The past few weeks have been hectic for the Tecktiel family. All three children are playing on school basketball teams. Just last night all three had away games around the same time. Luckily for me two of them were at the same school and it was actually in Henderson. It can be quite onerous when Susan has to stay late every night in Summerlin or I have to drive across town to see a game or pick up one of the kids. We give up countless hours driving to and from gyms, not to mention the hours watching the games.
We do it because as parents we make a commitment to sacrifice for our children. We make a vow that our children will have a better life then we had. We do not want them to have to suffer through some of the issues that we had to deal with growing up. That is part of what it means to be a parent, sacrificing our time and money for our children. We are all doing it, or have done it. Some of us are just now at a stage where we are finally doing things in of life for ourselves.
But sometimes as parents we can take it too far. We can become so over protective, so concerned, so smothering, that we deny our children the tools they need to adapt to the world around them.
Sometimes we end up sacrificing so much of ourselves that there is eventually nothing left to give, materially, physically, or emotionally.
We seem to forget that through having to attempt things on our own, through having to experience good and bad, through having to live with the consequences of our decisions - we grow as human beings. When as parents we hover like helicopters over the lives of our children, we deny them the opportunity to mature and learn values. Often it is difficult for us to let go. It hurts to see our children fail and our natural inclination is to cushion every blow. But think back on your own lives. Think back to those times in your lives when you had to face some challenge head on. Think back to those firsts: the first day of school, the first time behind the wheel of a car, the first date, the first kiss, the first job interview, the first heartbreak, the first rejection, the first loss. Think about how much we learned from those events in our lives. Our children need to experience those moments as well.
We can turn to our tradition and ancient text, the Torah, for some advice in this area.
Something happens in this week’s Torah reading, Parshat Mishpatim, that often gets lost in the details of all the civil laws that are explained in the reading. At the end of the Torah portion there is a big ceremony taking place. Moses gets up early in the morning and sets up an altar at the foot of Mt. Sinai with 12 pillars representing the 12 tribes. Then we are told, “He designated some young children among the Israelites, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed bulls as offerings of well-being to the Lord.”
How strange that at this moment in the history of the Israelites, just after receiving the commandments at Mt. Sinai, just after learning a litany of civil laws, that Moses would ask children to come forward to offer up the gifts to God. Where are the elders? Where are the priests? Where are the adults?I think there was method to Moses’ madness. Up until now, the children had been sheltered and protected from all that was happening to the Israelites. The focus has been on the elders, the priests and the adults. Moses realizes that the children too need to be a part of the process, a part of the history. The children will become the elders, the priests, and the adults and they need experiences to prepare them. Moses wisely understood the importance of involving the children in something as important as the offerings to God. Did they make mistakes in the way they prepared the animals? Did they err in the way they presented the animals on the alter? Did they say the wrong prayers? I would like to think that they did. I would like to think that these children were nervous. I hope that the whole encounter helped them overcome any fears they might have had about participating in their religion. In the end, Moses’ decision is a good lesson for all of us. We have to learn to be a little less overbearing, a little less guarding, and a little more open to allowing our children to have moments in their lives when they are on their own – to succeed or fail – but always to learn and grow.