Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Parent Paradox

I've been mulling this over in my head for a few weeks and it is still a bit fuzzy. Perhaps a discussion here will help me sort it out.

There's a blog out there where a young, formerly Orthodox, woman blogs about getting engaged to a gentile boyfriend and her family's reaction to this event. (I don't feel like linking to the blog, because the particulars of her situation are not relevant to the discussion)

As I read the discussions on her blog and several other blogs that picked up her story, I was struck by several things. There was a chorus of commenters, mainly formerly Orthodox Jews, who basically were saying "Your parents are such closeminded idiots. How can they react this way?!". I guess I was mostly amazed by their amazement. Clearly the situation of someone from an Orthodox family marrying out of the faith is not unique. You could disagree with the parents' position, but should you really be surprised by it?

But there is a bigger issue that I can't sort out which has to do with the mutual responsibilities between parents and children and the weird paradox of the parent child relationship.

A parent voluntarily accepts the responsibility of bringing a new life into the world. He is responsible for the physical wellbeing of the child, but also the rearing of a new member of society. Parents transmit their own value systems to their children, for better or for worse. And they are expected to. You teach your child what is right and wrong. You teach him how to become a member of the society you live in. Obviously it is totally unrealistic to expect a parent to allow a young child to make up their own mind about how they should grow up.

So, as a child grows up, what are his responsibilities to his parents in terms of living a certain lifestyle. On the one hand, an argument could be made that at some point, this child becomes an individual, and therefore has the right to make his own decisions about how to live their life. Yet on the other hand, is there not some sort of debt, some sort of obligation to give back to the parents for the time, the sleepless nights, the financial burden (especially in a MO world) of raising a child?

Obviously, the parents do it without expecting some kind of simplistic quid pro quo, but I think that such an expectation is not unreasonable. Take this case specifically. Clearly, living an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle is not something so unusual that you could argue it is some weird cult that people should be rescued from. So, this family raised this young woman, believing that they raised her the best way possible. They probably invested a good chunk of time, money and effort in this process only to have her say, 'Everything you believe is stupid. And if you can't accept me for who I am, then I'm outta here. I don't have any responsibilities to you!'

Somehow, it seems wrong to me. I don't know.

40 Comments:

Blogger Dave said...

Would you have the same reaction if the parents were happily assimilated secular Jews, and the child wanted to become Chareidi?

July 29, 2008 10:58 AM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

Dave,

I guess the answer would be yes. The intent of my post was to try to analyze the interdependent responsibility between parents and children, not the specifics of a particular situation.

July 29, 2008 11:04 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

That's fair.

I disagree with your conclusion though.

To bring up a few issues:

1. The child had no choice in matters until adulthood. The parent did. The parents chose to be parents, they chose how to raise their children. All of the options up until adulthood were theirs. To mandate that the child must follow this for their lifetime is to turn people into chattel.

2. It can be argued that any debt the parents would have acrued is in fact them paying back their parents, rather than obligating their children to do their bidding.

3. How far does this obligation extend? Can parents pick spouses? Professions? Clothing? Weekly menus? The logical outcome of this is that the parents are allowed to dictate to their children anything they find important even after the children are adults with families of their own.

July 29, 2008 11:20 AM  
Blogger Shoshana said...

It is a good question. And I definitely think there is room for arguing that a child, while not necessarily bound to exactly follow in a parent's footsteps, should at least respect the decisions that parent made in raising the child and acknowledge with gratitude what the parents have given you.

However, just for argument's sake, what if the parent was abusive? Pick your poison- physically, emotionally, sexually - does the child still have that same obligation of respect and where do you draw the line of saying which parents do or don't deserve it? Who makes that determination? (I just want to state that I don't think this is the case in the situation you are describing, but it's a point to consider.)

July 29, 2008 11:33 AM  
Anonymous Rabban Gamliel said...

As for the surprise, I find it also amazing. I do though see an undercurrent of less Jewish education manifesting itself in the surprise. I think there needs to be much better secular education too. Education cannot be given as a simply collection of facts as it dumbs down us. This criticism of mine is directed at the secular and religious. Getting to the parents it is asking of the parents in their mind and I have yet to see even one source say otherwise than the parents, that to attend an interfaith wedding is outside of the observant pale. I think some of the surprise is polemical too. The internet is too young to see the results of mature reflection on one's life. It will come though and the children will become the parents and think of how much they didn't know and how much they blurred the line betweeen personal conflict and objective analysis. Bloggers use the internet to vent and we see only what they wish us to see if they can control themselves enough. I notice a distinct difference between male and female blogs. It basically seems that men don't open up about themselves as much and so deal with details about theings outside of themselves. The women are more open about themselves and so are more human instead of robotic. I agree with you that children owe their parents. The time to connect with them is limited as they die. If we are smart we will appreciate what they did. If too young too long we won't before it is too late and we are the parents. Is it better to be dead and right or not insisting on allways winning and being right and so having loved more before the grim reaper comes for us too?

