12 Kislev 5781 / Saturday, November 28, 2020 | Torah Reading: Vayeitzei
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The Bamboo Children    

The Bamboo Children

Since we're a stubborn species, most subtle hints simply go unnoticed. So, Hashem has to keep speaking louder and louder to us, often by way of our children...


Dear Racheli,
I am an exhausted and frustrated mother of three young kids. The problem is that they almost never listen to me! No matter what angle I try, from bribes to punishment and everything in between, nothing seems to work. Why isn't their behavior improving? Help!
Hmmmm... Your problem sounds quite unusual. I've never heard of children who don't listen. There are two possible explanations for this: either you're doing something very wrong, or your children came from a planet in a neighboring galaxy where they breed children with a genetic mutation that prevents them from listening.
All joking aside, the first thing I can say is: take comfort in the fact that 99.99999% of parents are going through exactly the same thing. The second thing I can say is: you think they don't listen now? Honey, I promise you it's gonna get a whole 'lot worse when they're teenagers!
Now, didn't that just make you feel so much better?
Okay, let's break this issue down into several parts. We'll call the first part “children's behavior.” First of all, you need to take a step back and look at their behavior from a more objective point of view. I know that's nearly impossible, but try it when they're asleep or not home. They always look cuter that way. Are your kids acting up in ways that are normal, so to speak? Are their tantrums and fighting, though incredibly annoying and aggravating, nothing to worry about? Or, do they get violent, either with themselves or their siblings? If you're honestly not sure what falls into “normal” (wow, I hate that word) territory, you should meet with your pediatrician ASAP and discuss how to move forward.
Assuming their behavior is nothing to worry about, let's move on to the next part: “parental expectations.” Here's where much of the problem lies. To understand much of where we get our expectations from, we need to travel back into the mythical and ancient past of our own childhood. Thank goodness time travel is quick, because I'm sure that someone out there would ask the most dreaded and annoying question for every parent on Earth: “Are we there yet?”
When we were kids, it's likely that many of us were punished with a good smack on the (fill in the blank) when we misbehaved. Usually, it didn't take many of these smacks to whip us into shape, or at least, submission. I think it's a fair generalization to say that most of our parents didn't tolerate our acting up the way we tolerate our kids' outbursts.
Now, when we see our own children behaving like wild animals that just escaped from the zoo, we are baffled as to why they don't respond to our attempts at discipline with the same efficiency as we did. The problem, you see, is that we don't have those super-cool tranquilizer dart guns that the zookeepers have. Where can I score some of those? Maybe on Amazon or ebay.
Now for part three: “the cracked mirror.” Rav Arush explains that our children are our mirrors. Their misbehavior reflects our own misbehavior, and it is up to us to figure out where. Now, there are many parents who have a very hard time accepting this fact, which is why I called this part “the cracked mirror.” Obviously, the mirror must be faulty, because it was made in China, and we parents are perfect! Doesn't that nonsensical principle of infallibility also apply to us??
As adults, it is very easy to forget that we have a Father Who is watching our every move, and doing what is necessary to help us keep our souls clean. Since we're a stubborn species, most subtle hints simply go unnoticed. So, our Father has to keep speaking louder and louder to us until we hear Him. Unfortunately, this means that by the time He has to yell at us to fix something about ourselves, He's doing it through our children. Seriously, could you think of any louder yelling than wild, out-of-control kids screeching at the top of their lungs as they terrorize each other?
Here's the next part of this magic formula: “selective memory.” In high school psychology, we were taught of a term called “sweet lemons” or something like that. Basically, it means that a person remembers something bad that happened in a positive way. For example, a family vacation you took as a kid might have been extremely boring for you at the time, but for some reason you now remember it as a happy memory- probably because you didn't have to do all the packing, shlepping, stoller pushing, and most importantly, paying. So, yeah, it was a great vacation!
Could it be that we do the same things with our memories of our own behavior as children? Is it possible, even in the slightest, that we might not remember exactly how we behaved? How dare anyone suggest that we were less than perfect children! We never fought with our siblings, or talked back to our parents! And, even if we did, that happened just once!
Last, but not least: “patience.” Now that we've figured out that our children's craziness is actually normal and expected, and we adults are masters at self-deception suffering from severe amnesia, we can now work on cultivating one of the rarest and most difficult traits to master- patience. Let's take a lesson from the Chinese bamboo tree. For the first four years after planting, this amazing tree shows no signs of sprouting. But then, in the fifth year, the tree suddenly breaks through the soil and begins to grow at an astonishing rate. In just five weeks, the tree can grow up to 90 feet!
What is Hashem trying to teach us with this wondrous tree?
He wants us to learn patience!
In our instant world, we expect everything to happen before we can blink. Pretty soon, we'll be like the Jetsons, where we can put a little food capsule in the microwave and a seven-course gourmet meal pops out in a nanosecond. I think we're the most impatient generation in the history of mankind. Waiting in line for anything is pure torture, and our entire adult lives are spent rushing here and there.
How many of us can honestly say that we have patience for our children?
As far as I know, you can't order patience on Amazon or ebay, and if you could, you'd probably have it shipped overnight. Wait, here's another lame joke: Doctor, “Nurse, get me some patience, STAT!” I'm truly sorry. Sometimes I can't help myself.
Have no fear, Rav Arush is here! And he's armed with the book that will improve any and all parent/child relationships like no other: The Garden of Education. This book should definitely be shipped overnight.
Take heart, Alissa- if you follow the wonderful advice in this book, I am sure that your bamboo children will sprout into beautiful, caring, well-balanced adults who will reach their fullest potential.

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