Parenting Using a Jewish Perspective

Bud Lichtenstein, Interim Head of School
A Few Words from Bud
I think parenting has been the most joyous and most challenging aspect of my life. Here are a few thoughts.

“Accept that your children are both unique and ordinary.” This is the theme of the second chapter of Blessings of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel. I love this. On the one hand, we all know that every child (every human) is unique and special in his or her own way. Our sons, Matt (31) and Alex (27), know that Kathy and I adore them for who they are. One loved school, the other tolerated it. One is more venturesome, having traveled broadly, the other is more cautious and is more of a homebody. As they grew up, it was important to us that we not compare them but appreciate each for his own unique personality, with individual strengths and challenges. Of course, we had common expectations of them both in many areas but at the same time, it was clear to us early on that they were each different and we needed to treasure their uniqueness. Nature builds in sibling rivalry on its own therefore we chose to downplay the comparisons and celebrate the differences.
 
Mogel goes on to cite a Hasidic concept, “Keep two pieces of paper in your pocket at all times. On one write I am a speck of dust” and on the other, “the world was created for me.” I appreciate the duality of this. I believe it is important for parents to raise children who do not put themselves above or before others. Being humble and kind is more important than being the best. Our world is highly materialistic and “me” oriented. Mogel emphasizes that it is important to love and appreciate the ordinariness of our children. All children are not above average (outside of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon). It’s okay to try your hardest and be average in some, dare I say, many dimensions. Mogel warns parents, “Children who feel that they are expected to surpass their parents’ already high level of achievement or to demonstrate skills that are beyond their (current) capabilities will suffer.”
 
If you are intrigued by Wendy Mogel’s ideas, I suggest that you pick up a copy of the best child-rearing book that I know (I swear that I get no kickback here) and/or join our next book club evening on January 3. Finally, you may find this interview with Dr. Mogel an interesting watch.
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