Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Great Blog for Parents

Finally checked out this blog
We sometimes make the assumption that parenting determines how a child will turn out. But if you think about it, it's actually very unusual for all the children in a family to have similar personalities, even though they have the same parents.
I am looking forward to reading more of this.

Two points:
1. Parents cannot, in my belief, change temperament. But good parenting works with temperament and does indeed determine how the child will turn out. A "leader" personality can be trained to compromise, look out for the needs of others, and taught good values. Or he could be left to become an obnoxious bossy kid who only looks out for #1. An energetic kid can be yelled at to sit down and eat his dinner quietly, or he can be made the "waiter", giving him ample opportunity to use his energy positively.

2. It's not just which number you are in the family (anyway, frum family size generally runs toward larger than the norm); it's also that parents are different people at different stages. I am not mothering my baby in the same way as I was mothering my first-born. Maybe I'm more patient about some things, and less patient about others. Our stresses also vary at different stages; sometimes finances, sometimes family issues - all these contribute to how we act and react to our children. And our children absorb our behavior differently at different ages. Just as an example, corporal punishment is perceived differently by a two-year-old than it is by a twelve-year-old.

Hearts of Gold

A serialized book that Mishpacha ran for a little while, Hearts of Gold, recently ended. Mishpacha took a lot of flak for running this story, both while it was running and after it finished. I commend them for braving it, and also for the elegant way they resumed when condemned in middle of running the story. A few thoughts about this book remain in my head, here goes (spoilers ahead/some of this will only be interesting to those who read the story):

1. I am not the most voracious reader these days, but choosing the tribulations of young couplehood seems a more original idea than much of what I'm used to reading. Kudos to the author, Devorah Weiner, for taking the risk of a common, yet infrequently covered subject.

2. The ending seemed a little sloppy. I mean, I really wonder what a husband would feel when opening his apartment door to SURPRISE! find the wife who didn't stick up for him, and whose family ran his name through the mud.

3. To confuse this couple with the idealistic, Torah lishmah couples that we know is ridiculous. When Mishpacha was confronted with a deluge of angry letters, the serial was stopped for a number of weeks (if I recall correctly) and resumed with a disclaimer (reprinted weekly) stating something to the effect that this is not representative of those who are moser nefesh, etc. That Mishpacha had to place the disclaimer is sad, and yet it was the right thing to do.

a) It's sad that people cannot read a story and understand that its message extends beyond the confines of the storyline. Not every kollel wife is spoiled (most I know are not), nor is every spoiled woman a kollel wife. In fact, I have dealt with a number of professional women who are quite spoiled. I don't mean spoiled with luxuries or jewelry, but spoiled as we knew the word as kids: used to getting their own way, and throwing tantrums when they don't. I think it was good to use a character like Raizy, because it holds up a good mirror to those who act like two-year-olds well into adulthood.
b) The online gambling. Ever hear of HYPERBOLE? It's a device used to get a point across. I personally have not yet heard that online gambling is a major problem in frum communities, but the point here is that unresolved issues in marriage that are left to fester create poor outcomes.

4. The issues: Mrs. Weiner ought to be thanked for helping us remember a few things.
a) Young couples need to have someone they can go to for guidance, because it is a brand-new situation and very little in life before marriage prepares them for their new experience. Finances are just one part of the story (more later); middos are the big new challenge.
b) "Asei lecha Rav" is more than a nice ma'amar Chazal; it's vital for a frum family, not just a frum couple. These should be the first questions asked in shidduchim - Who is the family's Rav? Do they have a close relationship? Who is the Rav/Rebbetzin that the guy/girl talks to?
c) Some parents really mess up their kids' lives. Most parents are probably well-intentioned, but you know what they say about the road to hell. And unfortunately, some parents are not well-intentioned.
d) The obvious lesson is about shemiras halashon. That we never really know the whole story when we hear one side. And that it's too bad that so many of us throw shemiras halashon out the window when seeking to be perceived as "right" (or the wronged party) in instances of divorce.
e) Parents have a responsibility to train their children to be financially responsible.

We never do find out exactly how much of the money was spent by Raizy (perhaps more than was gambled by Avrummy!), but there are hints that it was a substantial portion of their account. The issue of overspending is clearly true to life. It is unconscionable that parents who are marrying off their children have not yet trained them regarding moderation in spending, and what it costs to live. It is DEPLORABLE that we need to suggest that this be a course given, like kallah and chosson classes, before marriage. Maybe we live in a world where parents are so irresponsible about money, that they cannot be trusted to teach their children fiscal responsibility. That is very sad.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Purim and the Bard

The ides of March draw near. Fair is foul and foul is fair in the hester panim of Purim. (Knowing my limits I won't try to pull an Ishbetzer off on you.)

It's an interesting puzzle as you try to be aware of what's beyond the surface and yet retain the good eye, viewing things in a positive light even as you see them for what they are intrinsically.

Nothing is as it seems. Richard Cory. The clown who's the saddest man in the house. And the kvetch whose life, objectively perceived, is actually wonderful.

It's why Purim is so important for us, living in a temporal world, convinced of our corporeal permanence. The threat, too, is annihilation, a physical doom. And the fix? Friends. To bridge between the material and spiritual, to keep us in check, in every sense. So we drink and eat together and send mishloach manos and let our friends know (if inebriatedly) that we love them and value their friendship.

Ah freilichen Purim.