July 29, 2008 11:46 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Children owe their parents respect and love, assuming the parents meet a certain bare minimum (no abuse, etc.) They do NOT owe their parents a religion or a spouse. That's just ridiculous.

Would you say the same thing about parents who raised their kids to marry only white people? Or to believe in Scientology?

July 29, 2008 11:47 AM  
Anonymous Rabban Gamliel said...

"1. The child had no choice in matters until adulthood. The parent did. The parents chose to be parents, they chose how to raise their children. All of the options up until adulthood were theirs. To mandate that the child must follow this for their lifetime is to turn people into chattel."

What parent is going to have his or her child make his own decisions before adulthood? Further the parents themselves did not have choices growing up beyond what their parents let them have. Even more so in tha past. Children whose parents let them do whatever they want have felt neglected.

July 29, 2008 11:54 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

What parent is going to have his or her child make his own decisions before adulthood?

The good ones?

Not all decisions, but absolutely the children need to be making decisions (and making them more meaningfully as they grow older).

We learn by succeeding, but we learn as much if not more by failing. Children need to be allowed to fail when the repercussions are small, and there is someone to help them learn, and then try again.

Children whose parents let them do whatever they want have felt neglected.

I absolutely agree. I'd go further, and say they are abused.

However, neither observation is really on point. Parents had their shot at influencing their children, when they had all the control.

Children have no choice in the parents, no real choice in their upbringing, and only modest choices during childhood, to deny them choice when they become adults is to make them slaves.

July 29, 2008 12:12 PM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

if we took this way of thinking to it's logical conclusion we'd all be worshiping the starts and idols. The Jewish saga begins with a child (Abraham) rejecting his father's way of life. Social progress requires children to go their own way at times.

That doesn't mean children don't owe their parents anything. For example, children should support their parents if they are capable and their parents require assistance. But to say that children may never reject their parents way of life out of respect seems to me an over extension of the obligations of respect

July 29, 2008 12:35 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

First of all, I want to thank everyone who is commenting here.

As I hopefully made clear in my post, this is not something that I have a good answer to. And I don't know if there is a right answer. And of course it is a highly emotional issue for everyone. I would just like to have a civil discussion so that perhaps I can work out some of the issues for myself.

A couple of things to respond to the comments so far. I think we need to steer away from extremes. Obviously, the notion of obligation to your parents does not extend to the cases of abuse, neglect, etc...

Also, I am not asking the question of how you should "make" people behave, but rather what is the right thing to do.

Now to some specifics:

Dave:The child had no choice in matters until adulthood. The parent did. The parents chose to be parents, they chose how to raise their children.

It's interesting, because where as you seem to imply that the parents seem to hold some advantage, I can see it going completely the opposite way. Your parents chose to give you the gift of life. You are the beneficiary of their choice. We are not animals where the decision to breed is basically a blind drive.

RG: Please, can you format your posts with a bit more whitespace? It is hard on the eyes.

JA:Children owe their parents respect and love, assuming the parents meet a certain bare minimum (no abuse, etc.) They do NOT owe their parents a religion or a spouse. That's just ridiculous.

This is really tricky for me. I think I agree with you mostly about the fact that children do not owe their parents a religion or a spouse. At the same time, if the child makes the decision that really devastates their parents, is the attitude of 'Screw you, you controlling bastards' a way of showing them love and respect? That is part of what bothers me about this situation. Also, the reason why this case is poignant, is that obviously Orthodox Judaism is more that just a religion. it is a way of life. I've seen Catholics upset over being married to a Protestant. And that's a purely religious issue. The issues for Orthodox is a lot more than religious.

Clearly it is a slippery slope. If your child decides to be a vegetarian, and you think that is a stupid, flaky thing to do, it's one thing. If you save a bunch of money to send your kid through college and they decide after four years that they're not going to work but instead are going to be a pole dancer at a strip club, that's another...

In short, I am just asking a question, what are the obligations of (young) adult children to their parents. My initial take is that it should be more that just 'love and respect', yet I agree that each person at some point needs to live their own life. Hence the paradoxical nature of this relationship.

