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October 14, 1988 - Image 51

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-10-14

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

WHY
NOT
CLOTHING

There are non-physical
ways to dishonor a child, to
insult the divine image within
him. Parents may boast that
their children are "chips off
the old block." Those chips
are frequently results from
hammering away on the
child's uniqueness so as to
shape him in the image of
Papa or Mama. For a child to
be respected means that he
not be in the shape of his
parents. Children respected
are not extensions of parental
narcissism.
"Respect," etymologically,
means to think again. The
proposed commandment to
honor sons and daughters
may help parents rethink
their roles and reparent their
relationships. Parents, for ex-
ample, claim to want only
their children's happiness.
But consider the parents of
Little Leaguers who grow
angry at the ball dropped or
the bat swung poorly or the
umpire's call. Is that parental
anger for the sake of the
child's happiness? Is that
frightened little boy on the
bench happy or meant to be
made happy? Consider the
parent registering disappoint-
ment at low grades and lash-
ing out against the "failure"
with the cutting comment,
"Why can't you be like your
brother or your sister?" It is
neither happiness for the
child nor respect for the child
that operates here.
Respect means to recognize
the inviolable uniqueness in
the other, the gift of humani-
ty breathed into the nostrils
of the other, the talents of
character which cannot be
measured by gold stars,
marks, and grades. Respect
means to search beneath the
symptoms of the purported
laziness of children, so as to
uncover the real . blocks to
their learning. Respect means
to accept the limitations of
children who may not be aca-
demically gifted. Neither par-
ents nor children are born
equal. Have we no blessings
left for children beyond their
SAT scores? Are children to
be respected only on condi-
tion that they are smart or
strong or pretty?
Respect means to think
again. Parents need to ask
themselves at every stage of
the development of their chil-
dren how much their own
frustrations and conceits are
involved in the "success" of
their children. They must ask
themselves whether shepping
naches is a joy in the growth
and maturity of the child's
character or whether it is
pride in the reflected glory
which the child's success
casts upon parental genes
and chromosomes.
Is the naches at the Bar-
Bat Mitzvah drawn from the

piety and commitment and
Jewish identity of the child,
or does it derive from the ap-
plause of the audience for the
child's performance, the
doing of the "good job"?
However well-intentioned
the parental altruism may be,
the argument that all the
pushing and pressure is for
the sake of the children must
be earnestly rethought. Par-
ental motivations must be
carefully examined if we
mean to respect children wise-
ly and lovingly.
Weddings, for example, on
the surface of things are hap-
py events; florists, bands,
photographers, elaborate
menus are paid for by par-
ents, and all for the sake of
the children's happiness. But
in some cases the children
appear unhappy and seem-
ingly ungrateful. The expan-
sive wedding has turned out
to be a parental celebration of
their acquired economic and
social status, the parental
guest list wholly irrelevant to
the bride and groom who re-
main unconsulted. Parents
complain that their generos-
ity is unappreciated. But they
are blind to the unwitting
disrespect to children when
the bottom line of the conver-
sation is, "After all, we are
paying for it."
Honor thy son and thy
daughter is an unwritten
precept correlative with that
commandment which ordains
filial respect. Both are mor-
ally and pedagogically inter-
dependent imperatives. True
enough, respect is not love,
but when respect is enacted
with wisdom and sensitivity
it may lead to the love that
cannot be commanded. The
fruition of parental and filial
respect is celebrated in the
prophet Malachi's dream.
When Elijah will come, he
will "turn the heart of the
fathers to the children and
the heart of the children to
their fathers" (Malachi 3:24).

••••••

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

51

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