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Instant Parenting or Slow Process?

“See results now!”, “Guaranteed immediate improvement!”, the ads blare at us everywhere. For parents desperate to get a full night’s sleep or win cooperation from a recalcitrant child, these parenting experts' assurances shine alluringly, but alas are seldom correct. As opposed to parents in novels or movies, those of us in real life know that lasting change rarely (if ever) comes instantaneously, but rather through repeated incremental steps. It is true that a parent can suddenly scare or motivate a child into promising perfect behavior, but the path to improvement doesn’t begin there but only at the point the parent or child starts taking small, regular actions day in and day out. An authentic parenting course won’t promise immediate results, but rather lays out small changes a parent can implement consistently over time.

This week’s Torah portion (weekly section of the Five Books of Moses) describes two different offerings directly connected to each other. The first is the Omer barley offering brought to the Temple on the second night of Passover. (Leviticus 23:10). Afterwards, we’re told to count fifty days from the time the barley offering is brought  all the way to the following holiday when we bring an offering of two wheat flour loaves, the festival called Shavuot (23:15-16). We are currently in this period between Passover and Shavuot, and although we no longer have the Temple in Jerusalem, nevertheless each evening Jews around the world count the Omer linking the two holidays, “Today is the fifteenth day, which is two weeks and one day, of the Omer” and so on.

Passover and Shavuot aren’t merely two festivals separated by a series of counting days, they are also respectively the dates when the Jewish people were redeemed from Egypt and fifty days later received the Torah on Mt. Sinai. One wonders why couldn’t we receive the Torah immediately after our miraculous redemption from slavery? Why must we count fifty days before experiencing the Divine revelation at Sinai? Rabbi Aharon Lopiansky of Silver Spring, Maryland, shares a beautiful explanation. The miracles during the Exodus were overwhelming and breathtaking, but lasting change doesn’t come from inspirational moments or even magnificent miracles. True growth comes from putting in regular work repeatedly, making each day count as part of a progression towards a goal. The Jewish nation wasn’t ready to receive the Torah after the miracles of the Exodus. They had to work on themselves, counting each day as they prepared themselves to become God’s chosen nation.

This spiritual reality is reflected in the nature of each festival’s offerings. On Passover we brought quick growing barley that was barely processed before being brought to the Temple. Fifty days later the offering is time-consuming bread, made of wheat that was harvested, winnowed, ground, sifted, kneaded, risen, and baked. The first was quickly grown and offered, but the loaves of Shavuot, the holiday of the giving of the Torah, took sustained effort and patience to prepare.

Raising children is more akin to baking bread than roasting barley. Human growth is slow and often happens in tiny increments.  Wise parents keep their eyes on the endgame rather than on simply making today more manageable. Wise  parents don’t pin their hopes on one transformative experience, but instead commit to slowly and consistently helping their children grow and develop day by day. Wise parents don’t panic when a child’s maturation seems frustratingly slow or give up when they need to remind the child of a family rule dozens of times without obvious effect. There is nothing wrong with a parent who must repeat an instruction to brush teeth every morning and night and there is nothing wrong with a child who needs to be reminded to brush teeth twice a day for years. Parenting isn’t a short term proposition. Parenting is a mission, both a privilege and responsibility, that takes daily effort and investment for many years. It is far less important for a parent to get any one moment perfectly right with their kids than it is for a parent to keep striving during millions of moments. Parenting isn't instantaneous, it's a slow process.

This article is written in memory of Petru Boscov, 35 from Moldovia. Petru was an aide to Moshe Ridler, a 91 year old Holocaust survivor. Both Petru and Moshe were murdered by Hamas terrorists on October 7 in Kibbutz Holit. May Hashem give comfort to his wife Aliona and their three daughters, ages 9, 7, and 3 and may He speedily bring true and complete justice to the world.


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