People have no problem calling someone bad parents. My question is, what are things that make people bad children.

July 29, 2008 12:35 PM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

>worshiping the starts

should read: worshiping the stars

July 29, 2008 12:38 PM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

>if the child makes the decision that really devastates their parents, is the attitude of 'Screw you, you controlling bastards' a way of showing them love and respect?

with this I agree. The child should show respect and compassion to their parents. I would suggest that children visit their parents on holidays and keep the traditions while they are around their parents so not to insult them. But what the children do in their own house is not really the parents business (with all due respect)

July 29, 2008 12:44 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

So perhaps this is just my own paranoia about me wandering Lear-like on the heath, but I am curious how many of the people that have commented so far are parents. Perhaps, all new commenters could identify as parents/non-parents as well.

July 29, 2008 12:48 PM  
Anonymous Rabban Gamliel said...

"Dave said...
What parent is going to have his or her child make his own decisions before adulthood?

The good ones?

Not all decisions, but absolutely the children need to be making decisions (and making them more meaningfully as they grow older).

We learn by succeeding, but we learn as much if not more by failing. Children need to be allowed to fail when the repercussions are small, and there is someone to help them learn, and then try again."

That's not the point. Parents I agree should give their children an opportunity to make decisions on their own as they grow older but each parent decides what is ok for them to leave to the child and what would be either wrong to leave to the child as the child would make what is the parents an immoral or unethical choice or would be too much of a regretful choice on the part of the child or simply that the parent doesn't think it is going to be helpful for the child to be making a particular choice.

"Children whose parents let them do whatever they want have felt neglected.

I absolutely agree. I'd go further, and say they are abused."

It amounts to the same thing.

"However, neither observation is really on point. Parents had their shot at influencing their children, when they had all the control.

Children have no choice in the parents, no real choice in their upbringing, and only modest choices during childhood, to deny them choice when they become adults is to make them slaves."

That wasn't the point. We were talking about them as children. Freedom and individuality is wonderful and I would be a hypocrite o deny to others what I appreciate but first foremost a parent has to make sure their child becomes moral and ethical. What that means will vary. To some that means following this or that religion. To some it will even mean this or that political party but it is tha parents choice. They are responsible for their children and have the right to feel secure that they are in control of their child's welfare. They feel they know best and will not feel secure with big brother taking over.

July 29, 2008 12:51 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Not a parent, but I've been married a good many years, and have nieces and nephews.

July 29, 2008 12:57 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

That wasn't the point. We were talking about them as children. Freedom and individuality is wonderful and I would be a hypocrite o deny to others what I appreciate but first foremost a parent has to make sure their child becomes moral and ethical. What that means will vary. To some that means following this or that religion. To some it will even mean this or that political party but it is tha parents choice. They are responsible for their children and have the right to feel secure that they are in control of their child's welfare. They feel they know best and will not feel secure with big brother taking over.

Who is talking about Big Brother taking over?

The discussion is whether, upon reaching adulthood, the child should follow the parent's wishes out of deference to the effort spent raising them.

July 29, 2008 12:59 PM  
Blogger Nimrod said...

Ultimately, it is a failure of the parents. But its is also the clearest proof of why orthodoxy is a cult, which does not allow people to leave.

Raising a child orthodox, requires time, money and effort. A child who goes OTD, is a failure from the parents perspective because they have put so much into it. Even if the child is a good person, by not following halacha, he/she hurts the parent, as a parent and fellow jew.

July 29, 2008 1:08 PM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

I don't have children. And the truth is I do feel conflicted by this to. On the one hand, I don't want to hurt my parents, on the other hand I want to live life the way I see fit and good for myself. I don't know if there is a way to solve that

July 29, 2008 1:11 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

Thinking about this some more, I wonder how much of our view of our obligations has to do with the prevalent American culture which is very strong on the concepts of independent children.

To another point, perhaps the relative ease of lifestyle in our society has something to do with a diminished sense of obligation. Take for example, my grandmother, who was running away from the Nazis with newborn twins. Everyone told her that she needs to leave them to die, because otherwise they would all perish, but she refused to listen. What does that do to the obligation equation?

Once again, I don't know the answer. i am just looking for a discussion.

July 29, 2008 1:20 PM  
Blogger Freethinking Upstart said...

e-kvetcher,

On the whole I was disappointed with the attitude of bridge burning and disrespect that was being promoted far too much by the various commentators. And though not unexpected, there were many believers that were very mean spirited as well.

