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Michelangelo once said, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
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Home » Family Life, Shoftim

Shoftim: Parenting

Submitted by on September 3, 2016 – 11:19 pmNo Comment | 2,582 views

The Oys of Parenting
If, as the Torah says, humans are similar to trees, then parenting is a lot like gardening. You can read about it in books, but you don’t know what you are doing until you get your hands dirty.

I don’t know of a single parent that learned to parent from a book. We can read every manual, take every workshop and attend every seminar, but when those little guys holler in our ears, push our buttons and challenge us to the brink, book knowledge fails us. These are the moments from which good parents are forged. The books are great, but until we try it for real, good parenting eludes us.

The only forgone conclusion when we set out to parent is that we will make mistakes. But what we do next, is up to us. We can repeat our mistakes or learn from them.  There will be times when you say and do things you will be ashamed of. You will behave in ways you will regret. If you learn from them, those first times will be your last. If you repeat them, the second time is unlikely to be the last.

So why do we take it on? Why we do we volunteer for a task that we know will try our patience, stretch our abilities, and never give us a break?

Reasons to Parent
Some people get into parenting because its part of their dream. A husband, two children, a poodle and a white picket fence. Others want children because its socially unacceptable to be without. Yet others want children to bring them joy. Are any of these good reasons to bring a child into the world?

Imagine having a child for the tax breaks or worse, to patch a loveless marriage. Would you not censure parents who think only of themselves when bringing a child into the world? Having children to give us happiness or to fulfill a dream or to fit in socially is just as selfish.

We have children because G-d wants us to populate His world. Conception, pregnancy, labor and birth are not foregone conclusions. If they were, fertility would not have been a multi billion-dollar industry. When our efforts are crowned with success and we walk away with a breathing living child, it is a miracle; an act of G-d. And why did g-d give us a child?

Because he wants us to populate His world. Our parents did it for us, now it is our turn to do it for our children. This means not only birthing them but also parenting them. Raising them, teaching them, loving them and empowering them. If a king gave you His child to raise, would you treat that child with reverence and make sure it lacked for nothing? Well, we are given G-d’s children. We can’t afford to neglect them or take them for granted. We need to give them the very best.

We must raise G-d’s children as He would. Presumably G-d wouldn’t just give His children life, He would also give them love. And He would give them moral direction so they could be worthy custodians of His world. G-d drafted us for the task. Our job is not only to love the child, but also to teach the child. To guide, mentor and direct; showing them right from wrong.

Don’t be bashful and don’t feel insecure. It is true that you had no experience when you first started out and that your first child was your guinea pig. But you know you will succeed because G-d gave you His vote of confidence. If He didn’t think you could do it, He would have found a different custodian for His child. But He chose you. Because He knows you could make a good parent. It takes time, work, patience, sleepless nights and effort, but in the end, G-d knows you could make a good parent.

Responsibilities of Parenting
We are responsible for our child’s moral equilibrium. If we don’t teach our children right from wrong, they won’t learn. What kind of people will we have unleashed on G-d’s world? Certainly not the kind G-d had in mind, when He entrusted us with His child.

It is much easier to feed, dress and provide for our child, than to be the nagging parent that doesn’t leave well enough alone. But that is our role. Parenting means to parent. Our feelings and conveniences are irrelevant; the child is the only concern. The child is not served by us overlooking their rants and raves. The child is best served, when we stand our moral ground and demonstrate which behaviors are right and which are wrong.

Our children need parents, not buddies. They have plenty of pals at school, they don’t need us to fill those ranks. They need us to parent them and that means to stand up when they did wrong and show then how to correct it. It means to point out when others do wrong and show them not to emulate such behaviors. It means to model good behavior and to point out positives in others.

That, my dear friends, is parenting. It is not about taking the easy path. It is about making it easy for the children when they become adults. That is our task. It is what G-d chose us for. Bringing a child into the world, doesn’t cut it. Neither does housing, clothing and feeding them. Preparing them to be G-d’s people on earth, is what parenting is really about.

Let’s face it, there will be times when you decide to let something go and not make a big deal of it. Sometimes you will consider certain fights, not worth fighting. That is okay. A parent doesn’t need to make mountains out of every molehill. But if you decide to let something go, make the decision as a parent, not as a friend. You want to consider your child’s best interest as an adult, not as a peer.

The (J)oys of Parenting
I can just hear your thoughts churning as you ask yourself how you will ever get your child to love you. Fear not. Parenting is filled with love. But it is the love of a parent, not the love of a friend.

We are our children’s entire universe.  Our approval is like oxygen to them and they crave our attention. You want your child’s love? Show your child some love. But as a parent, not as a buddy. When your child speaks; listen. And I mean really listen. Look into their eyes, and ask meaningful questions. Don’t rush them and don’t make adult comments about their cute silly stories. If it is important to your child, show that it is important to you. Your child will love you.

When you come home from work, give your child a big hug and tell them you love them. When you are away, think of a gift to bring home to show that you love them. When you come home, put a smile on your face. For you, this is the end of an exhausting day, but for your child, it is just the beginning.

Make room for your child in your heart and I guarantee you will be in your child’s heart.

If the Torah compares a human to a tree, then a child is a mere sapling. Saplings need guidance and support; when they wilt and tilt, they need to be propped up. When they are upright, they need water and sun. Most important, they need a gardener; a fellow tree can’t help them.

Our children are saplings and they need structure and support. If they don’t get it from us, they won’t get it anywhere. They also need love and attention as a sapling needs sun and rain. Finally, they need a parent. As a fellow tree can’t help a tree, a buddy, can never be a parent. Be your child’s parent. And as a parent give them structure and love.

Your child is going to come out okay. After all, their parents are pretty cool, aren’t they?