Friday, October 4, 2019

Letting Our Children Make Mistakes

Later this month we will start reading the Torah from the beginning. The first book of the Torah, Bereishit, is also the name of the first parsha. The stories in Bereishit are the ones everyone knows: creation, Noah and the flood, the Tower of Babel, and the journey of Abraham and his family.

Image result for tree of knowledge of good and evil
We'll also read about Adam and Eve. God creates a paradise for them but warns them not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Curious and tempted, of course they eat the fruit. In that moment, they become aware of their nakedness and lose their innocence.

I've always thought that this story is a beautiful metaphor for parenthood. We want to provide our children with everything they need to be happy and healthy and safe. We want to shelter them from the harsh realities of the grown-up world. But, ultimately, we can't. Our children grow up, explore, take chances, make mistakes. They become their own people and -- eventually -- leave home. It makes us sad, even though we always knew it was inevitable, because (let's be honest) we lose a bit of ourselves when our children grow up and grow away from us. 

I've always seen God as the model parent here. God realizes God wouldn't always be able to protect and shelter the human souls God had lovingly created, and therefore God lovingly lets them go when the time comes for them to start living their own lives. 

Letting go of our children, whether it's to attend preschool or leave for college, is tough. But it's what we do because we love them. And it's the hardest thing a parent will ever do.

The second hardest thing a parent will ever do is let their children fail, but let them fail we must. Letting our children make mistakes, letting them take risks, and letting them fail along the way is how they learn what it means to be an adult. Did God allow Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit? Or did God just know they were going to eat the fruit no matter what God said? Does it really matter? They ate it. They weren't supposed to. And there were consequences. 

I think the lesson to be gleaned from this story is that parents have to accept that their children will make mistakes. They have to accept that their children might even disappoint them by making choices the parents wished they hadn't. And that's ok. We're going to love them anyway, no matter what.

Wendy Mogel has written some excellent books for parents on raising resilient and self-reliant children. Check out The Blessing of a Skinned Knee and The Blessing of a B Minus.

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