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Letting Go

Letting Go

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©Raiza Malka Gilbert
©Raiza Malka Gilbert

In the hours after giving birth, due to the mixture of emotions and hormones, I didn’t know if I was dreaming or awake. I held my precious baby in my arms. What a miracle! How could it be that this human being had been inside of me? And now that he was out, why was it that my hands instinctively rubbed my belly as though he was still inside? When it was time to hand him over to the nurse, I felt like I was handing over a part of me. And with each child, I felt that same connection, and the same question popped into my mind: How is it that they were inside of me, and now they are not? How is it that they were a part of me, but now they are separate?How is it that they were inside of me, and now they are not?

When you look at your children, you search for similarities. You can’t help it. “He has my nose, my eyes, my laughter and love of life.” Some of these similarities you love, and some of them you don’t. “He’s so stubborn, she’s strong-willed . . . why does she have to take that quality after me!”

As a mother, you worry. “What is he eating?” “Is she sleeping?” “How is he doing in school?” “Does she get along with her classmates?” They succeed, you feel you succeed. They make a mistake, you feel that it’s your mistake. It’s confusing. Are your children a part of you, or are they separate?

The other day, my daughter and I were braiding challah dough. I pinched the three ropes together, and quickly braided one challah after another. My daughter took her three ropes, braided them, and then flattened the dough down with her hand. Don’t judge me, but my first thought was, “What are you doing? We’re not making pitas, we’re making challahs!” I kept quiet. At least, I tried to. I finally asked her, “What are you making?”

Challahs.”

“I never saw anyone flatten the dough like that before.”

“This is how I do it.”

“Okay.”

This is just one example out of a thousand interactions that transpire in the course of a day. And as I watched her flatten and make pancakes out of her challahs, I realized this is what King Solomon was speaking about when he taught, “Educate the child according to his way.”1 In the past, when I had heard this teaching, I understood it to mean that if children are artistic, they should learn with art; if musical, teach them with song. I understood that King Solomon was instructing me how to teach my child. But I think that there is more to this teaching from the wisest man in history.

Let children learn according to their way, not your way! Let children learn from their own trials and errors, from their own successes and failures (obviously, while establishing boundaries and rules, and instilling Torah values). My grandfather used to say, “Life is the best college education.” This means that I don’t have to interrupt and interject when they are trying to do something new. This means that I don’t have to direct them as they clean their room or draw a picture. This means that I can let them learn I don’t have to interrupt and interject when they are trying to do something newthat if you put your jacket on inside-out, it won’t button, and if you put the key in upside-down, it won’t turn the lock. This means that I can spare a few minutes of my precious time to wait while I let my children figure out how to do something on their own.

The parent-child connection is beautiful, and yes, there are so many similarities (and differences) between us and our children, but we are not the same. G‑d didn’t create us to have children through osmosis. The baby growing inside of you is not part of you in any way. It’s attached to you, it’s protected by you and it receives its nourishment and oxygen from you, but even as an unfertilized egg, it’s not you. As we love and worry, as we educate and nourish, we have to remember that our children are their own separate beings, have their own special mission, and will ultimately learn according to their own way.

Footnotes
Originally from northern California and a Stanford University graduate, Elana Mizrahi now lives in Jerusalem with her husband and children. She is a doula, massage therapist, writer, and author of Dancing Through Life, a book for Jewish women. She also teaches Jewish marriage classes for brides.
Artwork by Raiza Malka Gilbert. Raiza Malka graduated from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago in 2010 and has since changed the focus of her work to Judaism. Raiza Malka is inspired by whimsical illustrations, paintings and sculptures that largely inform her work, she is also touched by anything having to do with light. Raiza Malka currently works primarily in water color on paper.
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MJ February 14, 2014

Elana, you give me so much peace and comfort with your articles! Thank you so so so much! You already helped me so many times! Todah! Reply

Anonymous UK February 9, 2014

So true but very hard to watch them fall and hurt themselves Reply

Lisa Providence, RI February 7, 2014

Letting Go My mother had the same problem. She thought I was an extension of herself, believing that if I said or did anything wrong, it was a reflection on her, that she didn't bring me up properly. Even after I became an adult, she still yelled at me for making mistakes.

I was born with a mind of my own, and I can think for myself. I told my mother: "I'm NOT you! You have your own way of doing things and I have mine, and my way isn't wrong or bad." My mother understood that, and she was able to see that there are so many ways to do things. Reply

Anonymous Canada February 5, 2014

Excellent article . As a grandparent I watch the younger generation trying to creat clones of themselves and I wish there was a way to tellnthwm to let their childre develp into the wonderful individuals G d intended them to be. Reply

connie Nebraska, USA February 4, 2014

Thank You I was taught to let my children grow like lambs until they were six. I watched them grow, play, learn, make mistakes, be together and apart. I watched their personalities grow, saw their kindness, immaturity, and let them continue being themselves. It took some doing on my part to give them room, however it became useful when they got older, I was to trust them. They had proven to me they were trustworthy, without me? I do not know how that happened? Did my trust in them to be themselves, help them be trustworthy? And trust me? Reply

Moshe Israel February 4, 2014

An amazing change happens to the baby before birth and after. In Halacha (as it is brought in Chassidus), the baby is considered a limb of the mother. Once it has been severed from its mother, it takes on its own identity. Reply

Craig Hamilton Sandwich, MA February 4, 2014

Educate the Child In Their Way Once a friend descibed it this way to me. "We let them run wild and then we real them in." Reply

Sue USA February 4, 2014

Wow..! What a lovely article indeed! Simple, factual and it answered so many questions for me. I shall apply this in my life .. even if my daughter is now already a mature woman with a family of her own.

This article makes me realise that all this time, my problems have been me trying to teach her my way, instead of allowing her to be herself. How simple .. and I never knew! Oh thank you so much for opening my eyes through such a simple article. Reply

Anonymous Chicago February 3, 2014

How true and beautifully written. As I prepare to send my oldest daughter to seminary in Israel this summer, GD willing, your words are both healing and fortifying. Thank you! Reply

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