Monday, February 27, 2006

The parent trap

Irina has a new post, and in passing she mentions how many people have problems with their parents. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, partially because of my own insecurities about being a good parent.

Here's the deal. Most parents learn on the job. Sure we all read the books and the magazine articles but those only help a little. And here's the problem. As kids we see everything revolving around us, including our parents. We expect them to be good parents, but of course as kids we don't consider it our duty to be good kids.

And so it is hard... Of course most parents become parents voluntarily, and we voluntarily give up so much of our life to raise kids, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't wear you down, that you don't resent a little bit the fact that some other entity is encroaching on your life, making demands, competing with the self-interest that every human being has. The sleepless nights, the disgusting diapers, vomit, the horrifying injuries, the constant fighting among siblings...

And the fact that most of the time the kid is fighting against the thing you're trying to get him to do, for his own good. And so at the end of the day, or at the end of eighteen years, you're lucky if it works out as good as it works out.

So what's the point of this rant? Many of us expect our parents to be perfect, even though we don't hold ourselves to the same expectations. So maybe we should just give each other a little break. Make a few more allowances. And when we get to an age where we have a little sechel, not judge our poor parents too hard.

PS. B'shaa tova, Bradley


Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

I agree with that. Now that I'm older, I can appreciate how much my parents have done for me - and compare them with other people. I guess I had it pretty easy. In the end, in a parent-child relationship, just like in any other relationship, there are mutual duties and responsibilities... although your talk of vomit and diapers makes me happy I'm still unmarried!

February 27, 2006 4:39 PM  
Blogger Yoel.Ben-Avraham said...

Having been raised as a non-Jew, when I finally had children I sought the advice of a sagely chassid with eight beautiful children. Bottom line, no matter what question I asked him his basic answer invariably sounded like: "Just do the best you can, the rest is hashgacha pratit (divine providence)".

Thirty years later all I can say is, he gave me great advice!

February 27, 2006 4:58 PM  
Blogger dbs said...

Raising children certainly makes you more tolerant of your own parents’ foibles. We become parents out of choice, but very often we don’t really consider the question in the same way that we think about other critical life choices. For myself, I never seriously considered not having children – it was just too strong a social and religious norm, as well as an important mitzvah. My wife and I never had a conversation about what the relative pros and cons were, we just took it for granted that it was something which we both wanted. My point isn’t that I did not want to have kids, and I’m very grateful for my children. But it may be a bit easier to navigate through all of the difficulties and sacrifices if you sit down and really think it through. One other point about what you wrote is that we do often spend our time getting our kids to do things which we want them to do and which they do not. Often, as you say, it is for their own good, or it is simply something which is necessary for the home to function. But it becomes a reflex to not really listen to what our children are saying. Sometimes, their reasons for not wanting to do something (or to do something) is pretty deeply rooted. It is important to listen carefully before just going into ‘getting them to cooperate’ mode, and to look for opportunities to be flexible and to make accommodations for them.

February 27, 2006 5:23 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

although your talk of vomit and diapers makes me happy I'm still unmarried!
Irina, I know women think that all men are babies, but I hope you don't get married to someone who wears diapers. :)

I agree. That is sagely advice.

I suspect your kids are a bit older than mine, but point well taken. Unfortunately, I tend to be a bit totalitarian in my childrearing - comes with the Russian heritage, but I am definitely trying to improve.

February 27, 2006 6:04 PM  
Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

Sometimes a bit of totalitarianism is good for the soul! ;)

February 27, 2006 7:36 PM  
Blogger Jack Davidov said...

Great post! As a society, we are far too hard on our parents - we like to act like nothing is our own fault. Just think how incredible it is that parents bring children into the world and support them into their early twenties! Endless amounts of love and support. How can kids take that for granted today?

February 28, 2006 8:14 PM  
Blogger Shoshana said...

"The sleepless nights, the disgusting diapers, vomit, the horrifying injuries, the constant fighting among siblings..."

Wow, you make being a parent sound so tempting!

March 02, 2006 10:07 AM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...


Most parents would give their life for their kids, and there is an enormous amount of joy that they bring to life, and given the chance to choose, would choose to do it all again. But, as with anything, there is also a cost.

But please don't misconstrue my point - I highly recommend it!

March 02, 2006 1:50 PM  

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