In other words, any success I’ve had has more to do with mazal than any effort or bowling-ball-juggling I’ve done.
Meaning, God did it. Not me.
No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't succeed.
(“Mazal” is Divinely ordained destiny or Divinely ordained “luck” which can still be changed through certain acts, like moving to a different location, changing your name, changing your deeds for the better, giving tzedakah, and prayer.)
The One-Minute Atheist
Without looking me in the eye, he stated that he no longer believed in God because he just discovered that everything started with a Big Bang.
Ironically, I was thrilled. Though he’d reached the wrong conclusion, I took it as a sign that he was starting to really think about things. Furthermore, everything I’d learned over the years, both in science and Judaism, had prepared me for this moment. I’d always read about those off-the-derech kids who had questions, but no one to ask.
But here I was—the kind of parent you could ask! And I had answers!
Yet to my dismay, he wasn’t interested in talking to me about it.
“But I can explain this!” I said to him. “Let’s sit down and hash it all out. Ask me anything!”
He just shook his head.
With all my enthusiasm and reading, there was one thing that had never come up: Children don’t necessarily consider their parent the “expert” that the parent may feel him- or herself to be.
Meaning, by the very fact that you are “Mommy,” you may be automatically disqualified from being taken seriously about certain topics, no matter how qualified you actually may be. It depends.
At that moment, his younger brother walked in. This younger brother is a year-and-a-half younger than the older brother and they grew up like twins in every way and to this day, still have a very special bond together.
“What’s going on?” said Younger Brother.
Older Brother told him.
Younger Brother’s face broke into a friendly grin and he burst out laughing. “Oh, come on! You don’t really believe that, do you?”
Older Brother shrugged and mumbled something, but something in his face changed—a hint of relief, maybe hope. He plopped down on a bimba (those toy riding cars for kindergartners) and started rolling back and forth on it. The younger brother plopped down on another bimba and also started rolling back and forth.
In contrast, my conditioning was wagging its finger in my mind and saying things like, “You’re not supposed to laugh at and make fun of people when they come to you with existential questions! And we don’t rock on little plastic riding cars while discussing God’s Existence; we sit at a table with coffee and conduct a proper discussion!”
But my personal irrelevance in this matter was so obvious, I decided to honor it by keeping my lips zipped and taking a seat quietly on the side to watch the unfoldings.
“Oh, come on!” laughed Younger Brother. “Spit it out! Tell me whatever nonsense you've heard!”
Older Brother told him, still mumbling.
Younger Brother, still laughing, mocked the concept, using humor and logic, while encouraging Older Brother to keep talking it out.
As the discussion went on, Older Brother started brightening and straightening up. Instead of mumbling, he directly challenged Younger Brother.
(This was a good sign because it meant that he was realizing that atheism really had no leg to stand on and he no longer needed to fear the doubts these atheistic theories planted within him.)
So the exchange continued like this, with Older Brother putting it all on the table and Younger Brother laughing (doubled over at times), good-naturedly jeering, and retorting with compelling refutations.
And they rocked and rolled on the bimbas the entire time.
Finally, Older Brother was convinced and he rose up off his bimba with a refreshed state of mind: There is a God. All the kofrim and their heresies are a total joke that even a seventh-grader can refute. All is well. Life can continue as it was.
And it all had nothing to do with me.
I wasn't a good mother. I was just a lucky mother. And that's all.
The Delicious Freedom of Your Own Irrelevance
Indeed, just the bare fact that Older Brother chose to say anything about his new issue at all is total mazal and had nothing to do with anything I could possibly do.
Some kids keep these doubts to themselves and you never know.
In other words, my skills, bright ideas, perceived approachability, and shitahs proved completely irrelevant in the moment of truth.
God took over. And good thing He did, because otherwise, things might have turned out very badly.
- What if Older Brother hadn’t said anything to anyone about his true doubts?
- What if there was no almost-twin brother?
- Or what if there was an almost-twin brother, but they weren’t close?
- And what if there was an almost-twin brother and they were close, but the almost-twin brother didn’t laugh and jeer in the right way? Or did laugh and jeer, but Older Brother didn’t respond well to the laughing and jeering?
- Or what if Younger Brother, rather than laughing and jeering and refuting, suddenly found his own faith shaken by the Big Bang Theory?
See what I mean?
At the end of the day, the shitahs matter very little.
I know many parents who are better parents than (or equally as flawed as) my husband and I, yet they face worse problems with their kids and face problems with several of their kids.
I also know parents who are much worse than us and their kids are turning out with really good middot and frumkeit.
(Maybe some psychological issues, too, but overall, they’re turning out well.)
The above exchange is one of many incidences that helped convince me that going according to all these chinuch shitahs (secretly based on pop psychology, BTW) doesn’t guarantee a darn thing. They don’t even necessarily help.
Looking around, I see people following these shitahs to the letter and still having serious problems with their kids. (And feeling battered and frustrated from all the "experts" and shitahs...)
Personally, I ran myself into the ground following these shitahs.
And what was the result? I just came away from them with worsening behavior in my children and feeling like I was this profoundly hopeless failure as a mother.
And what good is all that?
To really be a good parent, I discovered that one needs to shove one's own ego aside (in a different way than the chinuch experts advise, BTW) and bring Hashem all the way into the picture.
The “me,” with whatever skills or traits I have, is actually not so relevant in my child’s life. I’m just a shaliach.
Hashem put all our souls together in a certain pattern within specific roles within a particular family unit to enable us to interact and rectify ourselves and each other in a certain way. That’s it in a nutshell.
However, our prayers and our own teshuvah are very important and relevant, as are the prayers and teshuvah of all parents for their children.
And that’s why I really, really encourage people to turn to Hashem in a very real and open way regarding their children. You know, to just try and see what messages Hashem is giving you via your children, what you need to work on in yourself, and just begging Him for assistance.
You can’t set up your child’s life in the way most conducive for that child’s spiritual growth and character development.
Only God can do that.