Many years ago I listened to my rabbi talk about Gilligan’s Island and how it could be viewed as a tragedy. It wasn’t tragic because they kept screwing up their attempts to get off of the island. It was tragic because none of the castaways grew. There was no personal growth,each and every one of them exited the island the same person that they were before.
I don’t think that I appreciated or understood what he was saying. In part it was because I took great pride in saying that I was constant and consistent. The Jack you knew then would be the Jack that you would know later. All around me I would hear people talking about how much they were growing and I would roll my eyes. It seemed trendy to declare that you were an unfinished piece of art and some new age professor would teach you how to complete yourself.
After a decade of playing dad I see things very differently. I watch my children carefully and take note of their strengths and weaknesses. During parent/teacher conferences I listen and ask questions. The goal is to give them more support wherever they may need it.
And why do I do this? Because they are growing children who need love, affection and guidance. We want them to grow to be menschen, to be productive members of society. And the only way to do that is to teach them.
So I find myself looking for teaching moments. Earlier today I noticed that a doorknob was loose and needed some adjustment so I made a point of asking my son to help me fix it. I could have done it myself. It would have been faster but I would have missed the opportunity to teach him how to do it. I would have missed the opportunity to give him another experience of working with me and the pleasure of learning to work with his hands.
It was a teaching moment.
Earlier this week he complained that some of his friends have decided not to be friends with another boy that he likes very much. I know all of the boys that are involved in this and saw another teaching moment. I explained to my son that the boy he likes so much has trouble listening and is often in trouble. He has had moments in which he bullied other children and has been sent home from school at least once.
My son nodded his head and then I explained that kids like this child are hard to be friends with. They have a knack for getting into trouble and sometimes you get into trouble by association. I told him that some parents may tell their children that they cannot be friends with a boy like that and that if he still bullies other kids he is not going to have any friends.
My son looked at me with tears in his eyes and told me that part of why he was still friends with him was because he thought that he could help him. I told him that loyalty is an admirable trait and that I was proud of him. And then I told him that I am not sure that his boy is worth it. He doesn’t reciprocate and his past behavior makes me question whether being friends with him is sort of like asking for trouble.
It was another teaching moment.
Sometimes I have a love/hate relationship with these moments. There have been some very difficult discussions that were heart breaking and others that were simply joyous. But I knew the job was dangerous when I took it so…
It is not always easy being a parent, but there is nothing better.