Win or Learn
“You either win, or you learn”
~ Avi Fishoff
Exactly two years ago, at the close of 2014, I wrote a post about that year. It was a gut-wrenching year full of bad news and sad moods. Since that time, I find myself getting especially reflective this time of year, looking back on the year and deciding what I want to say about it.
cross posted from jfxramblings.blogspot.org
There’s so much talk about parenting these days. Don’t be a helicopter mom. Don’t bubble-wrap your kids. Don’t hire people to write their college term papers. (Yes.) Teach them to stand up to bullying. Teach them not to bully. To clean up their language. To handle technology. And in one Dove-sponsored video, teach them to take a selfie. (Yes.)
This is all, possibly, good.
What no one is saying is this: parent yourself.
Teach yourself not to be bubble-wrapped. Teach yourself to stand up to bullies. To manage technology. To write your own work. To clean up your language.
Whenever I teach a group of adults about a particular concept in Judaism, a value, a higher, more ethical way of living, the FIRST thing people usually think about is their kids. “How can I teach this to my kids?” But that’s not really the first thing. The first question should be, “How can I teach this to myself?”
The Jewish world-view I was raised with teaches that you’re never done growing up. That ethical development and responsible decision-making is never complete. You don’t get a free pass to drink, swear, and gamble indiscriminately because “you’re a grown-up.” Being a grown-up means MORE responsible behavior, not less.
And no, not only because this is the most effective way to parent (it is), but because it is the most effective way to BE, whether you have kids or not; whether your kids are grown or small; whether you’re pleased with how they’ve turned out, or sadly, otherwise.
Take all the questions you would direct toward your child, like:
- Did you clean up your room?
- Are you careful with what you post online? It’s there forever, you know.
- Are you treating your siblings and parents with respect?
- Are you cultivating self-control?
- Are you eating healthfully?
- Are your spending habits sustainable?
- Are you succumbing to peer pressure?
- Are you dressing to impress others?
- Are you relying on others to build your self-esteem?
- Are you reaching your potential?
Now ask these questions to yourself. The answers may not come easily.
Parent, parent thyself.
This past weekend, our educational organization, JFX, offered a little experiment: an “outreach” Shabbaton for Orthodox Jews. A Shabbaton is a weekend retreat, often at a hotel, where Jewish folks celebrate Shabbat together, usually with workshops or other inspirational and motivational sessions. In an Orthodox-led retreat, there is observance of Shabbat in public spaces (no photos, microphones, electronic media).
JFX is an organization that mostly services families whose kids are in public school (although we have a nice minority of day school families), so this “Orthodox-only” Shabbaton was new for us. Our thought process: often, people need to zoom out in their Judaism and seem to really appreciate a back-to-basics approach that organizations like ours offer, since we don’t assume that anyone knows or believes anything. We have found that Orthodox people, whether they’ve been so their whole lives, and thus never experienced this “outreach” approach to education, or whether they are “BTs” – people who have become religious as adults or teens – and have moved through and past the “outreach” approach, and miss it, very often crave the kind of positive, panoramic style of teaching we offer.
(Sidebar: in no way am I suggesting that “our” style of education is superior to “classic” Orthodox education. Different models are appropriate for different situations.)
So, the Shabbaton.
A lot of really interesting things came to light, in contrasting this particular Shabbaton with the others we run. Maybe another post one day. But for now, I wanted to focus on one thing. We had a panel discussion on Shabbat afternoon, which covered topics such as “Balance in Family – Kids and Marriage,” “Love and Discipline in Parenting,” “Making Judaism Real for your Kids,” and “Happiness.” One of the questions was:
We all know that in order to raise emotionally and spiritually healthy children, we need both unconditional love and clear boundaries. What is your red line in parenting? Which battles do you pick?
Every single one of our panelists gave the same response (which didn’t happen with other questions). I am really curious if this is an “Orthodox thing” or a “universal thing,” so I am turning it over to you guys.
How would you answer this question, and do you affiliate Orthodox? At the end, I’ll tell you what they said!