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05/15/2020 12:16:43 PM


Rabbi Asher Klein

One of the greatest gifts that we can give our children, is the power of taking ownership and responsibility for their own choices. So much of the experience of being a child is framed around doing what other people tell you to do at the specific time that you are told to do it. As parents, we embrace the responsibility of leading our young because we know that they need direction. They are incapable of making the prudent choices that will lead them to lead healthy lives. Yet, at some point, the challenge of letting go creeps up on us and we have to stand back and watch as they make the decisions that will ultimately define them. This can be terrifying to watch as if a bystander, as the time and effort we have invested in our children is no longer entirely in our control. 

I feel that the current situation has actually allowed parents in some ways to be in a unique position to watch while also having a box seat to the action. 

Let's take for example, the typical middle school student who wakes up early in the morning to catch the bus to school. They leave their home and don't return until sometime between 4:30pm and 6:00pm, depending on after school programs. This is followed by time to relax at home, homework, studying, and unwinding, often with a screen as their companion. Before you can blink, it is time to go to bed and let the cycle repeat itself. Precious little time is left for familial interaction. Some families make a concerted effort to eat dinner together as much as possible, and then have some time to catch up and build relationships in an informal manner. The schedule that was just described is actually exacerbated once a teenager enters high school. At this point, school starts earlier and ends later. Social interaction time with friends is at a premium and after school activities are increased. And then they are off to college. This pandemic has forced a situation upon us all to restructure this schedule to the point that the expectation is that parents are now a part of their children’s lives throughout the day, no matter how old they may be. 

Throughout my high school and college years, I was very involved with the National Jewish Outreach Program minyan in my shul. I met fascinating individuals at the Shabbos Morning Beginners Minyan that had a very refreshing and inspiring outlook on Judaism. They were coming to shul entirely because they wanted to learn more about their heritage and what it means to be a Jew. So many of the participants related to me how Shabbos had changed their lives entirely. They said that it was such a relief and a pleasure to shut down from the outside world for twenty-five hours and focus entirely on their families and G-d. They related how much they looked forward to being unplugged, unreachable, and having the ability to focus on deeper matters of the soul. Their attitude had a trickle-down effect onto my very impressionable mind. It infused me with the understanding that Shabbos isn't a time of "you can't do this"  and "you can't do that," but rather "now is your chance to do this." 

Shabbos, one of the greatest gifts we have ever received from Hashem, is filled with "No"s precisely because human nature sometimes requires us to be forced  to do what is really best for us all. 

I think that the Shabbos metaphor has really framed my attitude during this state of isolation. We are being forced, whether we asked for it or not, to have a tremendous amount of time together with our children and our spouses. We are getting an opportunity to be part of each other's lives in ways that we have never had before. While this opportunity is replete with "No"s, these "No"s force us to exchange conversations, concerns, ideas, and plain old fun with family members like we never have before. We can also help guide our children now, no matter how old they are, like we never thought possible before. Who thought that a mid-afternoon walk on a Wednesday with your high school sophomore was ever possible, or even routine? When have we ever had the ability to have a family dinner so often, or perhaps even a family lunch during the week! During these formative times in our children’s lives, we are with them more than we envisioned. We hope and pray that this pandemic will soon be over and we will all be back to our routines soon enough with everyone healthy and well. We will be able to hug our friends and family that we have missed so much. Yet in the meantime, let's focus on what we can do and where we can grow. So the next time we receive a meme bemoaning the fact that our children are driving us crazy, let's remember that when we refocus the "No"s, we can actually have benefits that were unforeseen come our way. Perhaps, this time is one vaccine that we needed all along.

By: Rabbi Asher Klein

Mon, June 24 2024 18 Sivan 5784