Posts tagged " children "

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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You Are Not a Cow

November 8th, 2018 Posted by Practical Parenting, Susan's Musings 43 comments

A short while ago, my husband and I answered an ‘Ask the Rabbi’ question about whether deciding not to have children was acceptable. I was struck by the many reader comments we received that were variations of, “Better not to have children if you can’t be a good parent.”

At the same time, on the advice of someone I respect, I picked up a novel aimed at young teens which dealt with a boy overcoming an abusive home. You may remember that I recently wrote a book review recommending a historical fiction book for even slightly younger children that shared a similar premise.

While I saw how engaging this second book was, it troubled me.  There is something wrong in presenting a dysfunctional view of family and society as the norm even if the underlying message is that tribulation can be overcome.  When popular literature and entertainment repeatedly emphasize  a theme, much more than just the intended message can get absorbed.

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Choosing Childlessness

October 30th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 26 comments

I am 32 and married 3 years ago. My husband and I do not like children and thus we choose to be childless. Is that okay?

Jia Mun

Dear Jia Mun,

We aren’t sure what ‘okay’ means and we know almost nothing about you and your husband. From the fact that you wrote asking us, we assume that you aren’t completely confident with your decision. Perhaps we can suggest some avenues to explore.

We come from a Biblical perspective that says that God’s preferred architecture of life is for people to marry and raise families.  Getting married and becoming a parent are ideally both steps that discourage self-absorption and teach us the great human thrill of bringing good to others. God wants us to connect to others and countless modern studies show that being connected to family and friends is not only a formula for happiness but also one for health.  Like so many other improvement projects, connection works best from the inside out. In other words, the most effective way to set about developing a love for humanity is to start off exercising our love on our own children.  After that, upon the children of our loved ones and then moving on outward from there.

You say that you and your husband don’t like children. We confess to feeling a bit perplexed.  What exactly do you mean by that?  We do understand that having a child makes a massive difference in one’s life and we understand that this can be terrifying.  But for you both not to like children sounds a little hard to understand.

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Up, Down and All Around: A Lesson in Prepositions and Life

August 21st, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting No Comment yet

It was a brilliant idea. I would introduce prepositional phrases to my children through a visit to the playground. They would have a great time going up the ladder, down the slide, through the tunnel and around the trees. Just about everything they did could be utilized for a fun and memorable grammar lesson.

Or at least, that was the plan. The outing steadily deteriorated via one bee sting, one bleeding knee and multiple squabbles. Another brilliant homeschooling idea hit the dust.

It is ever so much easier to be a wonderful parent before you have children, an inspiring teacher before you have students and an effective politician when you are a candidate, before you have responsibility and authority.

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In Defense of Wolves

August 6th, 2018 Posted by Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations 1 comment

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.

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What Is This Page?

July 26th, 2018 Posted by Practical Parenting 6 comments

On my husband’s live chat podcast a while back, one listener asked for homeschool resources. My husband suggested that he ask me by writing in an Ask the Rabbi question on the topic, which he (and others) did.

Rather than list resources in an Ask the Rabbi answer, I thought I might try something different. I plan to write one or more short pieces each week and post them in this “Practical Parenting” column. While I am going to start by discussing some homeschooling ideas and resources, I hope to expand beyond that. 

Along the way, I will look through past Musings that had to do with children and add them to this page. 

Please let me know what you think of this new page and how it can best serve you. You can reach me via admin@rabbidaniellapin.com.

Enjoy,

Susan

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