Henry Ward Beecher: “There are only two lasting bequests we can give our children. One of these is roots . . . the other, wings.”
In what ways do we establish roots for our children and at the same time allow them the freedom to fly? What lasting message do we want to convey to our children? How do we deal with the struggle between keeping our kids attached to us, following our paths and letting them go to find their own path? Do we or do we not follow the path of our own parents and how does that influence our parenting?
We shared this quote and the questions with the extended family of KLN- staff members, volunteers, friends and supporters- parents of babies, parents of teens, and grandparents and asked them what they think. From our babies’ first steps, to their first day in kindergarten, their army draft day, or their wedding day our daily lives as parents are a wonderful balance of holding our children close and letting them go. How do we do it?
We received many thoughtful responses which we are sharing here:
As parents we give our children strong roots and build their character with our own small everyday efforts and accomplishments.
Teaching them the meaning of respect and honor to parents by the way we honor our parents.
Teaching them to be moral and ethical people by focusing on the way we act toward others.
Teaching them to be thankful for what they have by showing our own appreciation for what we have.
Teaching them to be resilient, to fail and get back up again by the way we deal with the everyday stresses and challenges in our lives.
Our job as parents is to build a strong foundation for our children, appreciate their individuality, encourage them to be responsible contributing members of society and be supportive when they spread their wings and seek their own unique path in life. SBT
To give my son roots means to instill in him the essential sense of belonging, that sense that he has an immovable place both within his own family and the broader family of the Jewish people and all the generations that came before him. For him to know who he is, he has to know where he came from. To give him wings means to give him the confidence and independence to take whatever he’s learnt from growing up in our home and transcend it, to reach new heights and go on his own journey to wherever that takes him. One day, I will have to let him go. AS
I love that quote! To me roots means knowing there is always a “home” to go to. Knowing that they have someone to depend on and knowing they are loved. As well as their base of knowledge and morality to build their lives on. Their wings are their ability to be independent. Ready to leave and knowing what they need to know to succeed in the world. I make sure my kids know right from wrong and know that I am here to support them, but there are certain things they must be able to do on their own. LP
I followed the path of my parents in that I hopefully instilled the values which they thought were important into my children: honesty, integrity, respect, courtesy, and to recognize the worth and value of every person. These are the roots of the family. These are what ties us together as a unit, like a tree: the parents bring the children to life, instill in them values, water them, watch them grow, and then give them wings to function in the world as they see fit. Sometimes it works and the child internalizes the values which the parents have tried to instill upon them as what is good and how people should behave and get along with one another; sometimes it doesn’t and then the (now) adult will have to discover their own values and live with them. But the role of the parents (those who make the roots of the family) is to give the children wings and then let them go. We also instill upon our children as roots our דעת (knowledge), and this is something they will always have as a ירושה (inheritance) . Long after we, the parents, are gone, the children and grandchildren will always have this foundation, passed on from parent to children from generation to generation. The parents can give the (basis) בסיס, but then it is up to the children to both internalize, and live by it–or not. TS
Roots means religious tradition and family roots, and to a lesser extent (if we’re olim and our kids were born here) background on where we came from.
Roots as in (my examples) – father American born, fought in WWII. Mother American born, both lived through the Great Depression, got married on an army base. Stories about their families. Things automatically get passed on (values) when kids hear about how their grandparents and great grandparents struggled. How they may have given up certain things to keep Shabbat.
Wings – to encourage them to do their own thing, even if it’s not your choice. Difficult to know where to draw the line, for example, yes, it is important to finish bagrut even though you want to drop out.
I left for Israel at 17 and ended up staying here, so I know I have to be tolerant of my kids’ desires to travel and do new things.
My mom was an avid feminist, yet she didn’t go back to work out of the house until the youngest was in high school. She somehow combined those two things. She developed her business skills (which she had had pre-marriage, when she worked during the Depression) again and succeeded. She had always been very involved in the community. My kids heard those stories, about how a woman can do anything, and about how it’s important to give to the community.
I was a pretty laid-back parent except for some things. I was strict about not letting the kids see inappropriate films, I was strict about them behaving well to others, I was lenient about school (because personally I think every day out of school is a day gained, said the teacher J ), they remind me that I always looked at the side of the report card that had comments about their behavior before I looked at the grades, I mounted the barricades for them at school if I thought a teacher was not b’seder, and they do the same now.They learned from my many projects that sometimes one has to work for a long time, even years, to see things come to fruition. Work ethic and all that. GT
I do think that learning to let go is something that parents should be doing at every stage. Letting your kid be as independent as possible and relinquishing control- whether letting him walk instead of taking the stroller as a toddler, choose how to spend his free time as a teen, or ultimately loving him and supporting him as he lives the life he wants as an adult irrespective of your feelings about that lifestyle is what good parenting is all about, and if you don’t do that, your child will always be in your shadow and never able to become who he is really capable of being. Easier said than done though! SA
Many parents truly believe they have failed if their children do not follow the exact same path as they did. I have spoken to numerous parents over the years and I know it is very hard to accept that your children are not your clones. They are their own individuals that need to forge their own path and find their own identity; ideally with guidance and support from their parents, extended family and friends. Flying away from the nest is the way it is supposed to be- a normal part of growth and maturity and becoming a responsible adult. FS
As parents, we have a limited amount of time in which to provide our children with the foundational skills, values and attitudes with which to live their lives. Once the developmental years have passed, our children’s peer group and larger society takes our place and serves to either reinforce what we have attempted to teach them or to provide them with new values and attitudes. At this point, we can only provide them with good role modeling and pray that they follow the path we attempted to carve out for them. WR
In order for kids to have the confidence to soar, they must feel secure. The role of a parent is to provide their children with the means to become independent and ‘whole’ adults.
