Mirror Mirror on the Wall
I didn’t grow up religious but my husband comes from an observant family. Our upbringings were quite different. My parents made Bacardi Breezers magically appear in the fridge, while his parents prayed for their children's spiritual well-being.
As with many observant homes, my in-laws' home is steeped in meaningful words and timeless traditions. So, you can imagine my mortification when the following scenario unfolded...
We were recently married and I was comfortably adjusting to his family’s dynamics. It was Erev Pesach and after months of deep cleaning, the house was ready to welcome the eight-day holiday. All seven siblings were home, and even though it was crowded, a quaint serenity was present.
My two-year-old son took advantage of the festive spirit and sat down to enjoy his first of many Kosher-for-Pesach yogurts. With the sparkly clean kitchen almost all to himself, he began peeling open the cover.
To his dismay, this yogurt differed greatly from those he regularly consumed throughout the year. In a casual tone, my little angel who spent his days singing Shema and listening to stories about the Parsha, muttered the words:
“What the f***?!”
Suddenly the seemingly empty kitchen started to feel very full. Perplexed looks came my way. Standing before my father-in-law wide-eyed, I was nothing more than the kid with a cookie in hand, OJ Simpson fleeing in a Bronco, every mom standing by the trash holding her kid’s artwork.
Moments after those three words left his little mouth, so many thoughts raced through my mind. Searching for an out, I tried to blame the school he didn’t yet attend, the shows we didn’t allow him to watch and his father, who rarely ever swears.
My father-in-law, being a truly righteous man, pushed the event aside and made nothing of it. That night he most likely cried into his pillow.
Thereafter I started making some changes.
I stopped saying things like:
“In Australia it’s socially acceptable to swear.”
“Swearing is how I express myself.”
“Smart people swear more.”
And I started shutting up.
Because when it comes down to it, kids are our mirrors.
Nowadays, I don’t blame the universe when I see my kids doing something wrong. Instead, I look at myself. This realization may cause parents to break a small sweat, but such is reality.
The place where your son scolding his sister is a direct reflection of when you yelled at him to stop denting the wall with his rollerblades.
It’s the place where your daughter’s teacher sends videos of her showing the class how to ice skate on the gym floor.
The place where your kids refuse to eat dark chicken because they overheard you confessing your dislike for it.
This is the place where your son suggests ordering a new glove online to replace the one he lost. Then, when you explain we can’t just buy things all day, he responds, “but that’s what you do?”
This is the place where little people watch your every move and then replicate it in their own way. It’s the place where you are awakened - long before you’ve had enough sleep - to little piles of wet cement ready to be molded into wonderful creations.
Of course, there is room for kids to understand their parents are human and make mistakes too. And obviously child-rearing comes down to a mix of nature and nurture. But being pushed to improve and work on yourself is not a bad thing. There is a time and place for accepting people the way they are, and also a time for trying to be better. Especially when your actions are being recorded, filed and stored away for later use.
Zvi Ghivelder the director of Brazilian Television, visited the Lubavitcher Rebbe with his wife in 1991. “What must I do for all my children to be good?” he asked. This was the Rebbe’s response:
“When they (your children) will see that in your home you conduct yourself as G-d desires, they will want to emulate your behavior. This will bring them success from G-d, who instructed us to fulfill mitzvos and study Torah. In order to influence children: When children see that their parents behave differently, the parent’s words have no effect. But when you will show a living example, together with your wife in your home, and they see this example in day-to-day life, then when you will talk to them, it will affect them to behave in the same way. Even if not all at once, at least step by step day by day.”