Is it worth it? It’s a question I as a mother find myself asking all the time. Is it worth it?

Yesterday, there wasn’t a rain cloud in sight; the sky was clear and sunny. But my toddler insisted on wearing his rain boots to preschool. I thought he looked so silly, but I asked myself, “Is it worth the fight? Is it worth having him go to school in a bad mood over rain boots?”

There are days when, right after I make the beds, my children will grab the pillows and blankets. They start hanging and tying sheets, turning the bedroom into a jungle or a tent. “I just made the beds. You are making a mess!” I catch myself before the words came tumbling out of my mouth, and ask myself, “Is it really worth it? Can I just let go, let them play, and ignore the disarray and disorder? Now, at this moment, is this worth a fight?”

Is it worth having him go to school in a bad mood over rain boots?

There are days when my children ask me for a treat. They ask and ask and ask, and in the end I give in to them. At that moment, I don’t feel that saying “No” is worth it. But when they ask me to buy a candy from a store, and I answer, “No, it’s not kosher,” they don’t ask again. They know that in this situation, Mommy won’t budge. This is worth it.

A few weeks ago, my son asked me to buy him a Game Boy. I don’t like Game Boys. I don’t like any computer or electronic games. I love that my children play ball outside, ride their bikes, hang on monkey bars, and use toilet paper rolls to make worlds that are filled with imagination. I like that they cut and tape paper, and build with blocks and Legos. I love to watch them read books and play with puppets. I don’t like them to stare at a screen and sit for hours and hours. I don’t like that when a child (or an adult, for that matter!) is playing with an electronic device, you can call his name twenty times and he won’t hear what you said. In the end, when he finally puts the game down or closes the computer, you realize that all that he did was nothing. So, when my son asked me, “Mommy will you buy me a Game Boy?” you don’t have to be a mind reader to figure out my answer: “No.”

His reply: “Do you want to think about it?”

“No, I am so sure that I don’t want you to have one, and I feel so strongly that it’s not good for you that I don’t need to think about it.”

He didn’t ask me again. Why? Because he understood that for me, it’s worth it.

I was home alone with one of my children. I saw him take out a toy that belonged to one of his siblings. I told him to put it back, and that he was not allowed to take or use something that didn’t belong to him without asking permission first. “But they won’t know, and I’m sure that they wouldn’t care anyways,” he answered.

“No! You need to put it back.” For me, this was a battle that was worth fighting. I don’t want my children to feel that their property and space is not respected. I want them to respect the laws of the Torah, and understand that they can’t take things which are not theirs without asking. Just because “no one will know,” it does not make it okay. G‑d runs the world, and He sees and knows everything.

Many years ago, a friend and mentor told me, “Elana, when your children do something that you don’t like or don’t want, first ask yourself if this is something that they will still be doing when they get older. Look at the long-term consequences, and try to base your reaction on that.”

The Torah Look at the long-term consequenceslikens man to a tree, for “man is the tree of the field.” I think that what my friend was trying to tell me was, “See what actions your children do which will actually bear fruit.” What seeds do you want to plant in your children? What water do you want them to drink, and where are they getting their sunshine from? Is an an act that will be outgrown, like wearing rain boots on a sunny day, really worth the bad mood and the argument? And on the other hand, what things do we need to stop before they take root? What is really worth it?

I look at my children, the fruit of my life. I pray that they grow and blossom into beautiful trees. That their roots are firmly planted in the ways of our ancestors, that their bodies grow strong, and that they are stable like the trunk of a tree. That their limbs are busy with doing good deeds and learning Torah, and that their actions bear beautiful fruit for the future. And before I open my mouth to reprimand, I ask myself, “Is it worth it?”