Roots: A sense of belonging, a sense of history/relativity (immediate and extended family, community, and ultimately world-at-large), a sense of worth and value (ie: the child’s own self-confidence) and identity, to name a few.
Wings: The ability to separate from the nuclear family (parent/child relationship) and become an independent adult, with the ability to identify and realize their individual objectives/dreams/aspirations.
We guide our children during their various developmental stages and model the types of behavior and values that we feel are integral to well-being and growth. We praise them for their achievements, and we help them develop coping strategies for their deficits/weaker areas… We seek out opportunities for them to succeed and to capitalize on their strengths while helping them identify/prioritize/and overcome the areas in which they need additional assistance. We set appropriate limits and tasks and opportunities for them to experiment with their own independence and decision-making abilities. We provide them with context for their development – we share our values. In my personal opinion, whether or not they in turn share our values is less critical than whether or not we are successful in teaching them how to make informed decisions and weigh issues in order to arrive at their own conclusions. As my older children make the jump from fledgling to adult… I have a number of friends who are devastated by their kids leaving home and beginning lives outside the nuclear family. While I very much miss the daily presence of my adult children, I can’t imagine wanting to tether them to me… I want them to soar… I want them to enjoy their lives and be independent and to build their own nuclear families; to experience professional achievements and satisfactions…. I am happy when my adult children seek my advice, but am not threatened when they opt for a different solution. I recognize that my role has changed – I am now a trusted and loving sounding board… and our roles, while still parent/child have more equality – I may have more experience, but they have developed sound executive function and are able to assume responsibility for their lives. Hopefully, by the time our fledgling adults are ready to leave the proverbial nest, ‘attachment’ is defined as ‘love and respect’ and yields a desire to maintain a close relationship with one another. My own parents were very verbal about keeping me safe, in providing me with a sense of right/wrong, in instilling a love of my heritage and culture and a deep sense of family. As these experiences provided me with a deep sense of security and of being loved, I find that in terms of how I interact with my own kids, I very much mirror (or hope I do) their approach. I have multiple and distinct memories of my mother (z”l) saying, ‘We may not always make the correct decisions regarding your welfare, but I can guarantee that in each instance, we will make a decision having evaluated the available information, that each decision we make will be the one we truly feel is in your best interest.’ With those words she simultaneously reinforced her commitment to my welfare, and also admitted that we all err along the path of life – and that errors are not necessarily failures, but rather opportunities for knowledge and growth.
As my adult children examine and experiment with their own place in the greater Jewish community, we are engaged in on-going dialogue:
They are constantly surprised (pleasantly, I hope) that I don’t expect them to make religious observance choices identical to my own
I also communicate that within my home, I desire and will insist on a certain level of respect for my choices – but that within their own homes, I will be equally respectful of their choices. I always stress that I don’t find their pursuit of a different path an obstacle to our relationship…. Our relationship is defined only by our own interactions with one another – as long as these are based on love, understanding and mutual respect. BZ
The first time I heard this quote was when my oldest child was going from elementary school to middle school and at that moment in time I thought “wow that sums up parenting.” Our job as parents is to teach our children to be able to be self-sufficient, to survive in the world, to make their own decisions (good or bad) and learn from them.
Roots are everything that you need to live, to learn and to grow. Roots are the faith that you have taught your child. Roots are the ABC’s of life. Roots are how to cook and sew. Roots are how to play, win and lose. Roots are how to read, how to drive, how to survive in life, and so much more. The larger and stronger the roots, the more you will grow.
I was once told that the hardest part of being a parent was NOT watching your child “stumble, fall and fail”, but LETTING them pull themselves up on their own. This is the only way they can learn, as you will not always be there to catch them.
Wings are what they would use to “pick themselves back up” when they have fallen. Wings are what helps them make the next decision. Wings are the freedom to take everything that you have taught them and LET them continue to grow and soar.
The way you establish roots is through all that you teach your children, from family traditions and religion, to following rules, to cleaning up, to being creative, to being kind and caring, to face their fears, to keeping them safe, to teaching them the ABC’s. You want to make sure that your child can soar on their own.
Roots to grow is all about giving your child all that they need to get to the next phase in their life. Whether it is going from elementary school to middle school, or to high school, or to start a new life in a new country, or maybe just to face a fear of the unknown. Roots are all about parenting, I think you don’t even realize how many roots you give your child or how strong those roots are, until they use them to soar.
The roots to grow are the easy part, it is the freedom to let them fly that is so hard.
But when you watch them soar on their own, it is the most rewarding part of being a parent! SW
Kav L’Noar welcomes your thoughts and comments!