Sunday, April 24, 2011

He's YOUR child!

One of the central, yet often overlooked, chapters of the Seder night revolves around four sons. They are a diverse bunch- a wise, rebellious, simple and silent son who all come to hear the story of the Exodus. I know some people glance around the Seder table and mentally rate the guests according to this list (Jeremy's a genius, definitely the wise son, Harold's rather simple and Dean's biting sarcasm qualifies him as the wicked one...). 

But, I suspect that we get so caught up in the myth of the characters that we forget the Torah introduces them as "your son". Pesach is a time for parent-to-child education, in line with the Torah's instruction "You shall tell (the story of Exodus) to your child". So, the Torah had you in mind when it listed the "son" archetypes.

You may have a wise son (which Jewish parent doesn't?), he's gifted and frets if his grade drops below an A+. You know your budding Einstein needs to be stimulated, so you sign him up for extra maths, public speaking and a plethora of extra-curricular activities to keep his mind buzzing.

Or your son might be the school rascal, a troublemaker who spends more time in the principal's office than on the playground. He has ADHD appended to a string of other abbreviated disorders that make him a teacher's nightmare. You pack him full of Ritalin or whatever other miracles drugs the experts recommend and hope to dull him to a manageable behaviour level so he can get an education.

You might have a simple son, who you schlep off to therapies after school because of his learning difficulties, low muscle-tone and poor fine-motor skills. 

Your son could be the silent type; one who doesn't challenge you with the depth of the genius nor with the barbs of rebellious chutzpah. You plonk a PS3 into his hands or seat him in front of the TV and he's happy. 

Whatever your child(ren)'s nature, today's world allows you to outsource their needs. 

Pesach, in typical forward-thinking Torah fashion, says you need to remember to be your child's parent. Sure, you're entitled to use the world's offerings to help your child, but never forget that you are their parent. The Torah addresses parents in the singular: "You teach your child." Pesach reminds us that we dare not abdicate our responsibility to take a personal interest in each of our children, to recognize that each of them is an individual. 

Talk to your child on his terms. Listen to what he says and respond appropriately. And if he doesn't talk, coax him into conversation. 

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