Dear Readers,

Every time I find myself wondering if I am hovering just a little too much over my children, I think of popcorn packaging. It came in my box from Amazon the other day, protecting my new light fixture.

I’m sure you, too, have encountered this kind of packaging. It’s those little tiny white bubbles used to fill a box to ensure that the contents, and all its little pieces, are well-insulated.

As you take out whatever is in your package, these circles are bound to fall on your floor, your counter and any other surface within several feet. As you try to sweep them up, they fly all over, escaping from your broom. Static ensures that they get stuck on the walls and other vertical surfaces (and your clothing as well).

So, while these popcorn bubbles are great at protecting, they are also a pesky nuisance, often getting in the way.

Which brings me back to parenting—or really, any form of mentoring.

Parenting is a challenging balancing act. There is a fine line between hovering too closely in your protectiveness and being too laissez-faire, not guiding or protecting enough. As parents, we need to be aware of what is happening in our children’s lives, while also giving them the space to grow, make their own decisions and test their own water—even if that means sometimes making their own mistakes. We try to prevent them from doing something that will hurt them or their future, but at the same time, we cannot stick to them and stagnate their growth or independence.

Our goal—like the goal of any good mentor or educator—is not only to teach them right from wrong, but to have them become independent thinkers who have the tools and moral clarity when confronted with new situations. If we are constantly making those decisions, they never learn how. If we are always organizing activities for them, planning their schedule or taking care of their responsibilities, we aren’t teaching them how to become autonomous, responsible adults.

Similarly, in his very first Chassidic discourse, the Rebbe expressed the role that he saw for himself in assuming the mantle of leadership. He made it very clear from the outset that while guiding and teaching, he would expect his Chassidim to themselves become leaders in their own right. “The leaders of Chabad always demanded that Chassidim must achieve things themselves … You think you have laid the burden on me … that you can have a peaceful life … Make no mistake! No one is relieving you of your missions … no one is relieving you of any work.”

The Rebbe taught us that there are leaders who have many followers, and then there are leaders who create many leaders from their followers. Each of us is a leader in some area of our lives. And our job is to guide those looking up to us to become his or her own leader as well.

Because while we seek to protect and guide, we never want to hover and stagnate.

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW