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THE (IM)PERFECT PARENT

Wednesday, 6 May, 2020 - 11:57 am

PARENTING.  Whew! It’s a loaded word!

A great quote from Dr Koslowitz, an acclaimed parent educator and licensed psychologist, in a parenting article I recently read:

“Parenting isn’t linear. When you bake a cake, if you put in the correct ingredients, in the correct measure, in the correct order, and bake at the correct temperature, you’re likely to get the same results each time. It’s a linear process: A+B=C. Linear processes are not scary because they’re easily controlled and easily corrected. If your cake flops, you know what mistakes to look out for. Was the yeast dead? Did the oven get to the correct temperature? Did you accidentally substitute baking powder for baking soda? Once you figure out your error, you can bake the cake again and get different results. 

Parenting is not like that though. The correct ingredients for one kid might be the exactly wrong ones for another. The temperature that worked for you might be way too hot or way too cold for your child. In raising children, the answer to most questions that arise is ‘it depends’.”

This lack of linearity makes it impossible to be a Perfect Parent. All we can be is what psychologist D.W. Winnicott called “good enough” mothers. Only a cake can be perfect. In raising children however, so much is about “it depends”. Which means that we constantly have to reflect, tweak, adjust, mess up, mess up again, and even after we think we’ve got it right, we come to the recognition that so much of parenting is beyond our control. Each of our children are complex and unique little worlds, each on their own unique journey. The journey will meander through the beautiful as well as the difficult, and more often than not, that’s the only way to get there. It is how our children build resilience, inner strength, positive character traits, and faith in G-d, and most importantly- in a way that affords them the opportunities to make these attributes their own.

Yet so often in our attempt to be everything to our children, we strive to be the perfect parent. We fail to acknowledge that so much is beyond our control. As Dr Koslowitz notes at the end of the article: “There is a certain cultural imperative that we have learned about being perfect, and it’s one we have to actively combat”.

And I believe that bringing HaShem into our parenting careers is a critical ingredient in combating this cultural ideal of perfectionism in parenting.

Here’s why:

The Talmud explains that that there are three partners involved in the creation of a child – the father, the mother, and G-d. And that partnership continues into the child-rearing years as well. And hey, if I had to choose a third partner, having G-d join the partnership is a pretty good deal, wouldn’t you say?!

 I try to live with a recognition and appreciation for this partnership from the day my babies are born. I could never do it without G-d as my partner. Not even for a day. I have come to recognize that parenting is about something so much greater than the finite capabilities of two limited human beings. To create a child is to step out of the boundaries of time and space; to touch the Infinite.  We connect to the Divine energy where “Ayin” (nothing) becomes “Yesh” ( existence). And from that place, a child is created, birthed, and raised. 

This recognition inspires me to give G-d a prominent role in my parenting career. After all, this is about something so much greater than just me and my husband. We merited to touch a realm beyond the physical in order to bring a holy soul into this world; a soul with a mission to make this world a holier and more G-dly place. And so, I strive to imbue my home with Torah values and Mitzvot. As I sing the Shema with my kids from the youngest of ages, recite blessings over food, light the Shabbat candles, serve them kosher food, read Torah Bedtime stories, point out the wonders of G-d’s Creations on a nature walk, or give Tzedakah with them each morning, I feel myself bringing HaShem’s presence into my home and into my children’s lives. 

And with each of my kids’ milestones, joyous occasions, and even a cute remark, I strive to turn to G-d in genuine gratitude. He is my Partner. He orchestrates it all. He deserves my thanks.

And with each temper tantrum, difficult discussion, sibling rivalry episode, loss of patience (on my end😊), or time that my child struggles with a challenging emotion, I strive once again to turn to G-d. Yup, He’s my Partner in all this after all. Even and especially now. This was and never will be just about me and my husband trying to raise our child. It is about a mission that my child’s soul has in this world. We are simply the lucky ones to serve as the conduits and facilitators for it. And therefore, no, it won’t look or feel like baking a cake. So much about this child’s journey is beyond what I can know and understand. All I can do is my very best to provide love, boundaries, values and inspiration. After that, I lift the burden off my shoulders and place it in G-d’s Hands instead. “Please G-d”, I say “they are your children too. You have a Master Plan at play here. A journey you have intended for my child, one that is beyond what I can fully comprehend. Guide them. Watch over them. Help them along their journey. So that they may know You and feel You with every fiber of their being. So that the choices and values they embrace are aligned with Yours. Because HaShem- as you know, I can bake (almost) perfect cakes- but as a mother, there is no perfect. I can only do my best and the rest is in Your Hands. This is about You and Your Master Plan.”

So my dear friends, keep baking perfect cakes (and share the recipes with us😊) But for the recipe of child-rearing, don’t expect perfect. Don’t expect to be able to do it alone. Bring HaShem into the recipe instead”.


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