>Clearly, living an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle is not something so unusual that you could argue it is some weird cult that people should be rescued from.

ummm... I would. But really it depends on her family's level of observance. Forcing teens to fast, the separation of the sexes, the heavy burdens of rituals like davening, tfillin and the overall burden of keeping thousands of halachos, the family purity laws. etc. There is plenty to put Orthodoxy in to the cult category or at best it's border. Pardon my crude opinion on the matter.

>So, this family raised this young woman, believing that they raised her the best way possible.

Don't they all?

> They probably invested a good chunk of time, money and effort in this process only to have her say, 'Everything you believe is stupid.

Did she put it so bluntly? I thought she was a bit nicer about it then all that.

>And if you can't accept me for who I am, then I'm outta here. I don't have any responsibilities to you!'

The ethical thing to do seems to leave the door open and the ball in their court, provided her parents aren't causing her undue pain and suffering.

On the whole, the situation is sticky, and mistakes are likely. I wish her and her family the best and I hope that somehow they are able to continue a relationship.

July 29, 2008 1:26 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

>ummm... I would. But really it depends on her family's level of observance. Forcing teens to fast, the separation of the sexes, the heavy burdens of rituals like davening, tfillin and the overall burden of keeping thousands of halachos, the family purity laws. etc. There is plenty to put Orthodoxy in to the cult category or at best it's border. Pardon my crude opinion on the matter.

If you visit another culture, and find that they have been practicing all sorts of behaviors that you find bizarre and pointless - but really do not physically harm themselves or anyone else (say nothing to do with religion per se), would you feel the need to "rescue" them from their stupid rituals?

This is what the Europeans tried to do to many indigenous people, and I am sure you know how well that turned out...

July 29, 2008 1:35 PM  
Blogger XGH said...

You realy are my double, I had exactly the same conflicted reaction as you. I can't blame the daughter for wanting her parents at her wedding, but I also can'r blame the parennts for not agreeing to go. I think it's one of those tough situations where there's no good answer. The father's letter did say he didn't want to break off all contact, he was quite reasonable I thought.

July 29, 2008 1:36 PM  
Blogger Freethinking Upstart said...

On the whole I would have to say "Amen brother!" to everything spinoza said on this thread.

"I am a child, I'll last a while." But I have an excellent relationship with my parents. My parents are very open minded and I'm very respectful so it all works out.

If the child lives outside of the parental home then I feel that the parents should make no demands on the child. If and when the child is at the parental home, or at a simcha or some such thing, I don't think it cruel and unusual to require appropriate dress and conduct, even a kippah (eee gadz!).

July 29, 2008 1:36 PM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

>The father's letter did say he didn't want to break off all contact, he was quite reasonable I thought.

It is my understanding that her parents have no intention of meeting her future husband. That's a difficult way to continue a relationship. Reasonable from a fundamentalist POV, perhaps. But from a reality POV it's not reasonable at all. It shows the negative consequences of OJ beliefs and way of life

July 29, 2008 1:40 PM  
Blogger Freethinking Upstart said...

>would you feel the need to "rescue" them from their stupid rituals?

No, not at all. I didn't mean to address the "rescue" part, just the "cult" part.

The whole rescue thing is a HUGE moral dilema. I can't give a real answer. In the case of OJ, I don't feel any need to rescue even hareidi children. Though I do think that wholesale religious indoctrination of children should be illegal. However, even this is problematic. Where do you draw the line? It's a real problem and I don't have any clarity. I just feel morally repulsed by religious indoctrination of children.

July 29, 2008 1:43 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

If you visit another culture, and find that they have been practicing all sorts of behaviors that you find bizarre and pointless - but really do not physically harm themselves or anyone else (say nothing to do with religion per se), would you feel the need to "rescue" them from their stupid rituals?

If we leave aside the actual casual usage of "cult" (which effectively means religion the speaker dislikes), then yes, aspects of Orthodox Judaism do seem to fall under the sociological definition.

Specifically, the very strong pressure for conformity that appears in Orthodoxy (and especially as you move to the right), the shunning of outsiders (including family members who leave), and (again, as you move to the right, or in Chasidic circles) the centralized and near absolute authority.

I would be hard pressed to argue that a Chareidi who argues (as many, although certainly not all do) that anythingn Daas Torah says cannot even be questioned, and that wearing a colored shirt could call your families ability to arrange marriages into question is not in a cult.

But part of being part of a free society is that people have the right to live lifestyles I find objectionable.

