9 Kislev 5781 / Wednesday, November 25, 2020 | Torah Reading: Vayeitzei
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The Freebie Gene    

The Freebie Gene

Bargaining is like a sport for us. We just enjoy seeing how far we can push the other person before they crack and run off to the nearest insane asylum...


Last night I got such nachas (joy, pride) from my kids. No, they didn’t come home with an A+ on their test or anything unimportant like that. They didn’t spontaneously pick up their toys, either. Actually, if they did, I would be very worried that they didn’t feel well, God forbid. No. It was much better than that.


They came home with three bags of tea.


But it wasn’t just any tea. It was free tea. You know, tea that they didn’t pay for. Frizzle.


I know what you’re thinking. No, they didn’t steal it. They just asked the waitress for some bags of tea. Here’s what happened: my husband took our three older kids out for dinner when he got back from his relaxing, stress-free, three week vacation to the States. I got to stay home with the two little ones because I’m too exclusive to go out to some commoner’s restaurant for dinner. I only dine at the fanciest, five-star restaurants that serve royalty and movie stars. Maybe that’s why I never go anywhere.


As they were enjoying their fun night out, I was desperately trying to keep my mouth from devouring whatever my hungry eyes saw, in the hopes that they would bring me some leftovers. I just realized how pathetic that sounds. Anyhow, my two-hour diet was not in vain, as they did bring me some awesome cold ravioli drowning in some mystery pink sauce.


Why couldn’t I get a babysitter for the little ones, you ask? Silly readers, that’s what normal people do!


When they barged in through the front door, each kid toppling over the other as they tried to squeeze past each other, they excitedly began talking to me all at the same time. In the middle of all of the excitement and shushing that I had to do, my second son shoved an unopened tea bag in front of my nose.


A wide grin slowly spread across my face as I began to grasp the irony and humor of it all. I can’t tell you enough how strangely proud I was. But, underneath the pride that my kids figured out how to score stuff for free, was a nagging feeling of, “Uh, oh.” Let me explain.


Nearly twelve years ago, (is it really already 12 years???) when I was pregnant with my oldest son, a few girlfriends decided to rent a hotel room for the night and have a girls’ night out. What was originally supposed to be a fun night enjoyed by nearly ten girls ended up being enjoyed by two exhausted new moms and a tired, run-down, fighting a nasty cold, pregnant woman.


So we hung out in the hotel room, trying not to doze off mid-conversation like a bunch of old ladies. Eventually, we did doze off, and only realized it when we woke up all disoriented the next morning. I was so confused, that when I saw my friend lying next to me, I exclaimed in surprise, “You’re not my husband!” My friend rolled her eyes and rolled back over.


Later that morning, when we were finally dressed, we walked around to the different restaurants, deciding where we would eat breakfast. At each restaurant we stopped at, I couldn’t help but try to get something for free. My friends were very entertained by my chutzpah. In the end, I did score a free lunch by the pool for all of us. What can I say- it’s my bedazzling charm.


In reality, I think it’s a genetic mutation that got passed down to me by my Israeli parents. It’s a fact that there are no better bargainers than Jews, particularly Israeli Jews. Bargaining is like a sport for us. We just enjoy seeing how far we can push the other person before they crack and run off to the nearest insane asylum. You can read all about the Israeli charm in my article, “You’re Israeli, No?”


Bargaining, however, is not enough for me. I come from a family dynasty who just has to try and get something, anything, for free. It’s almost a type of compulsion, if you will.


So, as we were walking around the hotel, I spotted a little coffee stand in the lobby. I was feeling very run down, so I ordered a cup of tea. I don’t remember if I didn’t have money on me, or the tea was so ridiculously expensive that I couldn’t pay for it in good conscience, but for some reason I ended up telling the lady that I couldn’t pay. “Don’t worry about making the tea,” I said automatically, “I’ll just take the bag and make it upstairs!”


 “No problem!” she blurted out, as she handed me the tea bag without thinking. My friends were falling over themselves with laughter as we walked away. Why didn’t she just offer to charge it to my room? Why did she agree to that? Isn’t the whole point of charging for the tea, the tea bag itself? Why couldn’t I have been satisfied with the free lunch that I already managed to swindle for the three of us?


Oh, I have loads of stories like this. Loads. Like I said, it’s not my fault. It’s that defective freebie gene that I got from my parents. I don’t know how to turn it off.


What great irony, nearly 12 years later, to see my children walk in with free bags of tea! Hashem has a fantastic sense of humor!


Of course, we know it’s much more than that. Our kids pick up on our attitudes and behavior on such a deep, subconscious level. And that’s just the stuff that they’re absorbing without us actively imposing on them! What about the stuff that they see us do every day?


Now that’s scary. When they see us get mad, act selfishly, or do anything that’s unbecoming, you can be certain that they’re absorbing every little ounce of our behavior - and with no filter. Is it any wonder that our kids turn into “Mini Me’s”?


Is there any way to minimize the damage, and possibly even reverse it? You know it! Since we are the ones that influence our children’s behavior, that means we are largely in control of how they will act when they are adults! I amaze myself with my brilliant deductive reasoning.


Therefore, if we want our children to have good character traits, such as patience, compassion, joy, etc., etc., we must work on developing them within ourselves!  


Read Rav Arush’s eye-opening parenting guide, Garden of Education. When you’re done with it, read it again! I guarantee - in 18 years or so, you’ll thank me!

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  Great Read
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