Saturday, September 3, 2011

What I learned from my summer vacation and yeah, we're celebrating an anniversary

The Chofesh HaGadol has come and gone and I thought I would blog about it every week, but well, you see how that worked out. Truth be told, there wasn't much to write about. Sure we did have our arguments about curfews and the like, but nothing out of the norm. The kids spent alot of time on the computer, but, hey so did I, and they did do other worthwhile, and even at times, productive things over the long summer.

And I had an epiphany of sorts this summer. I know some people reach this conclusion early in their parenting careers, but me, well I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Here it is:

Our kids are not computers, or robots to be programmed to be the way we want them to be. Or, to put it mildly, they are not us and maybe, just maybe, they want different things for themselves than we want for ourselves/them, think different thoughts and feel different feelings.

I know, sometimes I also surprise myself with my brilliance.

Case in point:

One of the things I very much looked forward about living in Israel was involvement in the Bnei Akiva youth movement. I was very active in the movement in the states during my college years and loved the philosophy, which believed in, among other things, Jews living in Israel. When we arrived here I very much forced encouraged the girls to join. I felt it would help them integrate, learn the language and make friends. It didn't work for Liat--she came in the ninth grade and it was a bit late for her to start. But I thought it would be good for Tali and Orli. Orli jumped right in, made friends, and started speaking Hebrew like a native. Tali also attended, but wasn't as enthusiastic. She has a really good friend who went with her and mostly stuck to this friend and other English speakers. Over the years she went on hikes and camped with BA and seemed to enjoy it, although never with passion. This summer, Tali did not go to camp, she worked and played and I really wanted her to go to the BA camp which was over a Shabbat (weekend). I just felt it would really be good for her and I signed her up even though she expressed to me that she didn't want to go. I didn't care. I wanted her to hang out with the girls who were going. A few days before the trip she finally had it out with me, telling me, "Mommy, I go to Bnei Akiva because I want to make you happy, not because it makes me happy."

When she said that, she looked so sad and all of a sudden I knew it was true. She never really loved going, but I always pushed her. Maybe, when she was younger it was okay to push. But she's 15 now. Her own person. She knows what she likes and she certainly knows what she doesn't like. How could I force her to go on a trip that she really didn't want to go on?

Why am forcing her to be more Israeli??? She has plenty of friends, most of whom do not attend Bnei Akiva, and she is happy with them. Yes they are anglo, but that's who she's comfortable with. They're nice kids. She speaks hebrew and does nicely in school. She seems to have found her place here. Why am I pushing her so much to be somewhere else?

So I've taken a step back with both her and sisters. Given them a bit more leeway in making decisions. It's hard to find the line between being a controlling parent and setting appropriate limits; I admit I struggle with this all the time. But there is a change in Tali, a tension that doesn't seem to be there anymore. She seems relieved. I only wish I had figured this out sooner.

Tomorrow, we celebrate the fourth anniversary of our arrival here in Israel. In some ways my life in the states seems further and further away and in others I still feel so strongly connected to the US. I came with three children, and four years later they are young women, each with their own individual personality, trying to figure things out for themselves. They are different here than they would have been had we stayed in the states. How could they not be? They still need me, but not necessarily for the things I think they need me for. And that's okay. Because at every stage of the game, whether here or there, they teach me, and make me a better parent and indeed a better person.


mother in israel said...

I love it when you're wise.

Ora said...

A life cycle of a flower is easy but you have to learn it to pass an exam.
First there's Germination ,Seedling , Bud, Flower, Pollination, Fertilization, Dispersal.
It doesn't have to start in any particular order because life cycles go round and round.
Hope you pass your exam.
I'm looking forward to passing mine.
You're kids are beautiful flowers indeed.
(oi, the shmaltz...)

Batya said...

enjoy your kids as they grow older

rutimizrachi said...

Atta girl. You're doing great. (And you remind me that I'm dong great, for pretty much the same reasons.) B'hatzlacha to you and to your beautiful flowers, as they become themselves.

Hanan S said...

Hey Baila - good insight, painful as it may be to admit that kids make choices other than those we would like them to make at first. I have gone through some of the same issues with my kids, even though they're all native-born Israelis. In the end, they choose what's right for them, but by allowing that we do them and ourselves a service, especially by maintaining open communication.

Gila Rose said...

That was beautiful! And we, too, love Tali just the way she is!

Mrs. S. said...

Happy aliyah-versary!

Kathleen said...

Very wise indeed! Even though I've had one older child already leave the nest, I'd forgotten about having that epiphany. It's a good reminder for me for the younger ones still at home.

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