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Children Teach Parents Lessons in Life

As parents, we are our children’s first teachers. Never mind the fact that I haven’t understood my son’s math homework since he was in third grade. However, when it comes to life lessons, such as teaching the value of helping others, Judaism takes our responsibility as good role models very seriously. In fact, the Hebrew word for parents, horim, shares the same root word morim, which means teacher.

Still, I have to admit that the roles are often reversed in my home, and my kids are the teachers who show me what really is important. I just have to keep my eyes and ears open at all times. The other day, when Sari described the white foamy bubbles in her bath as “fluffy as grandma’s sponge cake,” she unknowingly reminded me that I should use more metaphors in my writing.

My kids always make me stop and think, whether I’m in the mood to or not. When Sari asks me how many days she has been alive in her seven-plus years, it’s not good enough to make a guess. I go for the calculator. On a spiritual level, she challenges me to question the goodness of God when evil things happen in our world. These days, she is hung up on why God would send the “10 Plagues” and kill all those Egyptians and animals when they had done nothing wrong. If anything, she opens the door for discussions and makes me wonder how we hang onto our faith sometimes.

As Sari and her older brother Jack grow up, they continue to teach me in many different ways. For example, when Jack decided to donate the gifts that his friends gave him on his eleventh birthday to a local charity, I first thought he was kidding. I mean, it wasn’t even Mitzvah Day or an annual toy drive that we participate in. After all, a birthday is that one special day all year that gives children an excuse to update their wish lists with all the stuff that they didn’t get for Hanukah. So when Jack wanted to share his abundance with others less fortunate, I wondered if he felt okay. I pondered to myself, what were the strings attached to this deal? By any chance, were the strings attached to a brand new electric guitar for sale at a neighborhood music store?

So I asked him, “Jack, are you sure you want to give away your presents that your friends bring you, even if one of the gifts is a really cool baseball card?” Without hesitation he answered, “Yep, I already have everything I need.”

I experienced a parental epiphany at the moment I realized Jack truly wanted to make his birthday special not only for himself, but for other kids who might not have a closet full of brand new toys. Needless to say, I was so proud of my son. And like any good Jewish mother, I felt so guilty. (Then again, I always feel guilty about something). I was ashamed that I doubted his heartfelt desires to help other people in the first place. His generosity taught me that any lifecycle event, such as a birthday, anniversary, new baby, or in the memory of a loved one, is an opportunity to partner with God and each other to help “repair the world,” or tikkun olam.

After Jack’s birthday, when my kids and I delivered bags of Nerf footballs and Legos to the residents at HavenHouse, we didn’t realize we had fulfilled the mitzvah bikkur holim, which means to visit and help the sick. We didn’t think about tzedakah when we helped bring smiles to children and their families who came there from all over the country to benefit from advanced medical care in our community. All we knew is that it felt right, and it was a lesson worth repeating.
“Mishegas of Motherhood” is the creation of Ellie S. Grossman, a St. Louis freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom who never stays home. Her stories are inspired by the real life of her family, including her two children, toy poodle named Luci, and her husband, but not necessarily in that order. Feel free to send any comments, prayers or recipes to ellie@mishegasofmotherhood.com.