Each summer we pack up the minivan and drive 400+ miles to Lakewood, New Jersey, where my parents and siblings live, for our annual visit. As the years roll by, I notice the tenor of the visits changing.
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.