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Kiwis and Kids: Why They Both Need Time to Ripen

Kiwis and Kids: Why They Both Need Time to Ripen

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My family loves fruits and vegetables, thank G‑d. By now I’m usually pretty good at picking out delicious produce. I say “usually” but not “always” because, as I write this, I’m looking at some very hard—yet rotting—kiwis that are sitting on my countertop. What happened?

About a month ago, I was very excited to see that my fruit lady was carrying kiwis, which are not easy to find here in Israel. My children love this fruit, which being high in Vitamin C is perfect for the winter months. I bought two baskets of the hard kiwis, thinking that within a few days they would be ripe and ready to eat. I was wrong. One week passed and then I was excited to see my fruit lady carrying kiwisanother. They continued to be hard as rocks. Frustrated, I cut one open just to see what was happening. The seeds weren’t even black. The flesh was a very pale green, almost white. I tried to take a bite, but I couldn’t—too hard, too bitter, too sour. Now, four weeks after I bought them, these kiwis are still hard as rocks. They never ripened, and they are starting to rot. What happened? Simple: they were picked too early—way before their ripening time.

King Solomon encapsulated it best in the book of Ecclesiastes (3:1–8):

Everything has an appointed season, and there is a time for every matter under the heaven. A time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot that which is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal; a time to break and a time to build. A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time of wailing and a time of dancing. A time to cast stones and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing. A time to seek and a time to lose; a time to keep and a time to cast away. A time to rend and a time to sew; a time to be silent and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.

Yes, everything in life—not just fruits—has its time, its season. Every person does as well.

I feel like King Solomon is speaking directly to me as a mother. As parents, we sometimes have expectations of our children that are beyond reasonable. We try to “pick the fruit” way too early. We tell a 5-year-old to sit quietly. He can sit and be quiet for 5 minutes, maybe 10, but then he starts to fidget and kick his legs, to make noise and ask questions. He’s bored. We shush him, saying, “Can’t you sit still and be quiet?” No, he can’t, not after 15 minutes, anyway. Why? He’s a normal, healthy child. This is his season to move and to talk.

Or we expect our teenage daughter, who’s at least two decades younger than us, to already be a balaboosta, a homemaker. She’s not, at least not yet. So while she can have chores and responsibilities, and while she can definitely do acts of kindness, we certainly can’t expect more of her than she can or should give.

These are just two scenarios; I could give you many more. We often demand and expect—we want ripe fruit—but we forget that if we don’t give our children the time that they need to be children, later down the road, instead of ripe fruit we will, G‑d forbid, get rotten fruit. If we don’t allow children to be children, if we crush their beautiful creativity, their energy, their joie de vivre, their playfulness, what will happen? As adults, will they rebel and act like children in grown-up clothes? Will they be happy and full of life, or frustrated and Will they be happy and full of life, or frustrated and miserable?miserable? I can’t say for sure, but they will have missed out on something wonderful and special, and we, missing King Solomon’s lesson, will be responsible.

The other day it started to pour, and I realized that my eldest left our home without a jacket or umbrella. Knowing that he gets out of school at 4 PM, I ran there 10 minutes beforehand (his school is, thankfully, only a few blocks from our home) with a coat and umbrella for him. I felt like Supermom. I ran into him on the way, soaking wet, laughing, running with his friends. He saw me and his face fell. I got the message: This Supermom’s super presence was not wanted (or needed)! I turned around and went home (I did hand him the umbrella, though—I couldn’t help myself), leaving him to enjoy the walk through the rain with his friends. “Please G‑d,” I thought, “let me allow him to enjoy these precious childhood moments.”

I glance over at my rotting kiwis, and I know that I need to take King Solomon’s wise words to heart. Everything has its time, its season.

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.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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gloria nz January 2, 2016

How to ripen the kiwi fruit (from a kiwi - new zealander) To ripen kiwifruit just wrap them in newspaper for two or three days. Reply

Sefira Ross seattle December 22, 2015

This was so beautifully written! I love the connection you've made and how sensitively you described it. Thank you for sharing the motherly inspiration. Reply

Anonymous December 3, 2015

It is hard to do this as a parent too if you grew up in a very formal, highly structured society (I am not referring to the Jewish community) where childhood is nipped at the bud at around age 3-5.
I realized this when recently I saw a group of normally developing boys of my son's(who has special needs) age and even older, totally immersed in physical play. There was lots of friendly loudness and roughness and laughter.
With all the inner and outer pressure over a decade to "train" my son to be "normal" on top of my culture I brought from my country, I had forgotten about the natural side of childhood and boyishness. Reply

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