And part of being part of a free society is that adults are free to reject the subculture they grew up in, and make their own decisions in life.

The freedom to pursue one implies the freedom to pursue the other.

July 29, 2008 2:01 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

>And part of being part of a free society is that adults are free to reject the subculture they grew up in, and make their own decisions in life.

Dave, as I've said before, I am not denying anyone their right. Just as a parent has the right to throw their child out of the house at age of majority and never speak to them again. This is not a discussion about rights.

July 29, 2008 2:05 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Dave, as I've said before, I am not denying anyone their right. Just as a parent has the right to throw their child out of the house at age of majority and never speak to them again. This is not a discussion about rights.

Fair enough.

Perhaps we should be talking about obligations then.

I tend to believe that obligations can only be assumed, they cannot be forced.

Parents assume an obligation to their children -- they were the ones who started the situation.

Children can, and hopefully will chose to assume obligations towards their parents, but it is their choice. They had no say in matters.

As you said, we are not beasts who breed by instinct.

July 29, 2008 2:32 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

>Parents assume an obligation to their children -- they were the ones who started the situation.

It's like that Gemorah in Eruvin where they argue whether it was better for man to have been created or not created :)

Your language almost makes me think that you're of the opinion that having a child is a mess that the parents got themselves into, and now they are responsible to that child. Whereas, I can also see it as a gift of life, at which point the child now has a debt to the parent.

July 29, 2008 2:40 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Your language almost makes me think that you're of the opinion that having a child is a mess that the parents got themselves into, and now they are responsible to that child. Whereas, I can also see it as a gift of life, at which point the child now has a debt to the parent.

You aren't that far off.

Parents have taken on themselves a great obligation, in chosing to bring a life into the world. This is also a gift.

However, if you believe that obligations can only be assumed, and not imposed, even though the parents have given a gift to the child, there is no obligation on the child towards the parents unless or until they chose to take one.

And the child decides the extent of that obligation as they become an adult.

July 29, 2008 2:47 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

>And the child decides the extent of that obligation as they become an adult.

Right, and hence my post and my question - what is the appropriate extent of the obligation. Are there financial obligations, are there emotional obligations? To a certain extent, it depends on the person...

For example, having an elderly parent live with you can be a huge inconvenience, but is that a better alternative than putting them into a nursing home (assuming that it is not a situation where you just cannot take care of them at home)

July 29, 2008 2:57 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Right, and hence my post and my question - what is the appropriate extent of the obligation. Are there financial obligations, are there emotional obligations? To a certain extent, it depends on the person...

Honestly, it is up to the child. Not the parent. The parents already made their choice, and they had their chance to model their values for their children.

Now it is time for the children, grown to adulthood, to decide what obligations they will assume.

But the point is, they get the choice. No one gets to force an obligation upon you.

July 29, 2008 3:11 PM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

I think our intuitions are strongly affected by our closeness to OJ. Why not change the subject to Mormons? What obligations does a Mormon daughter have? What if she marries a non-Mormon? What if she wants to become an atheist? A Jew?

July 29, 2008 3:56 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

JA, I've been purposefully trying to steer this discussion away from OJ to a more general conversation...

In general though, the impact of interfaith marriages between christians, is not as severe as interfaith marriages between orthodox jews and gentiles. Here's, for example, the Catholic view on intermarriage.

July 29, 2008 4:23 PM  
Anonymous Rabban Gamliel said...

Dave before when you were speaking of a child needing to express some independence I was thinking it was a good idea and I still do, as it is good for the child's growth but your saying a child has no obligations to his parents and that people don't have obligations sounds like not growth but freedom for its own sake, just selfcenterdness would be the result.

Your parents raise and love you and you can choose on a whim to not return it or show gratitude? That's not a mature or nice adult. That's cruel. My parents died my father of cancer and my mother of kidney failure. How could I have sent them from this world without any love or gratitude for the love and help and guidance they gave me. A hug and kiss for my father as he slowly became weaker and weaker and could not return a kiss or hug, or how could I not be there for my widowed mother and hug and kiss her and encourage her? What a kind of a life is it if we just have freedom without responsibility? Freedom for what? To eat, drink, have sex and die like a beast?

July 29, 2008 5:23 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

I think you'll find that most Christian sects would consider marriage with a Mormon to be intermarriage.

Moreover, from the Mormon perspective, the gravest offense is leaving the faith. If you simply never were a Mormon, you still go to a lesser Paradise, and have the option to change your mind later. Those who were Mormon and lapsed have no such benefit.

