Question & Answer With Avakesh - The Mirror
A Simple Jew asks:
You once commented that your children are "a mirror in which you see yourself - both in behaviors they provoke in you and in the character tendencies, strengths and defects that they inherit from their parents."
How has seeing the reflection in this mirror influenced you to make any changes in your life?
It is often said that children are a gift. They bring us immeasurable pleasure, nachas, and fulfillment. There is no greater gift than being able to give to and stand by a soul in formation, to be able to contribute and shape, to give and to transmit to our children that which has been entrusted and transmitted to us. Humans resemble Hashem when occupied in this task.
However, children also challenge us. They are small and vulnerable, dependent and trusting; also selfish and exasperating. They are often impatient and demanding. They have their own small agendas and they care nothing for ours. Their occasional acts of unexpected generosity can bring great pleasure - because they are so unexpected. In so many ways they tempt us to resort to controlling them to our own ends, and if we do so, we have failed as parents, as human beings, as servants of Hashem. We have taken from them the freedom to which they are entitled and in doing so have surrendered some of our own. Of course, understanding of limits is something that we must ingrain in them but because that is a part of their growth and not of our convenience.
These little people that God gave us to cherish and to grow must not be controlled. They must be tended, watered and planted. Parents are stewards. It is precisely in the daily acts of unselfish giving, of transcendence of the self, that we are given an opportunity to grow without measure. Every time that you do not snap, do not threaten, do not manipulate their developing minds and trusting souls because it suits and benefits you, you rise - and opportunities for growth are there daily, constantly, unremittingly. Truly, there is no greater opportunity to grow beyond self-interest than by taking care of small, dependent and trusting little beings according to their needs and not ours.
However, there is another aspect to this. Our children are often like us. Our personal failings and predispositions, things that we deny or choose to ignore within ourselves, stare at us, irritate us, confront us every day. Impatience, indolence, strong headedness, you name it, often has genetic roots. Some parents easily relate to a child that is like their spouse but detest another one, who is like themselves. Not only is this destructive and,... well, evil; it is also a missed opportunity for self-transcendence. How can we help our children develop and overcome faults that we deny in ourselves? Only by coming clean about them! Thus, the greatest gift that we can give our kids is truth.
When I said that out children are mirrors of ourselves, I meant two things. First, they put us to daily tests and constant challenge to rise above our interests and toward theirs. Secondly, and even more importantly, as their faces trustingly turn toward ours, every day and in every interaction, the soul that is looking from their eyes into yours is your own.