Posts tagged " parents and children "

PDAs – what about in front of our children?

November 17th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 5 comments

Our question is about modesty of parents. How private should the affection be between parents? For instance, is it acceptable for a wife to greet her husband with a hug and a kiss on the cheek in front of their children when he returns home from work?

With warmth,

Renat & Vaida

Dear Renat and Vaida,

Our guess is that some readers are scratching their heads saying, “Why is this even a question?” We agree with you that the topic does deserve thought, but we’d like to start by explaining why we believe that to be so.

Through the lens of ancient Jewish wisdom, the Bible emphasizes the difference between humans and all other creatures on the planet.  The first two chapters of Genesis help to make this distinction clear.  One difference is that animals operate on instinct; let’s call it their operating system.  They are not making judgment calls with respect to the spiritual consequences of their action.  For humans, even the fundamental act of eating carries with it moral consequences that resonate down through the ages.

We discover the Bible using modest and refined terms when it comes to all physical activities that we share with animals.  Furthermore, it emphasizes how we distinguish ourselves from animals when we eat, excrete waste, and reproduce.

Above all, there is modesty involved.  Even in today’s diminished culture the concept still exists, though it is usually called manners.  We are taught to chew with our mouths closed in order to lessen our resemblance to animals. We are taught to relieve ourselves in private, unlike animals.  Likewise, we are taught to be reticent about acts of intimacy.

We are, of course,  each born into a certain time and place. When Prince William married, his wife Kate was widely admired for dressing in a classy and conservative style. Move Kate’s outfits to 16th century England, and she probably would have been arrested for indecent exposure. A woman’s exposed ankles do not cause men to blush today, but there was a time they did.

Similarly, today we are surrounded by public displays of affection.  So common is this that it has its own readily understood acronym: PDA. Couples, some of whom only met a few minutes earlier, embrace in public in a way that would have not been viewed as appropriate for women sending their husbands off to battle a century ago.

Your question is whether something that is extremely common in the 21st century, shows of physical affection between spouses in front of their children, is a trend that should be encouraged or not. What timeless Biblical wisdom sheds light on this matter?

God created physical contact between a man and a woman as a powerful force. There is non-sexual contact between close family members (mother and son or father and daughter for example) However, there is also a strong sexual urge that powerfully strikes men and women in slightly different ways and at somewhat different ages. The unique relationship called marriage combines both non-sexual and sexual aspects. We should relate with physical desire to our spouse and we must also relate with respect and affection that is not dependent on sexuality.

The sexual relationship between parents is an intimate one that belongs to them.  Many parents wisely keep their bedroom off-limits to the children.  A few years ago we published a Thought Tools in which we confessed our discomfort when friends, eager to display their new home, proudly walked us through the entire house including the master bedroom.  Battered as our children are with unhealthy relationship messages and with premature exposure to sexuality —even if it is not in the house but on a billboard or in a store—we prefer to let them see the sweetness of innocent affection between their moms and dads. Whether it is a welcome home kiss, holding hands while walking, or a tender brush of the cheek, in our day we think that it is important to be an advertisement for marriage in a way that wasn’t necessary a few decades ago. It’s been quite a few years since the Beatles song, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” was flirtatious and, while holding fast to ideas of privacy and modesty, we do have to live in the world in which we find ourselves. There are so many harmful messages out there that modeling loving and innocent touch to our children becomes necessary.

Wishing you a loving marriage and wonderful children,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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When Loving Children Isn’t Enough

November 6th, 2013 Posted by Practical Parenting, Susan's Musings 11 comments

My husband and I flew home from Dallas a short while ago
after a week filled with appearances, including our multi-day presentation on
marriage and money. Two tired travelers, an evening flight and a crowded plane
suggested that zoning out was the best strategy. I had never heard of the movie
being shown, Way, Way Back, but watching it seemed a good way to ignore
my narrow-seated reality.

Instead, it made me realize a new reality of today’s world.
The movie, described as a “poignant coming of age” film, featured a number of
adolescents. All of them were children of divorce and all of them had parents
who put themselves ahead of their children. The kids were sad and troubled—not
because growing up is challenging—but because of their parents’ self-centered choices.

These were not abusive parents. They seemed the type of
mothers and fathers who might well make the statement, “I’d throw myself under
a bus for my kid.” While, they might choose their child’s life over their own
if confronted by such a dilemma, what they would not sacrifice was their own sex
life. If this movie reflects reality at all, today, the right to sexual
activity is more sacred than the ties between even mothers and children. Each
of the teenagers in the movie felt rejected by one parent and ignored by the
other as the adults who were supposed to love them put their own search for new
relationships ahead of their children. The strangest thing was that these
parents seemed utterly unaware that this narcissism was causing deep damage.
Without stretching too far, you could even say it was a form of child
abuse.  Statistics that reveal the number
of children living with adults who are not either their parent or married to
their parent, or whose parents have ‘friends’ stay overnight, suggests that the
movie reflects reality.

Even granting that seeing a movie on a plane makes it less
attractive than usual, none of the parents in this film seemed appealing. That
is not the case for the character of Sarah Braverman in the popular show Parenthood.
Played by Lauren Graham, she is attractive and funny, and her love for her
children shines through. Yet, after marrying poorly, thus providing them with
an alcoholic, irresponsible father, she repeatedly hurts her children as her
personal life takes priority over them. She is incapable of ignoring the pull
of affection and sex, leading her, for example, to sleep with her daughter’s
high school teacher and to uproot her son and move him to her fiancé’s
apartment (though the sexual tug to her boss will end that relationship).
Somehow, Sarah’s desperate desire to be a good mother ends at the point that
she might actually choose sexual and emotional celibacy for herself to protect
her children.

The show doesn’t gloss over the damage to the children,
including an alcoholic car wreck involving her daughter and her son’s excruciating
emotional pain. Both these results directly stem from their mother’s actions.
Yet, none of the other adults in her life force her to acknowledge the
disconnect between her maternal feelings and her selfish behavior. Is it
possible that the adults and teenagers watching the show also don’t see that
this woman needs to tell herself that her role as mother means she must carefully
weigh up the call of that part of her own life against her children’s best
interests until they become healthy adults?

There certainly would be damage as well if the relationships
shown in the above shows were chaste. The message to the child would still be,
“I come first.” Nevertheless, it is clear in the above situations, the
inability to master sexual urges or the lack of understanding that having
dinner with someone is quite different from sleeping with them, propels
relationships more quickly and less thoughtfully. No one even seems to see that
disrupting the children’s living arrangements makes them less secure and comfortable.
Have we truly reached the point in society where we have bought into the
message that as long as you are protected from pregnancy and STDs, sex can
cause no harm? Have we seriously elevated the right to sexual activity above
our obligations to love, protect and cherish our young? 

The movie on the plane did help pass the time. It also left
me amazed at reviews that cited funny lines or heart-tugging scenes but left
unmentioned the appalling cruelty by parents living in a society that
celebrates social mores that inflict cruel and unusual punishments on our
children.

Is this a trend that you have also noticed?


 

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