Taking a break from parenting
In this weeks Parsha we find the Torah sharing an eternal truth about parenting. Rashi brings a Medrash that relates how Yaakov wanted to live in serenity. So Hashem sent him the affair of Yosef, remarking that “are the righteous not satisfied with what is prepared for them in the World – to – come, that they seek tranquility in this world too”? The commentaries on this Medrash focus on Yaakov’s desire to live in peace and quiet. Yaakov did not have an easy life. What was so terrible with him wanting to retire and enjoy his golden years? Yaakov most likely was looking forward to doing the Daf HaYomi, learning with his grand children maybe even taking walks with them to show them the wonders of creation. Yaakov was looking forward to a spiritual vacation not a hedonistic one, what was so wrong?
However, there is another aspect of this Medrash that I feel needs clarifying and that is why of all the troubles that Yaakov had, was the affair of Yosef the one that Hashem felt would send him the message that this world is not one for relaxing and taking it easy? I believe the answer is because the message about one’s real purpose in life can only be taught by teaching us about a fundamental aspect of parenting. Namely, that you cannot take a break from parenting – as soon as you let your guard down all the work you have invested in it, can be lost. Parenting is not easy, it never will be easy, it never was supposed to be easy. It is the one responsibility that no matter whom, no matter what and no matter when, needs to be worked at, to fulfill. You cannot put parenting on hold. Internalizing this truth will help us look at our lives and recognize that there is a greater purpose to life and just us we can’t take a break from life we can’t take a break from our purpose in life.
Family time and individual time: We should give thanks to Hashem for structuring our lives so that at least once a week we are able to spend quality time with our family. A time where work doesn’t beckon, where the constant buzz or chirp of our cellphone isn’t distracting us – and that’s on the holy day of Shabbos. However, the onus remains on us to create individual time to spend with each of our children separately on a consistent basis. A time where our children know what to expect and that it actually happens. This individual time is essential to us as parents as it gives us the opportunity to connect with our children but more importantly, it is critical for our children to know that they are valued and cared for as an individual.