I was eagerly gearing up for my international trip. I planned on traveling to Europe and touring Greece. In order to prepare, I began studying the language of the country and researched the different sites I hoped to visit. I really wanted to be ready for all the new experiences, so I also started eating various Greek delicacies. I checked out the weather reports, so I could figure out what type of clothing I needed to pack and if I needed to purchase anything new.
As the day of my flight approached, my excitement started to build. I boarded the plane and began to relax, feeling confident that all my preparations were going to ensure I maximized every moment of this vacation.
Takeoff was smooth, and I sat back, relaxed and eager. As we traveled, the plane bumped through a few air pockets of turbulence, and my heart rate increased. Soon after, the pilot made an announcement that the plane was being rerouted to Russia, instead of Greece!
I began to panic! What did he mean, Russia??? I didn’t speak a word of Russian, and I had no clue of where to stay and what to eat! I didn’t even pack the right clothing in my bags—I had prepared for warm weather, and now I would be freezing!
Welcome back to motherhood!!! How many of us have been in this kind of situation with our children? Children for whom we had certain expectations and dreams, and tried our best to raise and guide down a certain path, and then, POOF, along comes the teenage years, and we are redirected to a totally new destination.
Whatever happened to the adage, “Like father, like son? Like mother, like daughter”?? What goes on in the head of a teenager?
Obviously, there are many diverse and complicated answers to this question, but the one thing we can control in our redirection from Greece to Russia is our own reactions. How can we understand these unplanned curves in the road?
Raising our children is not simply a way for us to receive nachas, but an opportunity which Hashem has bestowed upon us. He didn’t give us children for our personal pleasure, but rather, for the purpose of Olam Chessed Yibaneh—a world created and built on kindness. And we are obligated to raise our children on this foundation—the basis of chesed.
It is important for us to realize that it is not bad for a child to assert his unique, separate self to his parents. While a parent may feel hurt or disrespected, these are feelings, not facts. Parents should try to understand that their child’s need to be different from them is not a statement of rejection. Rather, the child has only developed into a separate person. Hopefully, both parent and child can learn to respect each other’s thoughts and feelings.
Unfortunately, there are some parents who find it impossible to consider a child’s individual self as anything but an attack on their own way of seeing the world. In such cases, there may be nothing a child can do but simply learn that his parents’ wounded feelings are not his responsibility.
In that instance, the parents will never get to Greece, and they will most definitely not enjoy Russia! Ultimately, it is on us as parents to redirect our thinking and our process, or we will just cause ourselves distress.
We also have to remind ourselves that no matter what we are going through with our children, they are still a Tzelem Elokim—created in the image of Hashem. This should become the connecting force that guides us when we want to react to any behavior we might not have expected. Hopefully, this will enhance a more positive mindset and help us focus on providing more loving support for our children.
When I was a young girl, I loved watching tennis, and my two favorite players, Andre Agassi and Stefi Graff, ended up marrying each other. Surprisingly, their son, Jaden Agassi, is one of the top athletes…in baseball!
This might seem at odds with the fact that his father is an 8-time Grand Slam winner in tennis, and his mother is a 22-time Grand Slam winner. Both are members of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. However, both have been supportive of their son’s different choice of sport.
That is the key word: supportive. In order to support our children, we have to focus on the positives and give them continuous love. We need to be open to communication and learn to connect with the path they are on. You might never get to Greece, but if you keep an open mind and look for the positives, you may actually enjoy that trip to Russia.
Practical tips for an enjoyable trip to Russia:
· Actively encourage your children to do their best, not only in school, but also with their hobbies and interests.
· Listen without judgment, and seek to understand their concerns and challenges.
· Acknowledge their achievements, and support them through mistakes and challenges.
· Set consistent expectations and consequences to help them to feel secure and able to predict outcomes.
· Treat them fairly, and develop a trusting relationship.
· Compliment first, and focus on the positive, daily.