Thursday, November 11, 2010

Which would you rather [your child] be?

[Post on my mind today: I'm proud of my Prime Minister, and disappointed that I'm not eligible to vote for him.]

My kids have a book that asks, “Which would you rather be?” and then gives choices:

• Stick or stone?
• Thunder or lightning?
• Cat or dog?
• Grownup or kid?

and so on.

Someone, somewhere, has probably done a poor-quality Jewish rip-off of that book:

• Kiddush or Havdalah?
• Avraham or Sarah?
• Boro Park or Lakewood?
• Rabbi or Rabbah?
• Chametz or Matzah?
• Mordechai or Matityahu?
• Alef or Tav?
• Rabban Gamliel or Rabbi Akiva?
• Eretz Yisrael or Ever haYarden?
• Rashi Tefillin or Rabbeinu Tam Tefillin?
• Eruv Chatzeiros or Eruv Techumin?
• Beruriah or Kimchis?

More substantively, though: As a parent, and a Jewish parent, I find myself asking the same question when prioritizing what to emphasize for my kids. And as in choosing between thunder and lightning, cat and dog, and so on, I’m often unsure.

Assuming you had to select one or the other (which is not always true, I know), which would you rather your child be:

• Athletic or Bookish?
• Learned or Giving?
• Questioning or Faithful?
• Giggly or Stern?
• Stubborn or Flexible?
• Whimsical or Steady?
• Popular or Independent?
• Socially Clued-In or Clueless?
• Follower or Leader?
• Strait-Laced or Loose?
• Intellectually Creative or Structured?
• Broad or Focussed?

The answer is usually some sort of balance, I know, but I still find the questions interesting, and challenging. And sometimes, when I am caught up in concern that I’ve chosen wrong, I put my faith in the advice I once received from a wise mentor: Children’s personality will win out; in normal situations, parents have limited capacity to corrupt it…


  1. Not so much about balance for me but about my child's ability to know that "To every thing there is a purpose, and a time to every purpose under heaven." If you add appropriate versus inappropriate to your list of possibilities, that's the one I would look at and choose "appropriate," being able to be/do/think what is needed in any given situation for the child's best interests at that moment.

    Shabbat Shalom

  2. The Gemara has Chana davening for a son who will be "just a normal, fit-in kind of person, not too tall or too short, not too low-intelligence, not too high-intelligence."

    Is the Gemara proposing that as a model? Or just a barren woman's desperate, unfiltered plea to fit in after feeling outside the mainstream all these years in a mother-oriented culture?

  3. Shalom Rosenfeld, that comment about Chana makes no sense. She would not have been able to get him mentored by Eli the Priest if he had been a regular kid. There's nothing ordinary about Chana.

  4. ProfK-
    I hear, thanks.

    Shalom, Batya-
    Note that this is a machlokes in Berachos 31b.