion of the evolution of his music. According to reviewer, Mark Richardson, Mr. Callahan’s earlier 15 albums share a theme of alienation. Mr. Richardson shares one of the musician’s quotes from an interview in 2009. “I’m not afraid to die lately. I don’t have any kids to look after. I don’t hold any great worth for humanity.”

While neither Mr. Callahan nor I believe that the only way to have worth to humanity is to have children, his current music is different. His latest work, produced after he bought a home, married and had a child, reveals his feelings on being needed.

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Memories or Remembrances

March 24th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting No Comment yet

Fine restaurants pay as much attention to the way the food looks on the plate as they do to how it tastes. When you’re charging a lot for a meal, every aspect matters. At home, while I don’t glop food onto a plate in an unsightly mess, neither do I spend time creating radish spirals or decorating our supper plates with blackberry coulis.  We will be quite happy if the taste is fantastic.

On the other hand, you know those pictures of food in magazines that make you drool? The sight of melted chocolate dripping down the side of the cake tickles your salivary glands and the spoon caressing the whipped cream makes you want to dig right in? When it comes to food photography, you actually don’t want to taste the product. That frothy cappuccino may actually be composed of foaming hand soap and the rich syrup  on those pancakes might be made from motor oil. What you see isn’t what you want.

That lesson is incredibly relevant to parenting. Surprisingly often, we have to choose between a meaningful experience versus one that looks great but lacks substance. As a preschool teacher, my friend Hannah’s students’ projects never looked as good as those of other classes. That’s because her four-year-olds actually did the work themselves. She didn’t guide their hands as they glued and she didn’t touch up their drawings. If the owl’s beak ended up where its eye was intended to go, so be it. The finished projects meant for parents’ refrigerators may not have won awards, but the kids in her class loved being there and by the end of the year they had acquired important skills.

As we all have cameras and video machines readily available in our phones, school performances have lost much of their charm. Little children looking at the rows of parents perched at the back of the room don’t see their proud mothers’ smiles or their fathers’ loving gazes. Instead their parents’ faces are covered by machinery. And those machines are largely focused on them, sending the incorrect message that the other children with whom they’ve been practicing are unimportant and irrelevant. The fun of presenting the show is diminished for the sake of being able to show how wonderful it was.

Sometimes, we just have to choose between creating real memories or building contrived remembrances. The picture snapped of the child we forced into what we thought was an adorable outfit even though he hated wearing it (yes, I have one of those pictures), the smile that came out only because we bribed our daughter with a candy if she pretended to be having fun, the precious moments we missed as we focused on freezing them for eternity may all look wonderful but in actuality be a breathtaking looking but completely inedible feast.

No Results Guaranteed

March 17th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 4 comments

A “Your Mother’s Guidance” post by Rebecca Masinter

The book of Exodus ends with the completion and assembly of the Tabernacle.  The description of assembling the materials, building the vessels, and sewing the tapestries and clothing for the Priests are in the active tense, “and he made,” “and he placed,” with one exception.  Verse 40:17 says,  “And it was in the first month of the second year on the first of the month that the Tabernacle was erected.”  The actual assembly of the Tabernacle is said in a passive voice, “was erected.”

Why? Ancient Jewish wisdom describes that after the children of Israel brought all the components of the Tabernacle to Moses it was time to assemble it.  God wanted to give Moses the honor of actually assembling the Tabernacle but the planks and pieces were so huge and heavy that Moses knew it was impossible for a human being to lift them and put them in place.

As ancient Jewish wisdom beautifully states, Moses said before God, “How can it be erected by a human being?” 

God said to him, “You do your part—make an attempt so it looks as if you’re doing it, and it will rise and be assembled by itself.”

And that is why the verse says, “…the Tabernacle was erected” in a passive voice. It assembled itself.

Wow!  I’m going to share with you an idea that I would have rejected as a mother of young children, but has become very dear to me as they have grown older.  We put in our effort.  We make an enormous effort to parent well, to be good mothers.  And that is our responsibility. We have to make our attempts. To the rest of the world it may look as if we are raising our children!  But the truth is that just as it appeared as if Moses was lifting the Tabernacle and it was really happening independently of him, the development of our children is really independent of us.  The outcome of how our children turn out, what type of person they become—that is up to God. 

I have a friend who went to speak to a Torah scholar about one of her children who was born with innate behavioral challenges. Despite years of various efforts and therapies, my friend was still very concerned about what would be with this child in adulthood.  The Torah sage told her, “That’s not your concern.  You put in your effort to be a good mother.  You make an effort to research doctors, providers, and treatments within reason, and that is all!  What will be with him and who he will become is not dependent on your actions.  That is up to God.” 

Our children’s successes are not due to us, and our children’s struggles and failures are not ours either.  Our job as mothers is about effort;  the outcome is independent of us and dependent on God (and the child’s own input).

This is really a mind-blowing idea and it may not resonate with each of you, and that’s okay.  For me, it resonates.  We put in our best efforts, do our best and have faith in God who can bring about the results without our help, in the same way as the Tabernacle was assembled.

Of Carob Trees and Loneliness

December 13th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 3 comments

A story from ancient Jewish wisdom tells of a traveller who came across an elderly man planting a carob tree. Since carob trees can take more than twenty years to bear fruit, the passer-by suggested that the man’s work was pointless; he would no longer be there to enjoy the tree’s fruit. The older man responded that he was not planting for himself but for his descendants. Though he might not be a direct beneficiary, generations to come would appreciate his work.

I rarely hear concerns anymore about saddling our children with gargantuan national debt. Not only is the number incomprehensibly  enormous, but our universe as it relates to time has shrunk. Through ways both overt and subtle, our culture encourages us to live in the moment, and to elevate the fleeting over the long-lasting.

Two newspaper reports I read this week were not meant to be commentaries on each other, yet it is worthwhile to juxtapose them. One described how, as the baby-boomer generation ages, its members are more likely to be alone than the generations before them. Freedom not to marry, to divorce, to have few or no children seems far less promising to a lonely seventy-year-old than it did to a self-centered thirty-something.

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