July 29, 2008 6:24 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

RG:

I do not believe you can impose an obligation on someone else. No matter how kind, no matter how loving, you cannot impose an obligation.

Does someone who has unrequited love get to demand that the object of their affections return it? Does it change if they do many favors for that person?

Just because you raise them well, and love them deeply, you do not get to determine where they will draw the line. That is a decision they have to make for themselves.

Frankly, if you raise your children in such a way that when they become adults, they decide that they have no obligations to you, I'm not inclined to believe that you did all that splendid a job in raising them.

July 29, 2008 6:28 PM  
Anonymous Rabban Gamliel said...

"Does someone who has unrequited love get to demand that the object of their affections return it? Does it change if they do many favors for that person?"

No but we expect children to have a natural connection and love for their parents.

But if it really is voluntary then they are doing nothing wrong. But if they are so callous as to feel such a lack of love to their parents there is something disturbingly wrong with them. You yourself sense that at least on some level (which indicates a heart on your part) since you say:"Frankly, if you raise your children in such a way that when they become adults, they decide that they have no obligations to you, I'm not inclined to believe that you did all that splendid a job in raising them."

Your philosophy of no obligation is consistent with an atheist view denying reality to what cannot be measured. I say what I say based on a faith that there is more. I can't quite say I believe just because I want to but I can say I'm glad I do. If I sacrifice a bit by noty only using my head I think it's a good trade off. I would also comment that a child who is allowed to think that he or she can feel no obligation to the parents and act on it by neglecting them is being set up for self inflicted hurt. Unless they are so cold hearted that they don't care they will regret so much not reconciling and letting their parents know they love them. It will haunt them as much as a parent who shows no love for a child. If a child can feel no love for a parent how much can be imposed on the parent towards the child? So much of her complaining is based on eroneous feelings of a lack of love from her parents. It had to be explained to her that her parents laid down the law because they love her. Partisans were being selfserving in dissing her parents not simply in saying they disagree with them and that was really bad. She neeeds help and instead she was being encouraged to do something she would regret when older and wiser.
She is very angry (which is why here we feel free to say things we would be terrified to say on her site) and doesn't easily see things objectively and being young and not yet a parent doesn't help matters. A therapist would not have taken advantage of her that way.

July 29, 2008 8:53 PM  
Blogger Tobie said...

Whoa, this is quite a discussion. Did not exactly take the time to read it all, so I hope this isn't repetitive:

Modern society has a tacit assumption that everybody will end up finding their own path, an emphasis on self-realization and self-discovery that previous generations would probably have been baffled by, and generally nothing but praise for people who dare to question assumptions and find the path that works for them.

I'm not sure that this is %100 positive, but I do think that to a large degree, a parent also wants (or should want) his child to think for herself, instead of blindly accepting what is said to them. I am not, of course, a parent, but I have had conversations about what I would like my children to be and being a thinking person was always on that list. So yes, a child who rejected Orthodoxy would break my heart, but so would a child who never thought about anything in a deeper way.

Secondly (to get all lawyer-like), I'm not sure that we can bind children by any implicit contract that is created between them and their parents when they have no say in the matter. Part of your argument seems to be that parents invest a lot of time and money raising their child to be a certain way, and rejection of that path rejects that investment. I think that this is true only when the child was of an age to agree to such investment and such a deal (i.e. going to college). Parents have a general obligation to provide education and direction, and children have corresponding general obligations. But I think that anything specific is the perogative of the parent and should not place further obligations on the child. If your parents, for example, trained you to be a violin prodigy, I don't think you have an obligation to follow that specific path.

That said, I understand the decision of those parents for a host of different reasons, and I'm not sure that I would or could choose differently. But I don't think that that necessarily invalidates the decisions of the child.

July 29, 2008 11:32 PM  
Blogger Holy Hyrax said...

Great post.

As a parent (my eldest being 5), I can no appreciate everything every parent goes through. Everything you do is for them. You stay up late nights with them when their teeth hurt. You make sure they are properly clothed for the weather and spend most of your free time being with them.

I do not expect my children to be copies of me, but I think its all about attitude. This person that you refer to in your post has the worst attitude toward her parents. She is not the only one that has a hard time. I mean, God forbid that her parents did not want her to date at 15. I do not think any parent deserves to be thrown to the gutter like that, even if its only in ones heart.

It is much harder for a parent to lose a child than a child to lose a parent.

July 30, 2008 2:48 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home